We are a K-12 school with around 600 students and around 75 staff members. I am in charge of implementing our first servers. My plan is to start slow and get AD set up for the staff and the high school which would only be around 400 people. I was hoping to get a little advice from you guys about which servers to use.
I'm a little worried about the NAS since I've never had to integrate a linux box into a windows domain.
My main concern however is if this stuff will be powerful enough to handle about 75-100 computers at any given time.
Any help would be much appreciated.
Thanks in advance.
I am in charge of implementing our first servers. My plan is to start slow
You're starting completely from scratch? Run all your servers as virtual machines on top of the physical servers, it'll give you more flexibility in the future when it comes to changing / upgrading / replacing hardware. Consequently, I'd go for the servers rather than the NAS box, although you might want to look at running something like OpenFiler as a virtual machine to do your file serving.
If you're buying Windows licenses then you might as well get Server 2008 R2 - is there some reason why you need Server 2003? Don't forget the Enterprise version of Windows Server lets you run four VMs per server and is pretty reasonably priced for educational establishments.
When you say "slow", implement one bit properly at a time, don't throw a bunch of stuff in to place that you'll then have to undo later.
I have been playing with Openfiler over the past few days on a couple of test boxes and it has been slightly tricky to get going. It may just be the low power of the machine, but after I got it setup to recognize the AD users properly it became horribly slow and I couldn't even browse the navigation in the web app. I've read a few other people who had the same issue with no fixes as far as I've seen.
Aside from getting all this set up I'm basically the only official tech support for the whole school. So ease of setup and maintainability is a HUGE factor since there's a lot of other stuff to do.
As far as why we're just now getting servers, I can't really tell you why it took so long. I just got this job about a month ago and this was one of my main platforms from the interview. Up until now it's been nothing but single, barely managed, mostly antivirus-less, computers all over the school. Just doing my best to sort it all out.
I would second the call for Server 2008 or 2008 R2. Server 2003 is a great product, but is starting to show it's age now rather badly. With Windows 7 now out, your school may eventually want to move to that as well.
Other than that, make sure that your core network is stable, get good switches. This can save you a lifetime of hassles later on.
Lastly, and probably the most miserable task, is to document everything. You are being a pioneer in this school, so whoever follows eventually will need all the documentation to survive.
Good luck, the process will be fun, interesting and frustrating at times. Well worth it though.
I'll second dhicks and say if you're starting from scratch go virtualisation. As other have said Window2k8r2 is pretty much current. In fact if you're buying new licenses that is what you'd be buying so it begs the question - why install Win2k3 if you have Win2k8r2 licenses?
Win2k8r2 has virtualisation builtin in the form of Hyper-V so no need to spend out on extra software like VMWare.
Also - look at the Windows Datacenter licenses. The education price is an absolute steel and you can run as meny VM's on the server as you like with it - very useful.
Personally I'd look seriously at something like Openfiler or FreeNAS and setting up a proper iSCSI SAN for the servers.
1) Speccing servers with a single power supply isn't a great idea. Especially when none of them are non-essential servers.
2) For a fileserver being bought in 2009, 3x 250Gb disks is a bit stingy. There's also no mention of a hot spare / hotswappability.
3) Are the Visionman servers using hardware raid or fakeraid?
4) You're buying three rackmounts and one tower server - do you have a rack? If so, why not get four rackmounts?
5) What's the NAS for? Backup? How many backups will it be able to hold? What's your predicted initial storage requirement based on disk quotas allocated to students?
6) Find out if that NAS supports drives with a higher capacity than 750GB. This line: " Up to 3TB of storage capacity. Supports latest 750Gb SATA II hard drive " makes me twitchy. If it doesn't, pick something else. Single power supply here as well.
7) I don't wish to impunge Visionman (who I've never heard of), but wouldn't it be more appropriate to buy from a slightly more mainstream vendor? Is this a budget restriction or a "have to buy through .gov site with poor selection of hardware" problem?
8) Were I you, I'd buy 2x bog-standard HPs or Dells on the HCL for ESXi and Xen, some shared storage and (like others have said) take everything virtual. You're in the enviable position of starting from scratch and creating policy as you proceed.
