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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, Student Remote Access in Technical; Hello, We currently have Remote Access for staff via Microsoft RD Web Access which has remote apps available from a ...
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    lafleur1977's Avatar
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    Student Remote Access

    Hello,

    We currently have Remote Access for staff via Microsoft RD Web Access which has remote apps available from a single Session Host server running server 2012R2. This was setup a little while ago by an external company and has been working well. Our SLT would now like us to extend this to allow students to have remote access in a similar way. This would be for around 400 students, however and compliment them bringing in their our devices and connecting to the guest Wifi and then connecting to remote access to work.

    I am just wondering of the requires needed to expand the solution really. So far I have considered additional RDCAL's and I am thinking we will need additional Session host servers to cope with the extra capacity however I am not sure how many students will be using it at once. I have always worked upon 20-25 users per session host server at a time but installing 10 or so Session host servers seems like too much. Perhaps it would be more of a case of setting up a single session host server with more memory and resources?

    Does anybody else have a similar setup and could tell me how they have provided for their users?

    Thanks

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    Duke's Avatar
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    Depending on what your application stack looks like, you can get 50-70 users on a modern, well-specced RDS Session Host. Obviously if your student applications include anything particularly RAM, CPU, disk or network intensive then this number will go down, but for typical office/productivity apps this number seems reasonable. We've got customers running RDS servers with near 100 concurrent users on them with no problems. Bear in mind that if you go over 32GB RAM (which I'd recommend) then you'll need Enterprise rather than Standard licenses for your RDS servers.

    Going by your numbers (25 users x 10 servers) I assume you're looking at supporting about 250 users? With correctly specced hosts you could drop this down to 3 or 4 servers rather than 10, which hopefully sounds a bit more reasonable.

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    lafleur1977 (25th June 2014)

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    lafleur1977's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke View Post
    Depending on what your application stack looks like, you can get 50-70 users on a modern, well-specced RDS Session Host. Obviously if your student applications include anything particularly RAM, CPU, disk or network intensive then this number will go down, but for typical office/productivity apps this number seems reasonable. We've got customers running RDS servers with near 100 concurrent users on them with no problems. Bear in mind that if you go over 32GB RAM (which I'd recommend) then you'll need Enterprise rather than Standard licenses for your RDS servers.

    Going by your numbers (25 users x 10 servers) I assume you're looking at supporting about 250 users? With correctly specced hosts you could drop this down to 3 or 4 servers rather than 10, which hopefully sounds a bit more reasonable.
    Hi Duke,

    Thanks for your reply. The RDS session host will be used only for Office apps so nothing particularly resource demanding. 50-70 users sounds much better. What sort of spec would you recommend for this number of users and would you have these as virtual or physical servers? I am looking to provision for about 300 students now, however the likeliness of them all being logged on at the same time is low so I am unsure of whether I need to provide for this capacity or not.

    Thanks

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    Duke's Avatar
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    If it's just Office apps then with a sensibly specced server you should be reaching the upper end of those numbers. The chances of everyone being logged on at once are probably slim, but you'll know better than me in your environment. If you'll be using the remote access system to support school closures and snow days then bear in mind that this can lead to large numbers of people logging on at the same time.

    Spec-wise:

    As much RAM as your can throw at it. 16GB DIMMS are cost effective these days, so look at at least 48GB RAM, and 64GB or 96GB if you can afford it.
    You'll want dual socket processors with the fastest clock speed and as many cores as you can afford. The latest-gen Intel CPUs are very good value for money.
    Disk capacity normally isn't too much of an issue, just enough to install your application stack with some breathing room. More important is IO performance, so a pair of 10k or 15k SAS disks in RAID1 or four disks in RAID10 is usually sufficient.

    I would definitely go physical rather than virtual if you want to scale this to the max number of users possible. Virtual RDS servers are certainly feasible, but in a multi-user environment you don't want the additional overheads (however small) caused by virtualisation. Virtual RDS is fine for smaller deployments, but I'd avoid it in the scenario you're describing.

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    lafleur1977 (25th June 2014)

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    localzuk's Avatar
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    My advice? Put them in a couple of load balanced virtual machines on top of SSD storge for the IO. Virtualisation overheads will exist, sure, but the SSD more than makes up for it.

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    lafleur1977 (25th June 2014)

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    "Our SLT would now like us to extend this to allow students to have remote access in a similar way. This would be for around 400 students, however and compliment them bringing in their our devices and connecting to the guest Wifi and then connecting to remote access to work"

    And what would you like as I would guess they know little about how a single RDP session host server could be scaled out, the hardware and support implications and how failover and load balancing would be incorporated.

    Also, I would consider if this is even needed if your looking at BYOD as you say. Using RDServices from a tablet is frustrating at best, from a students perspective what's the point of owning a shiny tablet / phone with apps built for touch and sliding in a huge pane of glass between that interface and my work and making me use that

    I think with BYOD it's better to let the users use the features of the device they have chosen to do the work they what to do and focus on the services you need for integrating that into your system rather than turning tablets /. Phones etc into dumb terminals, which is great for IT teams, as it's easier to manage but it's poor for users.

    Okay, there's an argument to be had over data accessibility/security but In my experience anyone who uses that as an argument for Terminal server style access allows a student to walk into school with a pen drive and copy anything and everything that have access to onto it anyway...

    As an alternative example If your right In saying you want to support office apps and your an ms shop you can get web/app access to office 365 for free for all you students for win/mac/iOS an android BYOD devices then your just looking at something to allow them to get files in and out from device to school, office 365 has one drive built in for no price and minnow it's foldr is a good service you could have for less than the cost of one mediocre physical session host server, but there's a lot of products in that space.

    This (again in my opinion) seems a better option than investing in a lot of hardware kit that's going to need a lot of TLC that's only going to pee off your users who have their wiz bang devices reduced to dumb clients.

    We have remote access using terminal servers for 1000 students and staff, have has for over 5 years. It was well used, it dropped by 50%, after we introduced staff tablet and student BYOD schemes with support for sky drive/sharepoint through 365 as tools to get stuff in and out, now we are trailing office 365 apps for students plus the Foldr service and we are expecting use of Remote access will drop back to the level we first had 5 years ago when staff / students may want to access the occasional edu specific remote app and the current hardware would handle that fine for the foreseeable and the investment in services is a fraction of the cost of RDServices.

    My 2 cents.

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    lafleur1977 (14th July 2014)

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    lafleur1977's Avatar
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    Hello,

    Thanks for your replies and advise everyone. We have since decided that the costs are too high to expand RD web access this year. Alls that we need is a way of students accessing their files between home and school and I have been looking at an alternative solution called Home Access Plus which some of you may have heard of. This looks great and we are hopefully going to be implementing this in September

    Thanks

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