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Windows Server 2012 structure options within small business

Posted on 2013-11-01
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Last Modified: 2013-11-04
Hi Folks,

I am looking for some guidance relating to the structure of our servers within the business.

The current hardware is hitting end of life early next year and my plan is to replace in the new year.

Current hardware is :-

Windows SBS Server 2003 - This runs our DC, AD, DNS, DHCP & SQL Server 2005.

Windows Storage Server 2003

PowerVault Tape backup.

As far as I understand, things have changed somewhat at Microsoft regarding server OS and licencing since SBS 2003, so this is where I would like some help.

Because SBS no longer exists, I take it that my best replacement structure would be to split the functionality across three physical servers.

Server 1 = Windows 2012 Server Essentials - Running as DC, DHCP, DNS & AD.
Server 2 = Windows 2012 Server Standard + Windows SQL Server 2012.
Server 3 = Windows 2012 Server Standard - Running as Storage Server

Our business has less than 25 users - it is possible we'd expand to more than 25 users over the next 6 years, but unlikely.

I am struggling to get my head around which is the 'best' way forward and also which is more cost effective.

Any help is appreciated and apologies if I have placed this question into the incorrect topic area.
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Question by:dhayzen
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Lee W, MVP earned 400 total points
ID: 39616667
Essentials limitations can, for the most part, be removed by simply running a DISM command and installing a Server Standard license key.

You say you use SBS 2003... So you use Exchange?  Your plan doesn't mention anything about Exchange and you don't acknowledge it one way or the other.

You could still buy a new server that comes with SBS 2011 until the end of the year.

Why are you separating your file server and the DC?

Your plan would cost you approximately $2300 for Windows Server licenses (and that excludes CALs and SQL licenses) and another $9000 for server hardware (assuming $3000 per server for 3 low end servers).  A total of $11,300.

As a consultant, I would recommend the following solution based on the very limited description of your network.

One physical server running Hyper-V - Cost of about $4500.
One Server 2012 Standard License - Cost of about $900
Total Cost of about $5400 (Excluding SQL and CALs).  That saves you nearly $6000.

Server 2012 Standard allows TWO virtual installs PER LICENSE.  And downgrade rights to use Essentials as one of those installs.

Then you would have:
Server 1 = Windows 2012 Server Essentials - Running as DC and File sharing
Server 2 = Windows 2012 Server Standard + Windows SQL Server 2012.

NOTE: You don't say how many users, just "less than 25", but even for less than 25, the correct server design for such a small network does not need a separate file server for your size company - file services are not resource intensive, other than disk space.
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by:Nick Rhode
Nick Rhode earned 100 total points
ID: 39616672
Cost effective would be to virutalize.  Windows 2012 allows for 2 virtual machines and VMware essentials is pretty cheap.  If you get a big enough physical server you could run all 3 of those virtualized servers on 1 physical box.  Vmware essentials would allow for growth (licenses 3 hosts).  

So for the upgrade
1 x Beef Server
1 x VMware Essentials License
2 x Windows Server 2012 Server Licenses (provides up to 4 VMs)
25 x Windows Server 2012 User CALs
**1 X SQL Server 2012**

I have the stars next to the SQL Server 2012 license because my mind is slipping on how that license works along with the SQL CALs.  One thing to make sure of is your environment software is compatible with 2012 before the upgrade.  The part where your going to take a hit on is the Windows Licenses and CALS etc.  That adds up really fast.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 39616731
Why would you spend the money on VMWare when Hyper-V is free - or use VMWare free if it still limits to 32 GB of RAM.
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by:dhayzen
ID: 39616736
Leew, thanks for your reply.

To answer your questions :-

You say you use SBS 2003... So you use Exchange?  Your plan doesn't mention anything about Exchange and you don't acknowledge it one way or the other.
As a business we do not use Exchange presently.  We have another solution for email distribution (Equiinet NetPilot).  However, there is a chance we will be looking into running Exchange at some point in the future.

Why are you separating your file server and the DC?
I have been advised it is a security breach to have them on the same machine... but I am now wondering if that is meaning the same physical machine. So running as two VM's is ok ?

NRhode, thanks for your reply also!
I am reluctant to virtulize the SQL Server, we use SQL extensively throughout our business, including our CRM and Sage 200 (2013 edition) which are all quite hungry. Therefore I was planning to make the SQL server a physical dedicated machine.
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by:Nick Rhode
ID: 39616819
I believe VMware free lifted the RAM limit.  I have been using VMware for a long time and just forgot to mention Hyper-V and it slipped my mind (wasn't a fan at 1st of it but it improved quite a bit).  Also as leew stated about the file server with your size you can consolidate those 2 together in order to reduce cost.  If you had alot more users in your environment then I would put the data on another server.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 39616996
If you are currently running SQL on an SBS 2003 system that is at least 5 years old, then a virtualized SQL server will be faster on newer hardware than your current system (probably MUCH faster).

I wouldn't consider file and print to be a security risk if put on a DC - indeed, Essentials (and SBS) is meant to be your only server (if you wanted it that way).  Your company's purpose (bank?  floral shop? construction company?) makes a difference in how focused you need to be on security but the vast majority of small businesses (small enough to use SBS of any kind) do not need to concern themselves with the minimal risk presented by having a DC as a file server.  If you really want to spend the money separating services like that you can, but it's really not necessary for your size organization based on what you've made available about it so far and how most companies are.

