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Windows Thread, Virtualizing Servers in Technical; Wow, thanks so much for all your input, I've been reading through what you've said and have also been looking ...
  1. #16
    Nick_Parker's Avatar
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    Wow, thanks so much for all your input, I've been reading through what you've said and have also been looking at pricing and like you said SANS are expensive.

    Unfortunatly I don't have much funding to work with (does anybody ever?)
    So what I might try is the following:

    NAS Storage Server with +- 3TB of storage space - Will use this for storing Pupil & Staff folders, cd images, backups etc etc...

    3x Reasonably powerful servers each with 2x SCSI HDDs
    HDD #1 : Virtualizing Environment (maybe Server 2008 with Hyper-V?)
    HDD #2 : Virtual HDDs for VMs running on HDD #1
    and then ensure that the Virtual HDDs are backed up on the Storage Server @ least once a day.

    I'm going to try for at least 2 VMs per Physical Server, this would give me 6 potential servers.

    Should a physical server fail, I can copy the VHD from the storage server onto one of the physical servers and load up the VM on there until the broken machine can be fixed.

    What do you think? Any suggestions?

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    torledo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dhicks View Post
    I still think the "branch office" metaphor is somewhat behind the times - as you point out, get some decent all-in-one intelligent managed switches into a school, let them be configured and tuned by centrally-based admins who know about this kind of thing, then let the schools run everything from "the web" - VLE, email, even file access (but have some cunning caching done at the school's side of things, naturally). There's no reason (well, cost, power consumption, er, development...) why this concept couldn't be extended to people's home systems, too - many people have ADSL or cable broadband routers sat at home that are basically small always-on servers, just beef them up a bit until they can cache your school files and so on. It might be a bit premature to start assuming universal home (or even schools) access to MANs as yet.

    Spot on. Infact there's no reason why ADSL and ADSL2+ connected sites can't be connected into the mpls as is the case where pulling fibre to a site isn't feasible. Scalability of DSL would restrict what services can be delivered centrally, but as you say with local caching engines performance issues can be tackled. The idea of a portal to the apps used by staff and students is exactly where things are headed. An element of local app install will still be required in certain instances, but most apps will be accessible through the web portal. It's why things like MOSS are so important, because it goes beyond just being a VLE/MLE. MOSS 2007 and similar portals are in effect a users workspace.



    Or, another point of view, it frees up valuable technical staff's brain cells from doing stuff that can be done automatically and leaves them available to be creating teaching resources and other content. The machines just work, leaving the humans to do the thinking. This, of course, assumes LAs / MSPs think like us and get what kind of system they should be aiming for - I've met some remarkably dim people working for LAs, you know.

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    David Hicks
    That's one way of looking at the new role of IT staff, and i'm sure there are many technicians who'd prefer to be creating teaching resources - but surely the technical stuff is the most fun and rewarding. I could be convinced otherwise if i were to be reskilled with skills that could seriously improve my future earnings potential.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torledo View Post
    Scalability of DSL would restrict what services can be delivered centrally, but as you say with local caching engines performance issues can be tackled.
    I'd aim for really good local caching straight away - I've never seen a school yet where the Internet connection, be it LA-provided cable or private consumer-gradeADSL line, didn't go down on a regular basis.

    An element of local app install will still be required in certain instances
    This is where I think money should be being spent - all this cash being sloshed around on managed service companies, whereas a bit of money in the right place would get you a whole schools-specific web-based applications suite developed pretty quickly.

    but surely the technical stuff is the most fun and rewarding. I could be convinced otherwise if i were to be reskilled with skills that could seriously improve my future earnings potential.
    Maybe this is a different-points-of-view thing again - I'm a software developer by trade, I tend to consider "systems administration" to be something that has to be gotten out of the way before I can get down to the fun part of coding some new learning resources. All I want is a reliable, working platform to develop and run applications on.

    Adobe Air, MS Silverlight, or similar would probably be the thing to investigate / learn for the future - platforms that let you develop applications that work in web browsers when connected and when not, similar to the caching ideas discussed above. Also, seriously large-scale VM deployments seems to be the way things are going for developed web-based applications, i.e. a web-based application will be running on a whole collection of individual VM-based servers, the deployment and management of which will take some skill.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick_Parker View Post
    Wow, thanks so much for all your input, I've been reading through what you've said and have also been looking at pricing and like you said SANS are expensive.
    If you specifically want a SAN, have you looked at Coraid's products? They're the inventors / keepers of the ATA over Ethernet protocol, a SAN protocol similar to iSCISI but with less network overhead. The AoE protocol is built in to the Linux kernel and is freely available, you can use your own hardware instead of theirs. AoE is designed to run on cheaper, commodity hardware, i.e. servers with standard or aggregated gigabit ethernet connections.

