Usually I am not one to bump but.... please?
You would be helping a fellow techie in need :-)
I am looking for some general advice and rough figures on what other schools have done in the past. I know you beautiful people can help me... you lovely fantastic guys you
We are looking at ways to overhaul our RM CC3 network and go down the virtual route. Our current servers are all getting a bit old and reaching capacity so soon enough things are going to start failing. Here is our current setup:
4x DC and file servers, Win sr 2003 (including users, user areas, app and file shares)
1x Exchange 2003
1x File share server
1x Web Server
1x Cashless Catering server
1x Smart cache server
1x Spam and AV filter
Our full nightly backups are reaching near on 1.5TB (not too much tbh).
Could someone please offer a little advice on the kind of server we would need to virtualise this lot, rough spec, rough cost and if other people have done it before? We are trying to sell this to the Business Manager who is a very green person so energy saving info would be fantastic. Also wherever the VMware route or Windows Virtual Server route would be best. Obviously during these times the budget is going to be quite slim but any info would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks all and Happy Tuesday!!
Usually I am not one to bump but.... please?
You would be helping a fellow techie in need :-)
Basically the issue here is a bit 'how long is a piece of string'?
Are you wanting to virtualise everything? I would have thought keeping the smart cache and a couple of DCs physical would be good in case of failure, and on that note, how much redundancy are you wanting?
Go back to basics - how much RAM is in that lot? and storage(backups are not a good estimation, you need to account for system files, paging and exapsnion)? CPU usage?
What out of that do you want to virtualise?
Do you want full redundancy (IE you can loose any component and stay running)?
My personal experience is with VMware, but you'll need to factor in another physical box for the Vcentre controller, assuming you want the features associated therein.
Another consideration is licensing - if any of those boxes are OEM licensed you'll need to purchase a new windows licence for them
Basically there's no hard and fast answer, but with a bit more info we might be able to point you in the right direction :-)
You need to decide a few things;
Are you going to use a SAN? You don't have to but it makes management alot easier, and is nessesery for live migrations and redundancy.
Are you going to have a server in standby? If one of your servers dies, all of the VMs on it go down too. Do you have a server sat ready to take over, or do you have enough non-essential systems which can make way (through migration) until you get the server fixed?
Do you see you needing any other systems in the future? Are you going to give yourself spare capacity ie RAM & CPU time, do you make sure you have spare RAM slots...
Main thing I'd recommend no matter which way you go is to buy the newest stuff you can get your hands on. If/when you come to adding more systems/RAM/etc it will be a hell of alot easier if your stuff isnt totally out of date. Remember for live migration and redundancy you need "similar" CPUs, ie on XEN for example an Intel E5400 is not similar to a X3360
Last edited by j17sparky; 3rd November 2010 at 10:56 AM.
I wrote this on another thread somewhere but we bought 4 x Dell R300 servers with 16gb ram each. We virtualize 9 servers on there in total and use one as a redundant machine in case of failure. Total cost was about 3,500 quid so cheap cheap cheap.
You won't want to virtualize your 1st DC or any file servers so keep them physical for now.
If you want to go the SAN route then its a lot more costly, and (in my opinion) not really suitable for schools.
Oh an we use Hyper-v which is great but smoothwall doesn't virtualize on it
Last edited by zag; 3rd November 2010 at 10:39 AM.
Hi Domino, thanks for the reply. Here is a little more information based on what you have asked:
We are currently (open to ideas) looking at having the following:
1x Physical primary domain controller
1x Physical smart cache
2x Big servers (ESX or other) to hold the rest of the servers virtually. Ideally half and half but with the capacity to run all VM's on one box for high availability
Currently most of our servers have 2x Intel Xeon 2.66Ghx processors and either 2GB or 4GB of RAM. At the moment we roughly have about 26/27GB of RAM over all the servers. A very rough estimation or hard disk space allocated over all servers at the moment is 1.8-2.0TB.
