Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Idea for Virtualization in the Classroom

Virtualization has revolutionized server rooms and data centers around the world. This new tool has allowed server rooms to get smaller, backups have been simplified, and server up-times have been lengthened. In my senior year of college I got to see this new technology in action. At the time I was working for PTC in Needham, Massachusetts. In the first week they put me in the drivers seat of their new VMware ESX 2.5. I quickly learned the basics and I realized the potential for such a new technology.

I have always tried to think outside the box when it comes to technology. With virtualization I saw a world of new opportunities for its use. When the next semester rolled around and my need to come up with a senior project came about, the first thought in my head was VMware in the classroom.

The Theory:

-Create a VMware ESX environment capable of running 25-30 VM’s

-Create easy to use and maintain templates representing various environments

-Templates are used to create “dev” VM’s for student labs

-Dev VM’s are then used on a class-by-class basis (VM’s are turned on, edited for a lab assignment, then the snapshot feature is used to bring it back to the original state for use in another class)

-Dev VM’s can also be on-going (students can save the VM as part of an on going project or lab assignment)

Estimated hardware needed:

-A Blade environment would be the quickest to set-up and most cost-effective to upgrade in the future

-For a 30 (running) VM environment I estimate 3 blades would be needed

-Each blade having two quad core processors and loaded with 16-32gb of RAM

-Two solid state hard drives, Mirrored, for local storage would help with local i/o

-For long-term storage a NAS with 3-5 terabytes of space in a RAID 5

This basic setup could be used to create a scalable, cost-effective, and easy to use environment that would give students the ability to learn how to administer various server environments without fear of crashing or messing up.