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Help With A New Ncomputing Deployment


port80www
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This will be my first post here.

I am helping a small organization to deploy an Ncomputing dominated office. We will have about 10 L-300's and 1 L-230 (the test unit we got before they released the L-300).

The L-300's are supposed to be able to switch hosts. I have no details on this as I have yet to try it. We have a main host machine with high end specs. I would like to re-purpose 1 or 2 other higher end boxes as back ups, but more on that later.

I basically need to decide what rolls the limited number of machines at my disposal will play. This deployment differs from anything I have done before.

There will be the host machine which is not built yet and I have not finished purchasing for yet, there are 2 higher end machines that I can possibly re-purpose after the Ncomputing solution is deployed, and there is a Dell server which may or may not work.

There needs to be at least 1 host machine for the Ncomputing terminals, preferably at least 1 backup, possibly a Windows domain server, preferably a FreeNAS server with Raid (Raid 5?).

I would like to set up the primary host machine with Raid. Unfortunately I do not have much (read: any) experience with Raid. I was thinking about Raid 5 but my impression is that it may not be a good direction given my inexperience. While this is a good opportunity to gain the experience I lack, I do not wish to pursue it at the expense of the organization. I am hoping that I can do it though.

I set up another pc with Raid 1. It is software Raid that came with the motherboard. That pc is having problems. It turns out the Nvidia driver provided has this problem a lot. The pc is frequently rebooting without warning and the event viewer is filled with "A parity error was detected on \Device\Scsi\nvgts1" errors.

The host pc's motherboard also comes with Raid. I don't have details on what yet. I am thinking of getting Raid cards for both machines.

I have 4 750 GB hard drives for the Ncomputing host pc. I would like to take advantage of that capacity and the Raid redundancy to protect data for the organization. I am not sure how to best accomplish that. A FreeNAS server might be the way to go but then what machine to do what, what Raid on what, etc.

I was surprised that a search on this forum for Ncomputing did not have any results. I am interested in what ideas this community will have for this deployment.

Thanks in advance.

Edited by port80www
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These devices are meant to make it so you can share 1 machine among multiple Monitors, Keyboards and Mice, so that one workstation's CPU cycles don't get wasted just idling most of its day.

I've never set one up (but wanted to after seeing what Johnny Long has done in Uganda), but I imagine you can make the shared access still function like a domain, logging into active directory or whatever directory/tree/database user system you have set up.

I would make your servers and file storage the RAID devices for speed, redundancy and security reasons, and leave the nComputing to the workstations for end users while all saved work is kept on the file server, not the local host/workstation. Make shares on your servers and don't let end users store files directly on the host machines running the nComputing hardware and software, maybe even implement Deep Freeze like Johnny Long did to prevent tampering with the host machines configuration. Keep the files stored on the network and off the main machine, or you would crush them having everyone trying to share the same disk for file access and work load, especially in an office environment. If you need redundancy for the host itself, make an image of the workstations drive after everything is configured the way you need it and maybe even a spare cloned drive. For real time redundancy, you probably would have been better off with thin clients that are tied into a virtual network, like Citrix or vmware.

Have you consulted with your rep that sold you the hardware? Did they have any thoughts on how you should deploy this with what your needs are? They might have a better solution than something I would do, I have no experience with this setup, but this is just how I imagine I would set things up if I were tasked to deploy it.

Edited by digip
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Normally thin clients connect to a shared machine running Windows Terminal Services or a VDI solution such as VMware View. I've not heard of NComputing before this thread, but a brief look at the website and your message leads me to believe that your implementing Express VDI rather than any of the other, more advanced solutions. Given this, I can offer limited opinions on the setup of that specific service, but I can categorically state that software RAID or cheap shit like NForce RAID is a waste of time, and frankly dangerous to deploy into production. You want to use something like a Dell PERC or similar card, which does hardware RAID with cache. Yes, it is expensive, but not as expensive as a week of lost production while your trying to fix some POS broken fakeRAID.

As for the architecture of the service, I would have a separate file server which is provided as a network accessible drive to the VDI clients running on your NComputing host. If you must go with a FOSS solution, I would have to recommend Openfiler over FreeNAS, otherwise I would recommend Server 2008 R2 if your in an AD environment.

This may not be of much use, so you might want to provide details about your environment, what OS's your using, what directory service, etc.

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but I imagine you can make the shared access still function like a domain, logging into active directory or whatever directory/tree/database user system you have set up.

Yes. Essentially the experience of using one of these terminals is that of every user having the host machine at their desk to use as their own computer with the exception of actual workload the machine is handling.