(Technically, it's not a breach - it's a security best practice, but strictly speaking it's a security best practice to do a lot of things like separation of services, not using a 10 year old operating system, and more... small businesses don't generally have the resources to do all the things that would technically be advisable, so you should do the ones that are more advisable and mitigate the greatest risks.  Separating file server from DC is not a significant threat - I'd take the savings and put it more towards a better firewall or other security measures if you are able to spend the money).

One thing that is DEFINITELY not advisable (and is even next to impossible (if not impossible) to do since 2003 is to setup an RDS (Terminal Server) as anything other than an RDS server - I wouldn't make an RDS server a file server, for example.

Keep in mind some apps use very specific versions of SQL - confirm that the ones you use can work with SQL 2012.  

If you're serious about running Exchange, than you want do figure this out soon - SBS 2011 can make that FAR cheaper than going the full product route, but you only have 2 months to decide and order - SBS 2011 is ONLY available via OEM license now but after December 31 it will be impossible to get (possibly some questionable web sites or ebay auctions, but no normal distributor will be able to sell/include it on a system).
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by:dhayzen
ID: 39617114
Thanks Leew, I think you've helped clear up some of the issues.

One last thing, then I'll start awarding some points...

As an example,  lets say I ended up going with two servers.
Server 1 -> VM1 = DC/DHCP/AD
                  VM2 = File Storage

Server 2 -> SQL Server 2012.

What would be the most cost effective way of licensing this for say 15 users.
Windows 2012 Server licensing and also SQL 2012 licensing.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 39617185
If you end up with that config I think you're wasting money unless you setup server 2 as a Hyper-V Replica... but even then you'd need more licenses.

You would need 2 copies of Server 2012 (one per physical box) and 15 User CALs.  SQL licenses depend on who uses the SQL server - everyone or do you have some people who never do?  And then you would need one SQL User CAL per user in addition to the SQL server license.

I don't know what hardware you have now, but I would expect it's old and also low RAM.  A new SINGLE server will be MUCH, MUCH faster than what you have - you REALLY don't need two servers unless you're trying to setup redundancy.
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by:dhayzen
ID: 39617259
Just to be clear...

Leew, you feel that I'm wasting my money having a separate SQL Server ?

Are you suggesting to run three VM's on one physical machine?
VM1=DC/AD/DHCP etc
VM2=SQL Server
VM3=Storage Server

All users will need access to both SQL & storage servers.
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by:Nick Rhode
ID: 39617428
Yes, You can get a physical server with 2 fast cpu's and 32gb of ram with a decent storage.  That beefy server can host all 3 and then some.  What I would recommend is to get nice raid controller with a good write cache and some SAS drives with the server.  This way you can avoid latency on the VMs
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 39617432
Yes.  Because in the end, if there were performance issues, it would be easy enough to move the VM to another server.

I have several clients that use database systems heavily... the performance hit of virtualization on a Type 1 system is not THAT significant... you can expect 80-90% of hardware.

I would set this all up on one server (if your existing server is from last year, then I would rethink this... but if the existing server is 3+ years old, I wouldn't think twice about it... (And if if I rethought it, I'd probably be looking at the performance requirements and see where the bottleneck is before just blindly throwing money at the SQL system.  Is the bottleneck CPU?  Disk?  RAM?

Unless your database is undergoing DOZENS of querries per second, I wouldn't be concerned about the SQL server's requirements... and with 15 users, it would be VERY HARD to do dozens per second.
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by:dhayzen
ID: 39621155
Thanks both to Leew & NRhode for the input.

So it seems that from what you're saying Leew, there is roughly a 20% hit on performance when virtualizing an SQL server.  I do see that as quite significant, especially as we have quite a heavy workload on the SQL server with more to come.

I can see the benefits of virtualizing, but I don't agree with virtualizing for the sake of it.
It also concerns me that placing all three servers as VM onto one physical machine doesn't give me any room for failures. At least putting across two machines allows me to setup redundancy.

I think we could go around the whole virtual/not virtual thing forever in discussion so as you both have helped me out in my though processes, I shall accept multiple answers as the solution.

Thanks both
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 39621173
I don't think you should virtualize for the sake of virtualizing, but what's not clear and based on prior experience likely the case is that you don't know what kind of REAL load will the SQL server or where the SQL server's bottlenecks are.  If you do, great, but few people asking questions about a 15 user network have spent the time analyzing where the bottlenecks are.  FAR TOO OFTEN, people throw money at solutions without fully understanding them.  If you want redundancy, setup redundancy, but odds are STRONG that the performance hit of a viirtualized SQL server will not be signficant in your environment.  If you want a second server, get it, but then create a cluster or at least replicate the VMs to ensure downtime is minimal.
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by:dhayzen
ID: 39621187
Leew,  many thanks for your advice.

I will take another look at the SQL loading before making any decision.
I will also re-think the whole thing through again regarding number of servers required and if I should use a second server for redundancy rather than dedicate to SQL Server.
I do understand the point you're making and that it is coming from past experience within your field, so I won't just ignore what you've said :)


regards
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