    What do you think? Any suggestions?
    Worry about (and spend your money on) disk I/O performance rather than processor speed - I bet most tasks your servers will be doing are actually disk-based, actual "processing" barely comes in to it.

    You can never have too much RAM in a machine (assuming a 64-bit OS, anyway), especially when 4GB is around £100 - maybe aim for servers with 8GB of RAM for some future-proofing?

    What servers do you need to run on your processing machines? It sounds like most of the work is going to be done by your NAS server. I'd say that's where to spend the money - make sure it has a decent hardware RAID card that can control as many disks as you can afford - the more spinning disk spindles you have, the better performance will be. You might want to get an external disk enclosure to hold them all. 500GB SATA drives are probably the best speed / size / cost balance - can you afford 12 500GB disks for a RAID-10 array?

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    Nick_Parker's Avatar
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    Hi David

    I was going for a minimum of 4GB of Ram and all servers as 64Bit

    Servers I need to setup:

    1. DC (AD/DHCP/DNS) - Server 2008
    2. Exchange - Server 2008 with Exchange 2007
    3. Internet/Cache - Server 2003 with ISA Server 2006
    4. PrintServer - Server 2003 with PaperCut
    5. WebServer - Server 2003 with IIS 6 (Intranet + Joomla)
    6. GhostServer - Server 2003 with Symantec Ghosts Solution Suite 2.0
    7. AntivirusServer - Server 2003 with F-Secure
    8. Possible UpdateServer - Server 2003 with WSUS (Although WSUS doesn't allow you to save the updates on a remote server i.e. the NAS, so still thinking about a solution for this one)

    *There will be another server in another building running as a replicated DC (AD/DHCP/DNS) just in case*
    *I know alot of these functions could be handled by one server, but I like the security of knowing I can restart one server to install something without taking down everything*


    Regarding the NAS Server, I've been looking through Dells offerings, very nice, but also pricey, Intel does one, the "McKay Creek", 12 SAS or SATA Bays, it's not as expensive as the Dell and available from a supplier in the area. I can certainly try load it up with 12x 500GB SATA disks and look at RAID Cards to give me RAID 10, this would give me 3TB Storage right? The other option would be 4 sets of 3x 500GBs in RAID 5. Or start off with 1 set, then add another over time...
    Last edited by Nick_Parker; 21st July 2008 at 08:35 AM.

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    pooley's Avatar
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    Sorry to hijack this thread but what about bandwidth issues ? if you have 2/3 virtual servers setup on one physical server how are you dealing with the splitting of a 1gig nic connection ?

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick_Parker View Post
    12x 500GB SATA disks and look at RAID Cards to give me RAID 10, this would give me 3TB Storage right? The other option would be 4 sets of 3x 500GBs in RAID 5. Or start off with 1 set, then add another over time...
    I'd stick to RAID-10 rather than RAID-5 for speed. You can always add more RAID-1 groups to the RAID-10 stripe as you go along if you can't afford 12 disks all in one go.

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pooley View Post
    if you have 2/3 virtual servers setup on one physical server how are you dealing with the splitting of a 1gig nic connection?
    You mean how does the VM system provide multiple connections to machines when you only have one real connection? It'll bridge the connection, i.e. create a "software switch" that the real connection and the VMs all plug into. If you simply mean that one gigabit connection isn't very much, then yes, you have a point - time to aggregate two, three, or four connections together, I guess. I've just bought a couple of servers with multi-port LAN cards - dual-port is around £100, I think the quad-port was a tad pricier, you can of course simply use more than one LAN port.

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    Raid 10 it is, thanks so much!

    Regarding the network issues, all the servers come with dual gigabit network cards, if we assume 2 VM's per Server, I can split one gigabit connection to each VM, and the host will have to use one of those. Not ideal, but considering 95% of our network is still operating @ 100MB/s, we shouldn't notice any issues I hope?

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick_Parker View Post
    if we assume 2 VM's per Server, I can split one gigabit connection to each VM, and the host will have to use one of those.
    Sounds good - can't you squeeze another network card in there somewhere? They're all of £10 these days.

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    Good thinking, I'll have a look, they will most probably be Dell Poweredge Servers, must just check what will be compatible

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    dhicks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick_Parker View Post
    they will most probably be Dell Poweredge Servers, must just check what will be compatible
    I've just fitted an Intel Pro/1000 PT Dual Port Server Adapter PCI Express (£85 off eBay) in our new Dell PowerEdge - worked fine in the end, but turned out to be rather loose in the expansion slot, which caused it to not work until I'd figured out what the problem was.

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