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Thin Client and Virtual Machines Thread, Virtualising a Primary School in Technical; Hello, We are looking at re-furbishing our ICT suite and replacing PC's in school etc... and wondered what the cost ...
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    marsdenprimary's Avatar
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    Virtualising a Primary School

    Hello,

    We are looking at re-furbishing our ICT suite and replacing PC's in school etc... and wondered what the cost may be to implement some kind of virtual computing environment? Our network is getting a bit full and the cost of installing new network points and switches, new computers etc... would be quite high. What would it be weighed against developing a virtual computing environment?

    Am I correct in thinking that if we have a virtual server a workstation could log on and use any operating system? Also- would all users see the same desktop and be able to use the same programs?

    I have more questions for later...

    J
    x

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    Axel's Avatar
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    I think you are asking too vague a question here, hopefully the explanation below will help you choose which route you want to explore further....

    - Virtualising servers - this is pretty standard practise these days - you won't find many negatives about doing this, everyone seems to be doing it, and has little effect on whatever desktop solution you use. (essentially multiple operating systems are installed on one hardware server)

    - Virtualising desktops (VDI) - this is new technology, lots of companies heavily pushing it, but not so many actually using it (???), is expensive and probably over complex/expensive for most users
    (could think of it very basically as virtualising multiple PCs on one lump of hardware - and each thin client connects to its own virtual PC, each of which can have different a operating system.)

    There is no mandatory connection between virtualising servers and virtualising desktops - you can do either with or without the other...

    Citrix/XenDesktop, Microsoft and VMware/Viewer are the three main players in this market.

    Server Based Computing
    - Terminal Services/Citrix - essentially the server (either physical or virtual) runs a multi-user version of Windows, and multiple thin-clients log into it. This is what most schools who adopt thin clients seem to currently run. Each user gets their own standard Windows desktop, with whatever applications the administrator grants them. The benefits are: its tried and trusted technology, only one machine (the server) to maintain, keep updated, backup, virus protect etc and being a pure Microsoft solution, no issue of updates etc causing conflict with 3rd party products...

    Most applications run well on terminal services, but with all the above care needs to be taken over multi-media based apps.

    To get a taste of all this - get a copy of w2008 r2 server, (can download free 180 day trial version from Microsoft website) - and to connect to it use any PC to emulate a thin client (c:/programs/accessories/RDP_client).

    Hope this helps - there are lots of other scenarios, but most are extensions on one or more of the above, I am sure others will comment on their favourite....!

  3. 2 Thanks to Axel:

    marsdenprimary (8th November 2010), speckytecky (6th November 2010)

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    vikpaw's Avatar
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    Generally speaking, you'll virtualise the hardware and software of the desktops, however you still need some kind of way to access these virtual PCs. This would be the thin client Axel mentions. This thin client still needs to have a physical space on the desk and a network point. If you are looking at increasing numbers of PCs in labs / classrooms, you will still have this overhead. Also if you only have a small network, you will need to invest in larger switches etc.

    There shouldn't be a need to replace network points etc unless they are very old. You may need to replace a switch, for a faster one perhaps. I would assume / hope your cabling is ok, and they'd not be a great deal of point laying new cable, unless your school is very old.

    What exactly do you mean by the network is 'full'. If it's starting to slow down, you may need to invest in a newer server, this it would make sense to virtualise. If your desktops are old, it would be possible as Axel said to implement a desktop virtualisation solution, and possibly even use your old machines as the thin clients. An old windows 98 box is more than capable of being the access point to a virtual desktop held on the server. As soon as you go this route though you're increasing the complexity of your network and will need to add an extra server or two no doubt, so it will depend on what kind of IT support you have in-house or available to you.

    The clients could be set up to use multiple operating systems and you can choose what sort of desktop they get. Programs can be shared.

    Have you got a clearer plan for what you want to do in school? A budget or scope...? it will help people give more accurate advice, especially on costs. There are certainly savings to be made, but they often come at a price! No joke intended.
    Last edited by vikpaw; 7th November 2010 at 05:15 AM.

  5. 2 Thanks to vikpaw:

    marsdenprimary (8th November 2010), speckytecky (6th November 2010)

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    marsdenprimary's Avatar
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    Hmm.. I haven't written up any kind of plan as yet. I basically want to remove the need for installing the same software over and over again on the PC's. When we get new PC's I would like to just be able to plug them in, connect them to the network and everything is there ready.