I'd agree with the above, having had no-name rebranded servers (well Evesham \ SuperMicro to be specific) I'd never buy a server that wasn't from one of the big boys now (HP, Dell etc) - drivers, support etc just isn't the same with cheaper servers imo.
It's got to go virtual as well now, so much more flexible and will make better use of the hardware resources you buy. Personally from what I've seen in demos VMWare is worth spending the extra £££ on and isn't that pricey for education so again I'd look into that further.
Couple of good spec servers, SAN storage, backup solution and you're away
Why not get in touch with a few suppliers and let them know your needs and talk with their tech guys on the phone? You don't have to go with anything they quote if you don't want but it's free advice and might give some ideas you hadn't thought of before
Sun do start-up programmes, specially for schools, you get a huge amount of discounts on servers and equipment. You can easily look at 50% of RRP when you purchase them.
Just browse the website, ask the question and let them handle it, they'll get someone to call you and discuss this with you.
Virtualized solution is defiantly the advisable one. One half decent server running ESXi and you're pretty much golden, add a decent SAN and your all set.
The Sun X2270's can have dual quad Xeons and almost 64GB ram at the high-end. One Quad, and 16GB ram, and you can run 2 DC's and various other servers quite comfortably.
You've also got to look at the bigger picture, what other services are going to be running. Heres a small list to look over.
Active Directory - Primary and Secondary if redundancy is to be had
DNS - Primary and Secondary if redundancy is to be had
Windows Update Services? (WSUS) Would require a half decent setup to control all those machines and keep everything upto date.
Internet Filtering? ISA, other?
Anti-Virus, centrally managed?
Management System? I know in the UK your looking at SIMS, or Facility or something alone those lines.
Exchange - What email system?
Spam Filtering ? DLL bolt-in's on the same system or another Server OS?
Really need to prioritize for future servers and what they do, and a virtualized with a good base set-up can get all these running quite comfortably, adding more energy efficient, and obviously hardware upgrades apart from more RAM, another processor are almost non-existant
Thanks for all the advice.
I was trying to keep the budget down as far as possible but judging from what you guys are saying it's not worth doing unless it's done right.
I'll definitely get in contact with hp or dell and find out what they recommend for my situation and I'll have to look into hyper V. I've never had the opportunity to use it. The only real virtualization I've done has been vmware on freebsd and it's been a while since I set that up.
I agree with going down the virtulisation route, but I've found that adding an extra network card for each VM is essential. By doing that each VM then has it's own Gbit connection to the network, and for some of my servers this is essential (previously my file server also hosted our software packages, and when you deploy them to 150 machines at once everything slowed down). When I started here the Servers used to fall over when Staff sent silly (500Mb plus) jobs to the server. I've stopped that now, but I do have a VM dedicated to being a print server just in case.
Why not buy an entry level SAN, two servers and cluster the VM's, I haven't done that yet (I don't have the budget), but I plan to down that route in the future.
Definetely go down the Dell/HP route - I've never had any problems with their servers but plenty with smaller companies!
I finally got a second hand server that we recieved from a closed school running (dual xeon 2.4ghz 4gig with a raid 5 hot swap configuration) I think I'm going to try to put ESXi on it tomorrow and try out some virtual machines. This should be good enough for at least a domain controller or two right? I still think I'll try to pick up another server for the file storage/other stuff and maybe look into a SAN now.
Thanks for all the help guys I'll keep you informed on how it goes.
Forgot to mention that we don't have to worry about e-mail or filtering, our isp takes care of both of those for us.
Last edited by NifeWrench; 29th October 2009 at 12:57 AM.
I finally got a second hand server that we recieved from a closed school running (dual xeon 2.4ghz 4gig with a raid 5 hot swap configuration) I think I'm going to try to put ESXi on it tomorrow and try out some virtual machines. This should be good enough for at least a domain controller or two right?
Personally I'd have thought that is pretty well underpowered for the kind of job you describe (a DC or two) especially given the number of potential clients you quote. Unless I've misinterpereted you and this box is simply a kind of testing platform. Ultimately it might do as a member server but it depends what you want from it.
Spend some cash my friend - think of the bigger picture, you want this h/w to last you years - not weeks.