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View Full Version : Ideal setup for a school computer lab?


schwags
04-30-2012, 07:13 PM
I have a school client that is looking to replace a 30 unit computer lab with aging desktops. I have been working with this client for a few years now and have always been having to play catch-up with those old machines in terms of their hardware issues, updates, etc...
I am familiar with the basic concepts of think clients, RDP, etc...but have never tried to roll it out in a setting like this. I would really like the students to be able to log into a thin client (or other device for that matter), and have access to a standard desktop with all of their required software, settings, etc. I should have the ability to centrally manage these sessions This desktop should also have the ability to be "frozen" so that the students could just reboot and make software issues go away (viruses etc...).
So, what is the best solution? 30+ terminals all logging into a terminal server, or some kind of PXE boot device, or some kind of virtulization that I am not familiar with? I want the total cost to be at or below the cost of 30 standard desktops, is this possible?

rjframe
04-30-2012, 07:38 PM
Have you looked at NComputing?

http://www.ncomputing.com/education

colonydata
05-01-2012, 06:35 PM
i am just starting to get into VDI and have not deployed it with a client yet. but a computer lab sounds like a perfect scenario for it.

some esx servers with direct attached storage and 30 wyse terminals would be a good place to start.

while the up front cost might be roughly the same or maybe a little bit more than traditional desktops the selling points from what i've learned from a friend that has deployed them in a large enviroment are.

1) lower TCO because of less administrative cost. one of them gets trashed with a virus, you do not have to pull it from the lab, try to remove the virus or reimage it. you just click a button to delete that instances from the desktop pool and create a new one from a template. same thing with updates etc.

2) real savings are going to happen when you go to replace another 30 seat lab with thin clients. you already have the existing infrastructure you might just have to drop in an additional server to handle the load.

3) The wyse terminals at least according to my friend, they project them to have a longer serviceable life than your standard desktop. right now they are projecting 4 years but think it could be as high as 5 or 6. whereas they are on 3 year refresh cycle with desktops and laptops right now. when you start talking about a large number of computers (more than 30) adding just one year of serviceable life adds up to a bunch of money.

NETWizz
05-01-2012, 07:29 PM
The Microsoft Dumb terminals work well. You need only enable Remote Desktop Services as far as I remember. Basically, they are capable out of the box of running the Remote Desktop Client... that's it.

You need TS licencing though.

schwags
05-01-2012, 08:38 PM
some esx servers with direct attached storage and 30 wyse terminals would be a good place to start.

This is along the lines of what I was thinking, but I am concerned about AV issues such as sound and video refresh rate. The students need to be able to watch online flash and other types of videos, so standard RDP will not work. I have heard about a technology that actually loads the OS onto the terminal, then everything runs from RAM there. When the terminal is shut off, it goes away and is reloaded from the "image" again when turned on. What is this called? It sounds like a better solution than completely server based because it will not tax the server so much and AV is local, not streaming.

colonydata
05-01-2012, 09:14 PM
according to what i just read, if your using Wyse Terminals with ESX and and Windows 7. AV streams are redirected across the network and the processing occurs on the thin client. if you are using server 03 or xp there is a add on installed through vmware tools that does the same thing.

hopefully this helps as well.

and remember this is 2008 technology
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kICrPaScFqY

bsil
05-01-2012, 11:35 PM
VM Sphere is what I am looking at for school. It will allow you to spin up a user desktop from anywhere (iPad/ipod too with an app). One you can save yourself the time from testing is called classlink. We tried that, and it was a waste of time. The second year we had it they jumped the cost per seat, and the support to triple what it was originally. We tested a few other solutions too, and bandwidth was the issue each time. The VM product when tested ran very fast, and I was streaming video to about 15 iPads on a SOHO wireless device.

schwags
05-02-2012, 01:07 AM
bsil - Are you using any specific standard device other than an ipad? Is there a certain desktop unit that you have had good experience with? My principal REALLY has been wanting to get iPads in the classrooms to replace the aging desktops, so I REALLY like that idea. But, I still need to find a thin / zero client that is going to do well with the A/V that I talked about earlier, and NOT cost as much as a cheap Optiplex desktop. Also, How much server oomph have you found that you need for the students? I am thinking that a dual processor quad-core Xeon machine with 32 Gb of RAM should be enough for 30 clients, but I could be WAY off here.