    Especially now we're getting netbooks without CD drives- it would make it so much simpler and easier for everyone!

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    tmcd35's Avatar
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    How do you currently install software? Do you use Group Policy MSI installs or something similar, do you image 1 base model with all the software on and duplicate to the rest? Do you PXE boot to a WDS or FOG or similar server?

    If not, maybe using WDS and MSI's will give you what you need?

  8. Thanks to tmcd35 from:

    marsdenprimary (8th November 2010)

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    GREED's Avatar
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    GPOs or Imaging software has to be the way to go without spending big on infrastructure changes. Used both previously and work well when setup.

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    marsdenprimary (8th November 2010)

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    vikpaw's Avatar
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    As the guys above, i think WDS (windows deployment services) is the way to go i think for minimal cost. Simple to set up, and apparently now, no longer dependent on the hardware, so one image can work for any type of device. Most netbooks should have a lan boot option, or worst case you could manufacture a solution by booting to a usb device, memory stick or other.

    We just used it this summer, we needed to put some other software in place to manage the pushing out of images, even for some old dodgy machines we booted from a CD and then pointed to images on the server, seemed to be fine, and saves a heck of a lot of time.

    Our downfall is that now, instead of upgrading the images, we're using them as a base and hacking fixes on top, but once things settle down then we should go back to a more structured approach of only 1 rebuild per term or such like.

  12. Thanks to vikpaw from:

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    glennda's Avatar
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    I would suggest using FOG - IMHO it beats WDS hands down but can be fidderly to install.
    Its probly better then any kind of TS devices in such a small location. Make the image once then just copy it to the server and away you go.

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    marsdenprimary's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikpaw View Post
    As the guys above, i think WDS (windows deployment services) is the way to go i think for minimal cost. Simple to set up, and apparently now, no longer dependent on the hardware, so one image can work for any type of device. Most netbooks should have a lan boot option, or worst case you could manufacture a solution by booting to a usb device, memory stick or other.

    We just used it this summer, we needed to put some other software in place to manage the pushing out of images, even for some old dodgy machines we booted from a CD and then pointed to images on the server, seemed to be fine, and saves a heck of a lot of time.

    Our downfall is that now, instead of upgrading the images, we're using them as a base and hacking fixes on top, but once things settle down then we should go back to a more structured approach of only 1 rebuild per term or such like.
    Hey this sounds like just the kind of thing I need to hear Are there any simple step-by-step guides on how to do this?

    Thanks for all your help and interest surrounding this post- I appreciate it very much.

    Jay

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    glennda's Avatar
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    There is a how to for WDS here

    But not sure how good you are with linux - Fog is much better how to video here

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    marsdenprimary (8th November 2010)

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    marsdenprimary's Avatar
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    FOG looks like a good route... We don't have any linux based machines here though unfortunately so i'd have to install it onto a machine. would this work? We already have our server running Windows 2003.

    J

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    glennda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marsdenprimary View Post
    FOG looks like a good route... We don't have any linux based machines here though unfortunately so i'd have to install it onto a machine. would this work? We already have our server running Windows 2003.

    J
    You could install it on a old desktop machine - linux isn't fussy with what you install it on aslong as its half decent - how many machines are you expecting to image and how often - obviously on a slightly older machine it might take longer to install 30 machines at once - bth if i was installing wds aswell i wouldnt install on my main server for the pure reason it would slow you server down while imaging and then staff will moan!

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    marsdenprimary (8th November 2010)

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    vikpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marsdenprimary View Post
    Hey this sounds like just the kind of thing I need to hear Are there any simple step-by-step guides on how to do this?

    Thanks for all your help and interest surrounding this post- I appreciate it very much.

    Jay
    You can easily google a few guides. I think our IT manager just had a few facebook chats with John to check a few things. Bear in mind, if you have many images you want to store, then space could be an issue, depending on the spec of your server. If you can set up a virtual server then that would be a benefit.

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    marsdenprimary's Avatar
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    One of my colleagues has just suggested using Clonezilla... do you think this would be a good option?

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    vikpaw's Avatar
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    used it here in the past. not sure exactly how it works. you have to weigh up the process involved, if clonezilla works via network then that's similar to wds and okay, if it's one of those imaging techniques that needs a hard drive / source CD put in with the image on, then your turnaround is slower, that's all.

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