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lab setup
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Thread: lab setup

  1. #1
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    lab setup

    Imagine if you will, a lab. No external network connection, just 20 workstations and a server or two. How do you set it all up? I'm used to single workstation setup and config, integrating into a novell/ms network.

    I'm thinking to use nfs to import a common /home directory from a server and either use ldap for authentication or import a different directory as well with stuff to link to like the /etc/passwd? files and /etc/shadow? files, hosts file for small time DNS, etc. Maybe include a script to run daily to do software updates, etc. Mount just about everything but /home and /var and /tmp read-only, and somehow (ghost, dd, etc.) clone my client image out.

    Am I missing anything?

  2. #2
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    Re:lab setup

    Well here is how I would do it.

    Setup a server or two with NIS and NFS sharing /home, /usr at minimum.
    Use gigabit networking, and since it is say ... less than 300 PC's, stick with a small subnet, like 192.168.0.0/24 or so. And use DHCP for sanity ... ;D

    Another possible change would be to say fuck it and go thin client. If you have the server (RAM and HDD space) it would be REALLY easy. Netboots ;D

  3. #3
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    Re:lab setup

    I wouldn't go think client unless you have Quad Xeon with 2 GB of Memory to burn.

    Cloning disk images for another boxes is good ONLY if you have identical hardware ( such as setting up from scratch with new boxes ).

    When I was helping my (not-so) local Elementary school with their lab for about 14 boxes, we choose Debian for its easy to set up and update. Only Debian server have Net access. So the server was updated via web. Since your lab will be fully isolated, security is not a big concern (although internal hacking is still possible).

    So I would set up a server to share /home and /usr via NFS, run DHCP server and DNS server (although you can get away with hosts file but believe me, it's a pain in the butt), authenticate via OpenLDAP.

    Physical hardware wise, I would go with fully switched networking of 100Mbps. Either get 32 port switch or two stackable 16 ports. I've seen some 32 port switches for less than 100 bucks at my local used stuff sales. All boxes will be connected via CAT5 cable ( you don't need CAT5e or CAT6 for 100 Mbps network ). I'd also leave as the whole network and not sub-divide it. Your network is very small so using only one IP range with one subnet mask is very efficient.

  4. #4

    Re:lab setup

    What is a "thin client" ???

  5. #5
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    Re:lab setup

    [quote author=The Great Mojo Jojo link=board=4;threadid=8298;start=0#msg75321 date=1071478435]
    What is a "thin client" ???
    [/quote]
    Thin client is that the computer that is NOT fat. :P :P

    Seriously though, thin client do not hold any OS on its own. It has only CPU, RAM, NIC and other stuff except a HDD. (some do that with the HDD but minimal install and most applications resides on the server). Then export the X and do most of the processing on the server box. That eliminate the need for decent hardware and the need to upgrade software on ALL of the boxes. All you do is upgrade the server box and all of your client will have updated version of the software ( be it 30 boxes or 300 boxes ). Due to extremely low hardware prices ( despite improved networking technologies ) and the mentatlity of people who demand that their computers be able to serve them whenever they go (very populare with now adays mobility based business professionals), thin client technology is not much well known except POS (point of sales) setup. Plus, the need for a very powerful server hardware fuels its usefulness in real large networks (whom seems to be only able to afford those powerful servers).

    Anyway, one day, thin clients will get popular such as home control systems where you will have one server doing everything and you will be able to control your home via thin clients all over your home. Hopefully.

  6. #6

    Re:lab setup

    I would also try setting up a thin client network (for an extra sanity check above and beyond that of setting up a DHCP server). I am sure there are a ton of HOWTOs on the topic. Also, Linux Magazone ran a detailed article on making a thin client network a while back, maybe you can find that back issue.

    Thin client networks work very differently than normal fat-client architectures, but they are a dream to administer. I have been running a mid-ranged sized thin client LAN (250 nodes) for some time and it is a dream to administer (however mine is a Winduhs farm not *nix).

    The key to remember here is that you want to size your server appropriately to handle your load. At minimum, for 20 nodes, you are look at a dual proc box with at least 3 or 4 gigs of ram. I have found that the rack mount Proliant ML370s work awesome for terminal servers and are only 1U in height. Remember, you server is everything in a thin client network.

    Keep in mind that X is somewhat bandwidth intensive, but with 20 nodes on a 100Mbs switched, isolated LAN, you should be fine.

    Also, you don't even need PCs at all for your clients. There are many cheap hardware terminals out there that run X, that run forever without maintenence, are tiny and have no moving parts, meaning that heat, noise and electrical consumption will not be an issue for your lab. I administer half a dozen labs in a college and trust me, heat, noise and electrical usage become a big facilities problem if you have not thought them through carefully.

    Good luck. And go thin!

  7. #7
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    Re:lab setup

    I've done the thin client thing before, using P75 boat anchors as clients booting enough Linux to load X, then everything else ran off the server. Still left some performance desires. Don't know if it would be different with P4 class hardware or not....


    Thanks for the feedback everyone.

  8. #8
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    Re:lab setup

    Try upgrading to gigabit. At my new job we have several server lines that all but one use gigabit. Same image is getting loaded. Literally 5x the wait for the 100mb pipe one. I am sure that once the data is there, a P4 would be slick as oil, but still the data pipe is still weak. Transfering a 12MB binary from a remote /usr/bin is still going to need to be transferred. Gigabit is by far the best choice. Unless fibre is available ;D That isnt for me ;D

  9. #9
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    Re:lab setup

    For 20 box thin environment, the 100 MB switched setup should be good. The only weak point will be the server hardware. If you are running dual P 4 3GHz, then may be you are okay.

  10. #10

    Re:lab setup

    [quote author=Slave Copy link=board=4;threadid=8298;start=0#msg75509 date=1071726900]
    Try upgrading to gigabit. At my new job we have several server lines that all but one use gigabit. Same image is getting loaded. Literally 5x the wait for the 100mb pipe one. I am sure that once the data is there, a P4 would be slick as oil, but still the data pipe is still weak. Transfering a 12MB binary from a remote /usr/bin is still going to need to be transferred. Gigabit is by far the best choice. Unless fibre is available ;D That isnt for me ;D
    [/quote]

    The faster the connection you have the better. Really, what you will need to do is benchmark the protocol you are wishing to use. AFAIK, X11 is a very bandwidth hungry terminal server session protocol. M$ RDP is second and Citrix ICA is by far the most bandwith friendly (each session needs mere kilobits).

    The best thing for your enviorment is to not upload any files to the thin clients at all, and only have the thin clients run enough software to establish an X session.

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