colonydata
05-02-2012, 02:30 PM
bsil - Are you using any specific standard device other than an ipad? Is there a certain desktop unit that you have had good experience with? My principal REALLY has been wanting to get iPads in the classrooms to replace the aging desktops, so I REALLY like that idea. But, I still need to find a thin / zero client that is going to do well with the A/V that I talked about earlier, and NOT cost as much as a cheap Optiplex desktop. Also, How much server oomph have you found that you need for the students? I am thinking that a dual processor quad-core Xeon machine with 32 Gb of RAM should be enough for 30 clients, but I could be WAY off here.

my mom is a public school teacher she has played with my ipad, and while she thinks it would be neat to have a cart of ipads that floats between classes, she dosnt think replacing lab computers with ipads would do anything but lead to broken ipads.

i was doing some more reading on the subject and the higher end thin clients are projected to have a 7 year service life. thats more than twice the life span of a cheap optiplex. my two year old ipad 1 was almost unusable when i replaced, so figure refreshing the ipads every 3 years as well.

for the most part the only thing you would have to worry about is the server infrastructure. for help with capacity planning i would get in contact with a vmware or citrix sales rep, they have sale engineers that can help you figure out server specs and how many. i would not contact a dell sales engineer else you would end up with a 48U rack full of servers.

schwags
05-03-2012, 08:30 PM
she dosnt think replacing lab computers with ipads would do anything but lead to broken ipads.

As a side note, my wife has an ipad3 with the 'gumdrop' case, and it has been toddler proof for a month now. I have an original ipad in the otterbox extreme case and my 3 year old has been knocking it about for over a year with no problems. We also have an ipad 2 in a Griffin Survivor case that my toddler literally throws around, and it is in perfect condition. I think that ipads in the classrooms would work, with the appropriate protection in place.

colonydata
05-04-2012, 02:33 AM
As a side note, my wife has an ipad3 with the 'gumdrop' case, and it has been toddler proof for a month now. I have an original ipad in the otterbox extreme case and my 3 year old has been knocking it about for over a year with no problems. We also have an ipad 2 in a Griffin Survivor case that my toddler literally throws around, and it is in perfect condition. I think that ipads in the classrooms would work, with the appropriate protection in place.

you forget to factor in malicious intent, which will happen. i really do not see the purpose of deploying Ipads into a lab setting where the main uses will be word processing, research etc where a traditional pc would be a better fit.

now put a set of ipads on a cart that teachers check out for specific activities in the class room. that makes sense.

schwags
05-04-2012, 03:20 AM
I guess a cart idea is what I was thinking of the whole time. Right now we have a cart of laptops that can be checked out by the teachers, but they are always in disrepair from the kids picking the keys off etc that the teachers do not use them. Also, they leave the damn cart plugged in ALL the time and kill the batteries even after I have tried to explain that they need to be charge cycled. I don't know if ipads would be much better, but at least they don't have keys to pick off...

cyabro
05-04-2012, 03:23 AM
Have you looked at the new Windows MultiPoint Server 2001 from Microsoft?

You can get thin clients now that support the new RemoteFX which supposedly supports video etc over the RDP session.

colonydata
05-04-2012, 03:44 PM
thats an interesting concept. the only problems i see, is you would still have more physical desktop computers to manage. from what i have read it looks like you are also limited to hp hardware. i also wonder about how much centralized management ability you have when administering multiple servers.

also i would assume your locked into windows. which say your school taught a intro to unix class and needed linux pcs. might not be able to do that with multipoint, but with a ESX or Xen server its just a matter of creating a linux vm and adding it to the desktop pool.

schwags
07-08-2012, 07:03 PM
We have decided to go with the ncomputing solution. After getting a demo unit and hooking it up to my shop server, it was obvious that is was exactly what we were looking for. When I get the lab done, I will TRY to report back about the success...

bfgfdgs
07-26-2012, 09:51 AM
The Microsoft Dumb terminals work well. You need only enable Remote Desktop Services as far as I remember. Basically, they are capable out of the box of running the Remote Desktop Client... that's it.

You need TS licencing though.

_________________

drpcfix
07-26-2012, 01:47 PM
Have you done the install?? I'm really curious to hear about how this went and what you learned..

We've tried thin clients a number of times, the wrong way, and never had any really successful deployments.

Things like slowness, online video problems, and edge-case needs caused too many problems.

(it would help knowing all the problems up front so you could set expectations I suppose)

RedFoxComp
07-27-2012, 02:17 PM
Windows Multipoint Server 2011 with HP thin clients. It was made for exactly this.