I should be able to set the host machine up as if it were just one pc of many running on a domain. Only in this case it almost becomes a 1-to-1 model which is the only reason I said "perhaps a domain server". I think a domain server will be the way to go, but since Ncomputing changes some of the dynamics, my thoughts remain open to alternative ideas.

I would make your servers and file storage the RAID devices for speed, redundancy and security reasons, and leave the nComputing to the workstations for end users while all saved work is kept on the file server, not the local host/workstation. Make shares on your servers and don't let end users store files directly on the host machines running the nComputing hardware and software, maybe even implement Deep Freeze like Johnny Long did to prevent tampering with the host machines configuration. Keep the files stored on the network and off the main machine, or you would crush them having everyone trying to share the same disk for file access and work load, especially in an office environment. If you need redundancy for the host itself, make an image of the workstations drive after everything is configured the way you need it and maybe even a spare cloned drive.

These are good sugestions. It is my fault that I did not say in my OP that I wanted to run with a file server as you say. My original thinking included a concern for disk access to the host OS. But I know the load (at least for now) should not be sufficient to really create much bottle necking. Unfortunately this project has had some delays and somewhere along the way, I think I have strayed from my original plan with distorted thinking which creeped in along the way. Discussing things like this will help in grounding my thoughts as well as provide ideas and input that I may be able to incorporate.

I will look into Deep Freeze and Johnny Long. Thank you.

For real time redundancy, you probably would have been better off with thin clients that are tied into a virtual network, like Citrix or vmware.

Ncomputing could be considered a zero client. I feared thin clients would present too much maintenance. Where there is an OS, there are bound to be administrative problems. A zero client eliminates the potential points of failure which was a big consideration. This way, troubleshooting is confined to only the host machines and the servers.

Ncomputing's Vspace can be installed into vmware or other virtual server solutions so the host machine becomes a server and the host becomes a virtual machine.

I would prefer to get as much right as I can from the start rather than potentially redesigning the deployment. Unfortunately I don't have as much time as I would like for testing... no testing phase at all. So I will need to deploy to production and then hopefully I will be able to setup a secondary host machine to use for testing over time and can then redeploy once I am more seasoned with Ncomputing and have gained a better understanding of how it can be deployed from a virtual machine.

Have you consulted with your rep that sold you the hardware? Did they have any thoughts on how you should deploy this with what your needs are? They might have a better solution than something I would do, I have no experience with this setup, but this is just how I imagine I would set things up if I were tasked to deploy it.

I have had some discussion with Ncomputing reps. I need to have more. I also need to address this on the forum at Ncomputing's site.

I decided to start here since I felt that individually, topics like raid, NAS, server virtualization, etc were topics this forum would be especially good at. Plus I thought people here might find this an interesting subject matter.

Running Ncomputing's Vspace from within a virtual server such as vmware is not officially supported by Ncomputing. They leave it to users to figure out amongst themselves on the forums. I will need to address putting the host on a virtual machine on their forums, but I am not that far along yet. For now, I need to get things started.

This is essentially an entire office from the ground up. No infrastructure exists yet. I have my work cut out for me, but I have a chance to try getting this right from the start... well at least to try to get much of it right from the start.

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Normally thin clients connect to a shared machine running Windows Terminal Services or a VDI solution such as VMware View. I've not heard of NComputing before this thread, but a brief look at the website and your message leads me to believe that your implementing Express VDI rather than any of the other, more advanced solutions. Given this, I can offer limited opinions on the setup of that specific service, but I can categorically state that software RAID or cheap shit like NForce RAID is a waste of time, and frankly dangerous to deploy into production. You want to use something like a Dell PERC or similar card, which does hardware RAID with cache. Yes, it is expensive, but not as expensive as a week of lost production while your trying to fix some POS broken fakeRAID.

As for the architecture of the service, I would have a separate file server which is provided as a network accessible drive to the VDI clients running on your NComputing host. If you must go with a FOSS solution, I would have to recommend Openfiler over FreeNAS, otherwise I would recommend Server 2008 R2 if your in an AD environment.

This may not be of much use, so you might want to provide details about your environment, what OS's your using, what directory service, etc.

I will edit this post later with a proper response. I am out of time for the moment, but wanted to post this as an acknowledgment.

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The only real issue I've had with ESXi is time drift, and I think I have found a work around by setting the VM's to update the time once per hour rather than once per week. Other than that, everything seems to work OK in a VM, its just that the vendors haven't tested enough to be able to say either way.

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