Cheaper then Windows Server

40 pts.
Tags:
Active Directory
Desktop management applications
Domain management
File sharing protocols
FOSS
LDAP
Novell
OpenLDAP
Remote monitoring hardware
Roaming Profiles
SME Server
Windows Server 2003
Windows Server 2008
Xserve
So here is the story. I am the IT person for a small vehicle dealership chain that is spread across 4 locations in the city. Each location is presently setup with a VPN connection to the main site which houses a database server hosting all the programs needed to run the dealership like, customer tracking software, accounting software and all that is in between. The 100-125 workstations spread across all 4 buildings are presently on a Workgroup setup with local management of User Access, hardware and software management. From a productivity standpoint I need to convert to a domain environment. Here is the problem, I have supplied the boss man holding the company credit card with 3 quotes for a new Windows Server with enough licenses to support the number of staff members properly, however he has flat out informed me the price tag is too high and to find a way to lower it. Now unfortunatly since the hardware is not going to decrease in value just because I want it to, that leaves me with the software and licenses. I have been doing a little research online for alternatives to a Windows Server and have already ruled out a Mac XServer since it cannot support workstation management or roaming profiles. I have also installed SME Server on a old box I got laying around but have hit a wall with its capabilities as far as I can see and what I would like for it to do. (Or maybe I am just reading the wrong documentation). I am also looking into Novell as an alternative although I do not daught it has changed drastically since my courses in 2001. Basically, this is what I am looking for in regards to capabilities: *Roaming Profiles (Desktop settings, email settings, emails, webpage favorites/bookmarks etc.) - if this means I need a login script that tells windows to backup all settings to a users home directory on the server and then restore on logon I am ok with that. *Domain User Management (logins, passwords) - A no brainer but still much prefered then creating each user on each individual workstation. *File and Print Sharing (network drives mapped to each profile with full control on who has access to what) *Ability to set program access and control for user groups such as who can uninstall and install on the local workstations *Remote desktop management (for pushing software packages down to workstations. ie. Software updates, new programs etc...) *Ability to setup a new user from scratch so that when he logs in for the first time to any computer on the network he is all setup with access to the dealerships software, email through outlook express and anything else I need to set. I know most of these things can be done with Windows Server, with the exception of the Outlook Express settings I think, however since the boss wants me to cut corners I come seeking help. I have heard of OpenLDAP but have not been able to find any information if it will be able to do all that I require. I have also heard of Mandriva software package that has several components that will work together, however since my knowledge in the way of Linux/Unix is rather limited, I would prefer to hear the thoughts of more experienced Network Admins to make this decision. So if you have any suggestions please let me know. I apologise for my ignorance, however I fully admit it and am open to suggestions and helpful advise. Thank you for your time.

Answer Wiki

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You might want to check out Lotus Foundations (formerly Nitix).

Nitix was a commercial Linux distro originally built by Net Integrations Technologies, bought by IBM last year, and now marketed as Lotus Foundations. I only hope the decision by IBM to brand it with the Lotus name isn’t a boat anchor for a very capable product.

In my past evaluations of Nitix, I found it incredibly easy to install with a feature set rivaling Microsoft’s, while being significantly easier to use and manage. Built in support for Windows clients and VPN routing for multiple locations, email services with connectors for Outlook, and many other of the features you mention.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any current pricing info and it looks like IBM is primarily selling this through it’s partners. Nitix was originally sold bundled with hardware or separately to run on your hardware. I think IBM is continuing to offer these options.

You can download a 30-day evaluation copy from the IBM Developer site (http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/downloads/ls/lfoundation/learn.html – free registration req’d) which can be easily installed under Windows using the VMware player (http://www.vmware.com/download/player/).

Good luck.

