IT Classroom

Hi everyone,

A friend of mine is a school principal and he reach out to me for a advice .He needs 2 new computer studies classrooms for his school and the computer side is unclear for him and more precisely the hardware side.Now they use in both rooms a Fujitsu workstation with 10 core xeon (old one) an 32 gb ram and 4 TB storage on HDD’s hosting 10 VM’s and Windows server 2012.He told me the workstation is close to 10 years old.Programs pupils use are Scratch,Browser (i guess Chrome) ,MS Visual Studio/Code ,MS Office.And for the special studies they use :OpenShot,Audacity,Blender,Gimp and Inkscape .

The school hasn’t decided which direction to take.They have a blank slate to work with…i mean this :

Workstation/server for every room runing vm’s like now or laptops for every kid or a PC
They need something that can withstand the test of time and possibly can be upgraded down the road.

Im asking for your help because that’s to much for me to handle alone because the Workstation/server side is terra incognita for me .I need suggestions on what they can use.He told me the sooner i can give him information about the hardware the better.

Everything starts from what the school wishes to teach.

First off; most (high?) school coursework can now be done on $500-$1000 pieces of hardware. So are we talking high school, middle school, or college?

I think the easiest would be to do something like this:

  1. Pick up your phone and talk with Dell, Lenovo or HP what kind of offers they have. They have entire departments that specialize in these kind of things.
  2. The actual student terminals themselves. Invest in eight cores and 32 GB of RAM right now, upgrade every five years to whatever has a $200-$300 CPU with integrated graphics, $100 worth of RAM and a decent motherboard to drive that. Local storage is whatever, you will use NAS here.
  3. Budget around $500-$750 per machine, 5 year lease, and make sure it is a continuous expenditure e.g. replace 1/5th of the park every year with current machines instead of 100% every fifth year.
  4. Virtual machines are a blessing and a curse, you need to refresh them ever so often for new software versions and graphics suck on them, but for some tasks they are great. Anything that requires local resources though, like hardware accelerated graphics… Yeah, still too much of a hassle unless you run Linux and even then you really need to know what you are doing.
  5. Server wise, there is little reason to keep anything on campus, these days. As much as it pains me to say, Cloud services are just too damn cheap to ignore. So Cloud away as much as possible.
  6. A single exception to the above rule: you do want a NAS server rack on-site for student files, and you do want to implement a sane 3-2-1 backup strategy.
  7. Have at least one fiber connection to every room. While it is tempting to go for copper wires and 10GbE switches, Fiber is so much more future proof and if you are going to upgrade your network, do it properly. Once fibers are drawn you only need to replace the ends to upgrade your transfers.

Just a few tips off the top of my head. Solve the above first, then ask yourself what special needs the school has and what hardware is required to solve that, right now I think a 5650G Pro “workstation” build can solve most, if not all of the schools requirements for the foreseeable future.

1 Like

My advice is to hire a company to assess the situation, consider requirements and offer a solution.

Asking people on the internet on what the requirements for specific classrooms for children are, is not a good approach.

Figure out how much RAM is needed. Then hit up eBay.

For workstations, search for Optiplex MTs with XGB (RAM), use the advanced search to limit results to listing which have qty: 20+ available, and after trying a few different model numbers you’ll find which generation/model is the sweet-spot. About 4 years ago, I did this and found Optiplex 8GB 3020s were about $80 each and available in huge quantities. Ended up ordering HUNDREDS of those. They are probably not the cheapest and most easily available (in large quantities) model today. I’m not motivated to spend a couple hours researching that right now.

Throw away the slow old hard drives they (may) come with. Figure out how much disk is needed and buy some new SSDs; dramatically improves performance. Be sure you’ve checked UserBenchmarks to ensure you aren’t saving $1 or 2 only to get something that has terrible sustained write performance. These $14 120GB drives will probably do.

Those systems will all be licensed for Windows, so grab the Win10 ISO from Microsoft and start installing. You won’t even be prompted for a license key.

For servers, just stick with the most common R7x0 family. R730 servers with 128GB of RAM may be under $500/ea. They might come licensed for an old version of Windows, but perhaps not, so you should plan on a new server license as well.

Then decide how much storage your servers need and look-up the specs on old SAS SSDs, planning for a RAID10 and some spares. I can vouch for these $120 Sandisk 1.6TB SSDs being great as long as you first firmware update them. HGSTs work great, too, except beware the IBM branded ones which need to be re-provisioned with WD Hugo to 95% of their listed size. In either case, you may find you get SAN (usually EMC) model drives with 520b sectors instead of the usual 512b. It’s easy to change this with sg_format on a bootable Linux, just search the forums for the details.

The benefit to this nice cheap used equipment is that you can afford to get some spares. With identical hardware, you can swap the hard drives from a failed system into a spare with no trouble (ESXi just needs one command run on the new system before it’ll see the data store on the hard drives, Windows / Linux will just boot right up). Similarly, you’ll have lots of spare parts… PSUs, fans, etc.

This assumes the school has at least a couple technical staff members who can run burn-in testing on the used equipment when it arrives, and swap out failed systems. If you really have no technical hands available, contracting out the job of testing and maintaining the equipment can be prohibitive, and buying vendor-supported (new or used) equipment with a multi-year maintenance contract can be the better way to go.

Based on the information I have, I would suggest going with some OEM desktops running locally. However, I have no actual idea on how the other school infrastructure is setup.
Do the students already have laptops?
I do not really suggest the going the VM route this time due to the increased price of licensing those kinds of things. And also supporting that fleet is going to be hard if the school you are talking about does not have IT-support locally within staff.

They need to build everything from the ground up ,completly new rooms.The school is going for STEM classrooms .There is a company onside to do what is needed but they can’t buy and deploy the hardware/software ,the school needs to fugue out what is needed (rules i guess) .Cloud is not an option the internet is one for the whole building (there is some isp limitations) sometimes the net there is atrocious…they need something local.The schools in my country are different this one is all in one from first grade to the last are in one building.They need something no very powerful but enough to handle the load of 10 people if they choose the server approach .They will have vr glasses ,3d printers, drones etc.But with this there is also normal classes where they learn to use word,excel,power point and paint.Linux is not an option it must be windows.