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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, Do I virtualize primary schools single server running everything? in Technical; ...
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    Do I virtualize primary schools single server running everything?

    I have just taken over a small primary school that has a single dc server running everything including Sims. This server is 4/5 years old and on its last legs. The school have said they can afford a replacement server but only have £1500 / £2000 to spend, which probably means me getting only 1 replacement server and dumping the old one. They also get the council to backup the server every night to an offsite location, but this is only supported for a single machine per school.

    Is there any point in me virtualizing if I have only 1 server?
    What would be my best options given such restrictions?

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    cookie_monster's Avatar
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    Well the only real benefit of virtualising this server would be DR as you could easily move the server to another physical box or they have the option of running another VM on the same physical hardware BUT I think you might be adding an unnecessary layer of complexity to the situation when it isn't really necessary. That is unless you see the network expanding any time soon.

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    While everything on the same server instance makes me twitch, the main (production) benefits of virtualisation won't be of use in their setup.

    Buy something standard, supported, sufficiently future-proof and make sure the backups are usable (can restore from them, the right stuff is being backed up). More ram, a redundant psu or refreshing ups batteries would give more benefit.

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    Is there any point in me virtualizing if I have only 1 server?
    The idea of virtual curriculum + virtual SIMS on one decent Primary server is growing on me. DR isn't the only benefit - if you keep SIMS in a separate VM then a) it's not going to get thoroughly trashed by any dodgy curriculum server side applications, printer drivers or whatever, b) You can, if you wish, give it independent stricter security than might be necessary or desirable the curriculum side of things.

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    Sorry but aren't cheap servers (HP) about £200-£300? (I know mine was )
    You can buy a lot of memory/backup/storage/another server for £1200

    PS I run it as VM just to make it easy to transfer to another machine in the event of failure (w2k3 vm on top of w2k3 real)

    (And to be honest - as an IT exercise : )

    regards
    Simon

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    My advice to the OP here is to buy the most expensive/expandable server chassis you can get your hands on.

    3 Years ago, we bought two HP ML350 G5 boxes, each with 1x Xeon Quad Core 1.86GHz Processor, 2GB RAM, Single PSU, 2x 72GB 10k SAS Disks in RAID 1. One of these also had 4x146GB 10k SAS Disks in RAID 5 and an LTO2 tape drive for backups.

    We also had three other, older, physical servers running various other things. Since then we've expanded them massively and I've been very impressed with the results. I've used VMWare ESXi to migrate our 5 physical servers into virtual machines on top of the two HP servers. The next phase of this is to migrate to 2k8 R2 and split out some services but that's another topic.

    Both servers now have redundant HP PSUs, one has 11GB RAM, the other 8GB. Both now have 4x146GB RAID 5 Arrays to hold VMs, and there's still plenty of scope to add a second processor, up the RAM to the maximum 32GB per machine, add external SAS disks for additional storage, add fibre NICs, etc, if it was ever needed.

    My main message here is not to be fooled by the false economy of buying a cheap as chips server. Buy a higher model chassis, but keep the component spec relatively low. A reputable company like HP will continue to supply parts to you for a considerable amount of time. Touch wood, I'm still having no problems sourcing parts for my 2007 models.

    Any advice/help you need on the set up/config, give me a shout. I'm a Primary NM myself and, having built the lot from scratch, have probably previously hit most of the snags you'll encounter along the way!

    S

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    £1500 would get you 2 ML115 servers with 4GB Ram, 2 TB of mirrored storage on each, 3 Years warranty and you'll still have change for a monitor and an KVM switch for them both.

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    SimpleSi's Avatar
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    Both servers now have redundant HP PSUs, one has 11GB RAM, the other 8GB. Both now have 4x146GB RAID 5 Arrays to hold VMs, and there's still plenty of scope to add a second processor, up the RAM to the maximum 32GB per machine, add external SAS disks for additional storage, add fibre NICs, etc, if it was ever needed.
    I sometimes wonder if either I live in the Matrix or other way around!

    All the above in a primary school????


    regards
    Simon

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    I forgot to mention the twin 3kVA APC UPSs which provide the power to those two servers in a redundant configuration!

    We're running around 100 machines off of that setup - currently in the process of moving it all to Windows 7/2k8 R2. As you will know, teachers have high demands for uptime, reliability and general speed of using things, and thankfully our SMT generally understand the importance of this when it comes to Teaching and Learning. Look at the long term TCO though...the two HP boxes cost a little over £2k each when new and they've got a lot of life left in them yet!

    If you invest well in your infrastructure (I'm not saying go over the top though), you can be ready to expand whenever it's asked of you. All this new creative curriculum stuff with video cameras is a prime example!!

    S

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    Licensing? Running VMs will incur additional costs however must say I like the idea PiqueABoo suggested, keeping SIMS away from the curriculum server makes sense.

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    Licensing wise you are good for one physical and one virtual copy of Server 2008 or above Standard edition (this can be downgraded as long as the purchased product it 2k8+). Endetprise gives one physical and four virtual and datacentre gives you unlimited virtual on a single box.

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    Assuming you are currently running 2003/2003 R2, don't forget to get Windows CALs too if you upgrade to 2008 R2 on your new physical or virtual server(s).

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    SimpleSi's Avatar
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    (I'm not saying go over the top though),
    Over the top? - the top is so far below you I'm surprised you can see it

    (As opposed to me - where the top is always just over the next rise )

    If your coming to the conf - I'll show you around one of my schools (1 mile from venue) to show how things should be done

    e.g single cpu, 1gb ram, 160 gb drive,single psu server (ex-desktop machine) sitting at back of class with a USB drive as backup

    Please let me know your school name so I can give Mr Gove a ring and tell him where we can save the 1st billion from the educational budget

    Maybe I should have taken the blue pill

    regards

    Simon

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    Quote Originally Posted by SimpleSi View Post
    Sorry but aren't cheap servers (HP) about £200-£300? (I know mine was )
    You can buy a lot of memory/backup/storage/another server for £1200

    PS I run it as VM just to make it easy to transfer to another machine in the event of failure (w2k3 vm on top of w2k3 real)

    (And to be honest - as an IT exercise : )

    regards
    Simon
    Any chance of a pointer toward how to Virtualise please SimpleSi - is it a Wicki somewhere?

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    Quote Originally Posted by edutech4schools View Post
    Do I virtualize primary schools single server running everything?
    Yes. Having your Windows servers separate (SIMS, DC, print, apps) will stop them interfering with each other. We run four Windows servers on a single machine licensed for Windows Server Enterprise Edition, around £300 at schools prices. Spend around £200 on a basic Dell / HP server, buy 3 2TB haddrives and 8GB of RAM for it and you should be sorted, and have enough money left over to buy some more harddrives for the old server to turn it in to a Samba-based file server.

    --
    David Hicks



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