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  • mnman66
    Don't appologize for doing your job. The person that should be appologizing is the boss with the lack of knowledge in business. If you put together a good presentation on Microsoft, he'll see the ROI is much better than trying to cut corners and coming up with a half baked solution. Next, you don't need a big server to run Windows 2003. You may also want to take a look at Terminal Server licensing, and having remote users from each location log in with that. Virtual Server for that matter might work as well. You could have your own private network within VS.
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  • Djeepp
    You mention that you started looking at an open source solution but don't have the knowledge to go any further. As a Linux admin, I would highly encourage you to go open source. Not only is it going to be cheaper in both the short and long term, but you are left with many, many more options than going with a Windows solution. The learning curve is a little steep, but it would be worth it.
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  • SBIT
    Well it has come to my attention I can drop the server specs I have lined up by a little considering I have quoted the specs listed below. I see I can drop the Processor down to a Dual Core 3.0 and decrease the RAM to about 2 or 3 GB, but that is not going to save much in the over all price of things. I would love to know which Linux/Unix distro's have the potential to offer all the capabilities I am looking for. I was looking at Mantria since it has a Directory Server and Pulse 2 for workstation management, however as stated the learning curve is steep and there looks to be little help documentation for that particular product. I have a quote being made for Novell at this point in time, however I am still open to any suggestions for alternative operating systems or Linux/Unix distro's that are comperable to Server 2003/2008. ------------------------- All Prices are in Canadian Dollar(CAD) Product Qty Your Price Total HP ProLiant ML350 G5 - Server - tower - 5U - 2-way - 1 x Quad-Core Xeon E5430 / 2.66 GHz - RAM 2 GB - SAS - hot-swap 3.5" - no HDD - DVD¦RW - ATI ES1000 - Gigabit Ethernet - Monitor : none - Smart Buy HP - Servers - Part#: 470064-870 $1,955.50 HP - Memory - 4 GB ( 2 x 2 GB ) - FB-DIMM 240-pin - DDR2 - 667 MHz / PC2-5300 - fully buffered - ECC - Smart Buy HP - General - Part#: 397413-S21 $209.20 HP Midline - Hard drive - 500 GB x2- hot-swap - 3.5" - SATA-300 - 7200 rpm HP - Storage - Part#: 458928-B21 $747.74 Electronic HP Care Pack 4-Hour 24x7 Same Day Hardware Support - Extended service agreement - parts and labor - 3 years - on-site - 24x7 - 4 h - Smart Buy HP - Computer Support - Part#: UE902E $565.60 Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Standard - License - 1 server - OEM - ROK - English Lenovo - Software - Part#: 54Y6100 $764.96 APC Smart-UPS RM 1500VA USB & Serial - UPS ( rack-mountable ) - AC 120 V - 980 Watt - 1440 VA - 6 output connector(s) - 2U APC - Data Centers & Server Rooms - Part#: SUA1500RM2U $793.24 Microsoft Windows Server 2008 - License - 1 user CAL x100- Open Business - Single Language Microsoft Open License Business - Part#: R18-02709 $3,369.00 Subtotal$8,405.24 Total$8,405.24 --------------------------
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  • Denny Cherry
    Frighteningly that's not that bad of a price for a single server order. Personally I love HP servers, but they are some of the most expensive out there. You might want to look at a Dell server. As an example I put together a single CPU quad core server with 4 Gigs of RAM, 2 500 Gig hard drives in a tower with Windows Server 2008 standard with 25 CALs (you'll still need to add another 75 CALs) for $4800 US. You can usually get another 10-20% just by calling them up on the phone. If open source will work for you, then that may be the way to go. But I'd work with your boss and your vendor to justify the ROI to your boss. Your vendor should be able to send someone out to speak with him and go over the numbers so that he can see what costs what, and what the ROI is. If your vendor can't do that, find another vendor. Just let them know what the issues your boss has with the numbers are, and they can help you work through those issues.
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  • SBIT
    Actually I have three quotes as stated above and the highest one is from Dell. Almost the exact same specs but $9200 in price after Windows Licensing, it was the Dell quote I supplied to the vendor of the quote above to match and beat, which they did as far as I am concerned. I guess i either get to do some convincing or look at a cheaper/FOSS operating system. If there are still any suggestions in the Linux/Unix category please let me know, I am willing to tackle the learning curve if for nothing else then the experience itself. Thanks
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  • carlosdl
    Although Linux could be a good option, take into consideration other costs it might represent in the future. For example, how much money it could cost to your organization if a severe incident arise and you or your team don't have the necessary knowledge/experience to solve it quickly. I think it could be a little easier to find support/help for Windows, and in some cases it could be even cheaper.
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  • MacsPC
