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[K12OSN] RE: Major schools deployments


My name is Sean Harbour, I'm a network engineer for Northwest Regional Education Service District, in Hillsboro, Oregon.
We support 20 regional K-12 school districts, and some of them use variations of  the K12LTSP software that Eric Harrison spearheaded and Paul Nelson helped implement.
Coincidently, my desk is about 20 feet away from Paul Nelson's office at NWRESD. I'm happy to report he is still a great advocate of open source software in schools, especially where it makes sense as a free or inexpensive replacement for something that is costing funds that could be put to better use elsewhere improving the education of children.

We use LTSP for 4 school districts and one small academy. The academy and 3 of the school districts each have one lab and server of approximately 30 thin clients. The last district has two labs of @30 thin clients on one server (dual quad core, 12GB RAM, dual Gigabit ethernet).

The last year or so has been a struggle attempting to implement the latest versions of Fedora LTSP in a manner that will scale to meet our requirements, and integrate closely with our large M$ Active Directory infrastructure.

So far, Fedora 9,10,11 have been performance washouts. That is to say, we have been unable to scale them to the point where the performance was acceptable in our school environments with 30 or more multimedia capable thin clients (HP T5135 400Mhz/128MB) . This also includes the Ubuntu 8.x and 9.x variants. 10 to 15 clients is the maximum so far, and even that was pushing the envelope of "acceptable".  However, due to the rapid improvements being made, I fully expect a workable solution based on the newer Fedora or Ubuntu will be available soon, though it may require an upgrade of our older thin clients.

Disclaimer:  We do have several labs running successfully using Fedora 9 and re-purposed desktops with Intel P4 generation > 1Ghz Celeron processors, this seems to make a difference compared to our low end thin clients.The performance issues we have run into may be particular to our clients and peculiar network integration requirements. Your mileage may vary.

This year we are in the process of retrofitting our labs with K12LTSP CentOS-5 64 bit. Performance is quite acceptable, and we have been able to integrate the user logins with Active Directory quite well so far. The thin clients have lost sound capability and USB thumb drives are problematic, but the stability and speed of the system is well worth it. We believe we can solve the existing problem with thumbdrives shortly, though we haven't had time to look into the sound issue yet, I believe it is likely a driver issue with our particular model of thin client.

We are by no means a large implementer of LTSP, but it does work reasonably well for us, and requires little maintenance once setup.

I'm interested in hearing of any other deployments out there. I am especially interested in hearing of any large deployments in Africa or South America, besides those in the USA.

I would be happy to share my experiences with LTSP so far with anyone willing to listen.


Sean Harbour
Northwest Regional Education Service District
Hillsboro, Oregon USA
sharbour nwresd k12 or us

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