The CPU usage, being honest is next to nothing. The processors at the moment seem pretty good and the servers seem to sit idle most of the time. Average RAM usage hovers at around 0.8-1.5GB per server.
The servers we currently have are licensed through RM and whilst virtualising we would be looking at CC4 too (depending on how our current RM Ones will handle it, but that's another topic).
In my mind at the moment we would be looking at two servers with the following rough specs:
2x Dual or quad core processors, maybe one of the Intel 'i' range?
We would look at two of these with a SAN of maybe 8TB.
Thanks for the advice so far. Without the right expertise this is quite a big subject!
We're embarking on a very similar project, although our goal is a vanilla network. We don't have Exchange, but everything else is similar. We currently have a 4tb SAN, so will be looking at 1 DC, 1 VM controller, 2 VM Hosts for load balancing and redundancy. Your spec of 2x quad core (probably the intel 'i' series, for your green requirements) and 36Gb RAM each sounds about right. If I have the budget I'll be aiming for 48Gb, but we'll see. Pretty much everything except the DC and firewall/local proxy will be virtualised.
I've got a couple of companies looking at providing "solutions", so will come back here with estimates, when they eventually turn up, if you like.
@j17sparky - Yes we are looking at having a SAN for high availablility. We are also looking to have two big servers which hold the VM's and in the event that one goes down, the other will have the capacity to pick up the load and run the VM's from the other box.
We would want to have some extra resources for expansion but at the moment there are no plans for more services/applications. It would be nice to have the best kit we can get for the lowest cost (schools budget unfortunately).
@zag - I like the sound of your solution you have going on. Obviously we want the best but money restraints much limit us the high availability options. Why would you say the SAN is not really suitable for schools? Would you say it's more suited to corporate environments?
Thanks for the advice so far. Some great information!!!
@alexsanger - Thanks for the information. Sounds like your project is very similar and you seem to have some decent kit already in place. Any rough costs would be a massive help. Hope it goes well!
One thing I have learned from virtualizing my servers is they are incredibly easy to backup and restore as a full machine. So when you talk about high availability with Sans I really don't get the advantages over installing a new hard disk and clicking restore in backupexec or even manually copying the VHD file to a new server, it takes 20mins. Live migrations would be nice but again it takes very little time to move a virtual server.
Bascially I think its overkill, but would probably move that way sometime in the future when funds allow. From our point of view there is no pressing need to do it all at once especially when technology gets faster and cheaper every day
for me, the absolute availability you get for resources as well as server VHDs is the winner. No one bit of tin will stop anything from working. With a SAN and parallel file servers running DFS you virtually eliminate any single point of failure. Granted, they are pricey, but the EMC2 iSCSI unit we have wasn't scarily expensive (a 4TB "my first SAN" entry level job), and it gives us a huge amount of flexibility that storage on local servers couldn't. Sounds like your backup solution works pretty well though!
I think we would probably look at the cheaper option and go for local storage if SAN's are really that expensive. We can handle a couple of hours downtime in the event a hard drive does die and with the correct backup procedure in place, restoration should be a doddle.
You don't have to get an expensive SAN. There's 2 very good free SAN's in Nexenta and OpenFiler that will run on pretty much any hardware you give them! Been using OpenFiler for 4 months now, and its been rock solid - and it wasn't anywhere near expensive!
A HP MSA2000 ought to be able to handle what you're throwing its way too - those aren't mad money
that said, any hardware manufacturer should have a entry level drive tray/controller system you can look at.
If you're having two hosts and want to allow for live migration/failover between them then persistent storage is a must - if each host can only see its local storage how will you allow migrations between hosts?
gl3nnym (4th November 2010)
@Domino - The failover is the option I will be looking into. Obviously to get the full on migration option we would need to invest more cash and expertise into the project. Thinking about it though, as a school I am sure we can live without some services for an hour or two if we went for a similar solution to @zag
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