    Hi - Have you thought of going down the Second Hand / ReCon market road ? When you think of how many companies around you are going to the wall - they weren't running on ZX81s :o) - showing my age :o) There's bound to be some serious level kit out there just wating to be purchased. One company I visited as a FieldEngineer ONLY EVER BUYS SECOND HAND Hardware. Many of the big corp's like to stay ahead of the game - replacing kit just for the sake of replacing it - either for rental / insurance reasons OR because they always need to be faster - or even just to show off BUT the point is - if the hardware was running 100% when they powered it down & you have it inspected - you could be on to a real winner. Just because something is pre-used doesn't mean you're "buying someone elses problems" - you COULD end up with a better spec for half the cost - meaning you get to stick to Windows Server & you still rock as far as the boss is concerned ! Replacing any Hard-Drives you are concerned about - should also be cheap enough these days BUT with a thorogh low level scrub - I doubt you'd even need to go that far !!! It's just an idea - I've bought second hand in the past & I'll hapilly buy again. IF you buy from a reputable seller - they will want to keep their reputation intact so they won't let you be dissappointed. I hope I've given you a new angle to concider. Your boss could have the setupof his dreams without the VISA CARD Nightmares :o) - M!ke - ( Macs PC )
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  • MacsPC
    When you think seriously about it - surely buying a used server is less of a risk than buying a used office desk PC. The server PC is usually kept in an Air Temp.Controlled room with plenty of surrounding space to vent & breathe. Often in a secure - locked rack mounting cage. Only ever being handled by people who know what they are doing & understand just how valuable the kit really is ( at least I would hope so ) !!! A company of the size you are looking to equip would appreciate that if they DIDN'T LOOK AFTER THEIR KIT - IT WOULDN'T LOOK AFTER THEM !How happy would an MD be with 100+ employees sitting a dead workstations because the server went down regularly due to poor handling / maintenance. That would make NO SENSE what-so-ever ! . . . Well it's something to think about anyway Also you don't need to learn an entire new platform & was meantioned previously - help & advice for Win Server IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE !!! Cheers for now :o) [B]- M!ke - ( Macs PC )
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  • Robert Stewart
    Just a word of caution 100-125 roaming profiles will require some storage space your probably not counting on. Roaming profiles eat up space and occasionally hurt throughput. Just wanted to bring this to your attention if your not already familiar with them. I also agree your boss has just not seen the ROI the same as you, in today's economy ROI is everything let him realize he could be making a big mistake and that if he is willing to upgrade now in this economy it would be foolish to be pennywise and pound short. Good luck
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  • Denny Cherry
    I think that MacsPC brings up an excellent point which is definitely worth exploring. Buying the hardware second hard or repossessed could get you some nice equipment at a very low cost. Talk to a couple of lending companies in the area and see if they are repod any servers, and if so who they use to sell them. You could probably get some good equipment and a good price this way. Robert Stewart also brings up a good point, moving roaming profiles across the WAN links between the offices is going to be very slow, unless you have a very high speed connection. Long term you may want to consider putting a file server at each office so that you don't have to move the profiles over the WAN.
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  • Kevin Beaver
    Part of the problem with IT/security budgets is that people automatically assume they need to buy everything new. Definitely look at going the used route...could save you 50% or more and as long as the hardware works once you reload the system, they'll run like new. Just have a backup plan in the event hardware such as drives and power supplies fail...they will eventually.
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  • Ivessm
    With your dealerships being at the end of VPN's they better be BIG pipes if you are planning on using roaming profiles. Your users are going to get pissed at waiting a long time for their login to complete and even longer when they are at the end of a VPN. If you do profiles then I would scrap the roaming profiles and do all remote connections with Remote Desktop Protocol RDP. This would require additional licensing from Microsoft for Terminal Server Client. If you want to look at a Linux solution look at CENTOS.org It might be worth looking into it. Good luck. stew
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  • Robert Stewart
    What are the tax implications as far as writing off used equipement?? I would have those answered by the dealerships accounting team. They may force your manager to buy new, it could be difficult with used equipment, I'm not positive on this but I would check it out. The answer could help prove your initial ROI claims that new would be better if at all possible, and again I would reconsider roaming profiles.
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  • SBIT
    Thank you all for your input thus far on this issue. I will look into all your suggestions. I was wondering is there any way to transfer emails in outlook express/outlook so they load on each computer a user logs into without roaming profiles. Documents I know you can do a shared mapped drive and set a login script to map the network users documents folder from the server, however it is the email that I am concerned about. There will be very few users that will actualy take advantage of the roaming profile setup since most have a single computer they work from and don't move, but the few that do move around will require thier outlook express/outlook emails to show no matter which computer they move to. If there is a way to do that without roaming profiles I would love to hear it. Thanks for you help so far people. I knew I would get some answers here.
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  • Denny Cherry
    The easiest way would be to use a mail server that keeps an the emails on the server. Exchange is an option, but costs a lot. There are several free imap mail servers out there which can do this. Your current mail provider may offer imap as an option already. With imap you download the message headers but leave the actual email on the server. This way it is available to every machine you log into.
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