Network Design Advice - 60 users

Posted on 2011-10-06
Last Modified: 2013-12-02
Dear Experts,

My brain has been overheating for weeks over a network upgrade I have to plan so any advice or experience you may have that can help me settle on a viable solution is much appreciated.

We have up to 45 members of staff logged on at once (through a mixture of thick and Thin Clients)
We have 10 public access terminals in our Library
We require at least 100 mailboxes (even though about half are only to keep correspondance separate from users' personal email)
We are unfortunately still tied to some custom apps which only run off W2k3 Server

Kit Already Owned (which we would like to reuse)
50 Wyse Terminals + 10 or more desktop PCs
3 x ESX 3.5 VMWare Servers (DL380 G6) (Foundation pack with Virtual Centre Server)
DataCore SAN 2TB running SANMelody (soon to upgrade to two-node Symphony V)
A few DL380s G4 and one DL380 G5 (running exchange 2003)

Current System Used:
3 Staff Terminal servers running W2K3 R2 + Citrix Presentation Server 4.0
1 Library Public Access Terminal server (as above)
Exchange 2003 SP2
18 servers in total(!) due to various applications being hosted on their own server


Basicallly we would like to accomodate the above number of users with the following features:
A better web experience (not juddery and chained to 32-bit ie8)
64-bit computing so we can up the performance
Citrix XenApp OR....... a VDI solution OR.... Remote Desktop Services??
Remote access for everyone (everyone seems to want that)
Exchange 2010
Sharepoint (just to begin using it for Document management and a company Intranet).

My thoughts:

To me 18 servers (not including the VMWare and SAN) seems like a lot for only 45 concurrent users. True, half of them are member servers hosting applications but still, it seems like a lot of OS licenses for such a small group.
Certain users have a need for more customisation that Citrix PS 4.0 and published desktops is currently allowing. Some people even need apps that no one else does, whilst also needing the common apps on the published desktops...
I've looked into the offering of SBS 2011 as well as XenApp 6.0 Foundation and some VDI solutions and really i just want to know the following:
1. Should we avoid the Small Business Server solution? (bear in mind we already have a 'grown up' 2003 domain and licenses for Server 2003 and server 2008 R2 as well as 70 CALs for Termnal Server and Exchange - so we can probably upgrade to something similar if needed - i assume we can't downgrade to SBS CALs though??)

2. Has anyone tried Kaviza "VDI-in-a-box"? Could it be suitable for us?

3. Is VDI (for one-off user apps) worth considering in conjunction with XenApp (for common apps)?

4. Is Microsoft's new Remote Desktop Services as good as XenApp for our puropses?

Many thanks again
Question by:charlielincoln
    LVL 4

    Expert Comment

    by:Christopher Raymond Mendoza
    Hello Charlie,

    Looking at your requirements and current systems you must be having lots of headaches.

    There are different approaches for challenges like yours and a lot are quite different from your current setup. A few questions just to know if I can help you:

    1. Do you prefer or are you tied up to using purely Windows for both servers and clients?
    2. Do you prefer thin or fat clients?
    3. Looking at the number of servers currently being used, is it possible for these server apps to reside in fewer servers?

    Author Comment

    Hi thanks for your interest in helping,

    1. Do you prefer or are you tied up to using purely Windows for both servers and clients?
    Prefer as i am a Linux dummy and its just more universally supported at lower levels
    2. Do you prefer thin or fat clients?
    We kind of have to use what thin clients we have as they are (in the eyes of management) still quite new - they are Wyse VX0 (from 2009)
    3. Looking at the number of servers currently being used, is it possible for these server apps to reside in fewer servers?
    That's what i'm hoping, while its nice to separate them out its also a bit of a luxury

    I should clarify one thing. Not all users need to customise their apps, only about 10. Of those some of them need USB access. I really hate the two desktops thing as it confuses people. The other 35 users can probably just use the main published desktop (with Office, IE and the other bespoke apps we have).

    Thanks again
    LVL 4

    Assisted Solution

    by:Christopher Raymond Mendoza
    Hello Charlie,

    What we usually do when faced with multiple apps is to classify them and define server features needed for each, then test them together. This should help you decide on the best combinations for the least number of servers - and possibly less licenses too.

    As for the virtualization part - we usually prefer the least number of technologies to deploy, resulting to simplified deployment and maintenace. For your purposes I think XenApp should suffice.

    I am sorry but given those details there is not much more I could offer you.

    I hope this helps.
    LVL 38

    Accepted Solution

    First off -- don't go back to SBS -- it has too many limitations.

    Check with your vendors before buying 64 bit. Most of my company's apps still can't handle Server 2008 and 64 bit. Not for lack of trying. :-) We have more than one client go out and buy bright shiny new servers, set them up and then call us. They were hacked off and we were blamed because they didn't ask first.

    What's your backbone? A bunch of unmanaged 10/100 switches? Or a nice Cisco/Foundry network with fibre to the servers?

    There are some apps that just really need their own servers; Exchange, a full SQL Server installation, some others. Your domain controllers should be DC's only. SQL can have multiple instance on a single server -- then you get into disk channel and memory. But it can be done.

    Author Comment

    Thanks Jimpen, noted i was afraid SBS would be a bit limited too. I suppose its the central management of it all that appeals (as well as certain enterprise level tasters of things like sharepoint - which at present we have no idea how popular they'll be).

    We have unmanaged switches in our backbone mostly gigabit ethernet but some still on 100 - something i hope to change in the upgrade.

    I will of course do a thorough testing of our apps before settling on a solution. This is why i wanted to get an idea of the uptake of VDI and how it can work with XenDesktop or MS RDS. Maybe i should have been more direct in my questions though.

    Thanks for looking at it

    LVL 6

    Expert Comment

    This question has been classified as abandoned and is closed as part of the Cleanup Program. See the recommendation for more details.

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