[K12OSN] Scalability (long email)

Shawn Powers spowers at inlandlakes.org
Wed Apr 7 01:26:08 UTC 2004

My fellow geeks,

I need some help.  Possibly some of this can go offlist, as we've grown in 
size significantly recently -- but this is really the only place I know to 
get the answers I need.  WARNING: This email will probably be long.

I just left a meeting with the other school supervisors in our district, and 
after the monetary projections -- our district is more interested in my 
fanatical ravings about OpenSource than ever before.  I never thought I'd get 
to say, "I'll have to hear a darn good reason that we need to purchase 
licenses from Microsoft rather than keeping Suzy Mathteacher on staff..."  
anyway, on to my questions:

I have 3 schools, all connected via fiber.  There are approx 30 classrooms per 
building, with a variation of 10 & 100mbit connections internally.  The 2 big 
directions I'm looking at would be to have 90 "mini-labs", where a teacher 
gets a new white-box Pentium 4 computer, and have it serve as a classroom 
LTSP server to 5 or 6 "junker" thin clients for the students (much like the 
original case study Paul Nelson put up several years back).  If the student 
management system won't work under Wine -- that teacher computer would have 
to run win4lin or some such solution.

The other option, is to go completely with thin clients in the classrooms -- 
but then I worry a GREAT deal about scalability and network bandwidth.  
Management-wise, the thin client solution makes a lot of sense (of course) -- 
especially since I doubt I'll be having any help from outside hires or 
teachers with release time.  I really worry about the scalability of the 
servers and network though... any real world examples I could pull from?

I considered that if we go with the Pentium 4 computers on a teacher's desk as 
a mini-LTSP server, that they could all be kept "pure" by a nightly rsync.  I 
realize there would be a few individual settings that would need to be there, 
but many of the config files could be similar.  Sadly, I'm concerned about 
the life of the Pentium 4's though, as technology is so quickly outdated.  
What might be a server today could be worth little more than a thin client in 
5 years, while if I go with thin clients everywhere, they will theoretically 
be good for much longer.

Some final actual questions:

Does anyone rsync servers in the fashion I suggested?

Does anyone have any good "devil's advocate" type anti-linux slams they've 
gotten, so I can prepare to defend myself?  I am confident, but like to be 

Is there a listserv dedicated to open-source curriculum (by that I mean using 
open-source software as a part of daily curriculum)?  If not, why don't we 
start one?  Sharing lesson plans, hand-outs, daily integration issues, etc -- 
many of my teachers would join, where as they WOULD NOT join this list.  (and 
I wouldn't want them to...)

Are there any cases of "great press" that you folks have gotten because of the 
savings OSS has provided?  I pictures us being a shining example of using tax 
dollars wisely in tough times, and I plan to market the snot out of that.  
You Oregon folks that have been doing this for a while -- have you gotten a 
lot of "atta-boys" from the communities?  How has the adoption of OSS as an 
alternative been taken as a whole?  Have you had any organized opposition?  

Sorry to take so many bytes in your mailbox -- but this is a crucial time for 
us, and I need some advice/guidance/brainstorming from, well, from you. :)

Thank you much,

Shawn Powers
Technology Director
Inland Lakes Schools
PHN: 231-238-6868 x9174
FAX: 509-356-7024
spowers at inlandlakes.org

More information about the K12OSN mailing list