Server Solution

Whitehouse Primary School


Whitehouse Primary School
The Brief

Whitehouse Primary is a new build School based in Milton Keynes as part of a £160M programme to deliver 10,000 extra school places by 2018. The School opened its doors for the 2016/17 intake and will have provision for 630 pupils from ages 4-11 plus a nursery unit.

Part of the School’s tender was to provide a server solution for the School’s needs, given a minimal specification;
Rackmount Server,
Xeon Processor(s),
Large RAM capacity and storage as appropriate.

The Problem

Schools have a fairly unique deployment model in our experience and the core of the IT system is often neglected as things are updated. They simply add more and more users/data to the server and it will eventually start to slow down and cause issues.

It was important in our proposal that the server could absorb all of this during it’s life, provide scope to increase the storage space when needed, and deliver a consistent service to the network.

Adaptive IT's Solution

We do a lot of work with local schools and wanted to take the best elements from their configuration, as well as the best technical configuration for the hardware, and put these together for our solution.

A brand new school is the perfect opportunity to showcase the best of the best in server configuration to use as a benchmark going forwards.

The servers themselves would be virtualised within the hardware and tools like cloud backup can reduce the maintenance to a minimum.

Recommendation

Our solution was to focus on how the server is to be used;

  • The Operating System sits on an SSD RAID array to provide exceptionally fast response and resiliency.
  • Data is stored on a traditional, mechanical array, as this provides the best cost vs capacity, whilst still giving the resiliency of RAID.
  • We specified 128GB RAM and 2 Xeon CPUs with 16 cores each so that there is plenty of power behind the system for anything that we need it to do.

All of this sits in a nice, neat, Dell PowerEdge 2U Server. This Server family is the mainstay of industry deployments and have proven themselves time and again.
Leaving nothing to chance, the PowerEdge incorporates the new iDRAC8 system to actively monitor the server and notify us BEFORE there are any issues.
We wanted things to be nice and neat, so separated out the core and user-serving functions into their own virtual machines..

Implementation

The Server itself was built up with the 2 virtual machines in our office and the domain created. Core services were then set up with clear thought to the overall solution.

  • DHCP scopes were designed to allow space for all of those things that are added in later – Printers, Cameras etc.
  • Windows Deployment Services were set up to allow standard-built machines to be created with minimal effort from the server.
  • Group policy was evolved using a ‘light-touch’ approach so as not to overly restrict users from doing thing day-to-day.

Next was to look at the way the systems would be used;

  • Staff Accounts, mapped drives and printers.
  • Student accounts and what they are allowed to access.

Applications install;

  • Access control management software.
  • SIMS for school functions.

Throughout all of this, it was important to keep going back to the school, asking questions, suggesting improvements and allowing the system to evolve with them. The result of these efforts is clear to see in the simple, but sturdy configuration that was designed around their needs, rather than trying to be rigid to a specification that was created before it was really known what would be required.

Ongoing Support

We continue to support the server installation and things continue to evolve now that the system has gone live. The School have opted for half a day a week on-site, but we also retain a remote connection to the systems via VPN so that we can implement changes as and when required. In addition to our active support, the iDRAC monitors and provides regular reports on server condition, including RAID health and operating conditions.

We were able to use our experience in the Education sector to ensure that Whitehouse are now able to operate with unconcern regarding their server solution, knowing they have the very best, tailored option available. The PowerEdge will allow them to expand naturally, without slowing down and causing issues.

Ross Alexander

Project Manager, Adaptive IT Solutions

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