Virtualizing 30 CIS Students

hypnotoadhypnotoad Posts: 915Banned
So we have 20-30 students in CIS and we're thinking about giving each student a virtual machine to do their development on. The professor wants the students to be mobile, so they could remote in from anywere. The Virtual Machine would have Visual Studio 2008, Netbeans, MSDN, their LISP interpreter, Prolog interpreter, Windows XP with Office, etc...

Concurrently we'd have maybe 10 people compiling programs, running visual studio, etc. With 10-20 more virtual machines running idle.

What inspired all this is that the CIS professor wants us to go around and install all this stuff on 100 computers on campus. We figure, why not just give each student a VM and then we don't have to do the installs on everything. Just make a VM and copy it.

So, I'm thinking about getting a Dell 2950 with 32 gigs RAM, 4x300 gig 15k SAS drives, running VMWare Server (the free product) on Server 2003. Cost for this box is $13,000. I'm not that familiar with other options like Citrix, Xenserver, ESX, Hypervisor, etc etc. What do you guys think? Is there a better way to do this?

I am taking the simple route with this at the moment. Is this machine going to be grossly underpowered? Am I going about this all wrong?

Comments

  • dynamikdynamik Posts: 12,314Banned
    You'll get significantly better performance with a hypervisor-based virtualization product. If you can't afford ESX, check out Server 2008, as Hyper-V is included with that (and recently went from beta to RTM).

    I guess it also depends on what they're compiling. Are they "Hello World!" type programs, or are they higher-level, complex applications?

    Don't you have any machines lying around you could use for even 5 users just to get some idea of the requirements?
  • EJizzelEJizzel Posts: 94Member ■■□□□□□□□□
    Another cost effective approach can be to create the VM with the appropriate programs and setting then installing VMplayer on the necessary computers. Thats a total novice approach to the problem and rather cheap, but from my readings I think that Xenserver might be the way to do it.
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Posts: 915Banned
    dynamik wrote:
    You'll get significantly better performance with a hypervisor-based virtualization product. If you can't afford ESX, check out Server 2008, as Hyper-V is included with that (and recently went from beta to RTM).

    I guess it also depends on what they're compiling. Are they "Hello World!" type programs, or are they higher-level, complex applications?

    Don't you have any machines lying around you could use for even 5 users just to get some idea of the requirements?

    The programs are fairly simple. It's not high-intensity development, just programs to calculate this and that. We're not a research school :)
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Posts: 915Banned
    EJizzel wrote:
    Another cost effective approach can be to create the VM with the appropriate programs and setting then installing VMplayer on the necessary computers. Thats a total novice approach to the problem and rather cheap, but from my readings I think that Xenserver might be the way to do it.

    That would be ok with me but wouldn't the VMs be very slow coming over the 100 megabit LAN, as the VMD's would be on a server? The students have be fairly mobile.
  • dynamikdynamik Posts: 12,314Banned
    Memory seems a bit low. 30 students will only give you 1gb per student with 2gb left over for the host OS. That's not a lot with VS and Office running.

    30 users seems like a lot for four disks as well. How were you going to set those up, RAID-10? Could you do 8, 10, or 12 disks with lower capacity? It doesn't seem like you're going to need that many GB, but you'd probably benefit from more spindles.

    This server itself would have gigabit ethernet right?

    Are you just planning on students using remote desktop?

    Have you thought about just using terminal server instead?
  • astorrsastorrs Posts: 3,139Member ■■■■■■□□□□
    Personally, I would use ESXi (just the barebones version, no Std/Ent) running on a Dell 2970 (you mentioned Dell's, so I'll assume that's what you use).

    A quick config on Dell's US website gives me the following for just under $10k + taxes:
    PowerEdge 2970:
    2 @ Quad Core AMD Opteron™ 2347HE,4x512K Cache,1.9GHz,1Ghz HyperTransport
    32GB DDR2, 8x4GB, 667MHz, Dual Ranked DIMMs
    Rack Chassis w/Sliding Rapid/Versa Rails and Cable Management Arm,Universal
    Redundant Power Supply with Dual Cords
    Integrated SAS/SATA RAID 10, PERC 5/i Integrated, PERC 6/i Integrated
    1x6 Backplane for 3.5-inch Hard Drives
    PERC 5/i, x6 Backplane, Integrated Controller Card
    6 @ 300GB 15K RPM Serial-Attach SCSI 3Gbps 3.5-in HotPlug Hard Drive
    Dual Embedded Broadcom® NetXtreme II 5708 Gigabit Ethernet NIC
    Dell Remote Access Card, 5th Generation for PowerEdge Remote Management
    Active ID Bezel
    24X IDE CD-RW/DVD ROM Drive
    No Floppy Drive for x6 Backplane
    3Yr SILVER ENTERPRISE SUPPORT: 7x24 HW/SW, 7x24 4-hr Onsite
    Add $495 for ESXi, plus you'll need Windows XP licenses or whatever you're using for the Virtual Machines if you don't already have them - remember you can't move OEM licenses.

    How much memory do you assign to each PC right now? Depending on your answer and by using ESX you will benefit from the transparent memory sharing and balloon driver functionality in it, so you could be able to save yourself another $1300 by dropping it down to 16GB - assuming your numbers are correct and only 10 are really doing anything at once. Also the 6 drives should be in a 6 disk RAID1/0 set. AMD quad-cores beet Intel hands down when used with ESX these days (Nested Page Table, etc)

    This is more than powerful enough to handle what you propose. Have them use RDP to connect into the VM's and you'll be good.

    Edit: Oh one more thing, throw an extra dual-port NIC in there for the management network/vmkernel, cost ~$150.
  • hypnotoadhypnotoad Posts: 915Banned
    I'd like to use terminal server, but know nothing about it.
  • astorrsastorrs Posts: 3,139Member ■■■■■■□□□□
    nl wrote:
    I'd like to use terminal server, but know nothing about it.
    This would be a nightmare to support when everyone is using Visual Studio, debugging, etc. I would seriously recommend against it for this scenario.

    With that in mind, I'm all for Terminal Services (and specifically Citrix - or Provision Networks VAS) for just about every other application workload.
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