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Old March 23, 2014, 01:18 PM
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Default What Can A Server Do? Complicated. Many questions.

Hello all.

As you know, selling a top-end server is basically next to impossible. Behemoth (for the moment) remains with me. So now I need to find even more reasons to justify turning it on.

What it's used for thus far:
-Rendering (Blender)
-Video encoding of Tv series' (Mediacoder/Handbrake)

Yeah. That's not enough. My gamer can do these things as well, just not as much at once. So I want to do as much as possible with this server.

What I thinking of adding: (Maybe)
- Domain/Active directory server? (Why not? Overkill for home, but could be a fun experiment)
- VMWare box for fooling around with other OSes.

Or, my most unusual idea:
- Can I use this server (with vmware?) to boot thin clients throughout my house instead of internet PCs/ HTPCs? This idea has been spinning around my head for while now, but I don't have much experience with it.
Ill try to explain it better= With the over-abundance of cores on my server, could I make many virtual PCs that low-end/thin client can use remotely?
1) Thin-client/old pc/low-end pc boots up (from the network?)
2) The above PC then remotely logs into the more-powerful virtual PC to use as its primary OS
3) Once logged in, the above PC acts as per normal (?)

Questions:
- Is the last option even possible? I've toyed with network boot a couple times, but not much.
- Will it even be smooth? 1080p playback? Audio in sync??
- The server would obviously have to be on first, with VMs that the remote PCs will log into ready to go... or will they?
- Can the same PC image be used for all the VMs? This could make updates/software changes easy.





I'm weird.
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Old March 23, 2014, 02:14 PM
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Basically you're looking at using/emulating dumb terminals on the last option. I'm not sure you can do it with windows. I know we used to do it with SCO Unix at my old work, but that was way above my comprehension at the time. Most ultra cheap systems are still able to play 1080p video / browse the net no problem, so it's probably not worth the time and expense to sort out.

Unfortunately your best option is probably to Ebay the server parts off separately and accept that you're not going to get anywhere near replacement/market value unless you get lucky.
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Old March 23, 2014, 03:38 PM
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Yeah you can do what your thinking. Probably either VMware Horizon View or Hyper-V/Remote Desktop would be your best bets. Citrix likely has a solution too, but I think if you look around, VMware and MS stuff will be easy to find for "free"

Graphic performance will hinge on what's in your server though. You can harness the power of the local GPUs in the server to dish up the graphics on the other end. Both Hyper-V and VMware do this. Otherwise, you're relying purely on software, so I'm not sure how well any multimedia would work.

Setting up Active Directory and then some of the corresponding services like WSUS and WDS can be useful for home usage IMO. I have AD and SCCM running in my house actually...

I don't think the machines would be booting directly from the network though, you'd have to have a local OS on the devices. Even thin clients typically have Windows Embedded or equivalent on them. You could use WDS to do PXE booting and install Windows automatically though.

I actually just setup Remote App/Desktop in my house as well. Remote App could be handy for what your thinking, I have Office 2013 as a Remote App currently to play around with. This way I can have full Office on my Dell Venue 8 Pro without taking up any local storage. I'm also able to have Office on my Android phone/tablet too since MS now has a full RDP client for it. I also have a VM desktop published too so I can have full Windows on all the devices with RDP support too.

With regards to managing VM images (referring to Hyper-V/RD in this case), you specify a VM as a template (needs to be sysprep'd) and the rest is managed for you. You say "I want x amount of VMs" and it clones them out for you, joins the domain, etc. The machines go into standby when not in use, and when a user logs in, if the machine isn't up then it brings it back online. You'd probably want to use WSUS for Windows Update management and Group Policy for software installations, unless you opt to install SCCM to manage software instead. Otherwise you'd have to update your template and rebuild all subsequent VMs all the time.

I say get to it and try some things out!

Last edited by JD; March 23, 2014 at 03:43 PM.
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Old March 23, 2014, 04:05 PM
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http://www.amazon.ca/Mommy-Why-There.../dp/160530641X

You could load up server 2012 and use Hyper-V role for all your VM goodness.
Make sure to setup a d2d2t backup for your server at the very least. The server can store backups of your other computers too.
You might even look into WSUS to keep all your other computers up to date.

But a quick note about RemoteFX:
It is useless for gaming. It splits up the GFX card and no single VM can use more than a small fraction of the card's VRAM and GPU. It will help with RDP and small tasks but do not expect to run any CAD/games/etc with RemoteFX. (at least as of the last time I looked into it)
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Old March 23, 2014, 06:23 PM
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Keep it coming with the discussion.

Thus far, im thinking Hyper-V/Remote Desktop is my best way to go. I've started work on a custom Win7 PE that will be bootable via the network, with all the necessary drivers, to get me into remote desktop.

Graphics performance is something I've worried about. And no, I don't currently have a lot of GPU power in the server. However, with 4-8 cores per VM being used in remote desktop, would I really need GPU power? Can do it all with software with this many cores to play with.
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Old March 25, 2014, 02:43 PM
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Some progress: Hyper-V installed, Remote desktop (and experience) installed. Windows 7 AIK installed, configuring PE image.
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Old March 25, 2014, 03:23 PM
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Look in to "Terminal Services - Remote Apps" for Windows. Essentially, it operates similar to RDP, but you boot to a local desktop and only the application launches remotely. We use this all the time with our clients and it's pretty slick. You can run a single VM hosting all the Windows apps/programs you want, and as far as the user knows, they're operating exactly as if they're local. It allows you to run with almost no overhead on the local workstation without remoting in to a second desktop.

The problem you'll run in to, just like with RDP, is that everything is based on remote rendering and transfer. No matter how good your server is, it'll never be as good as rendering locally for anything requiring graphical or video playback. You also may run in to issues with audio pass through (with both RDP and Remote Apps) when operating remotely depending on what program you're using.

But the short answer is, yes. You can definitely run server-hosted VM's with remote access from workstations. How you access each VM is largely based on what OS lives on that image. For OS's that don't support remote connection, there's always vSphere for direct terminal operation.


*EDIT* - Roaming profiles is another great use for a home server. Or maybe a DNS server if you're a Netflix/Hulu guy?

Last edited by Caldezar; March 25, 2014 at 03:29 PM.
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Old April 8, 2014, 05:51 PM
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farm out terminal servers for smaller businesses? I can't think of any way to use that kind of processing power at home, my dual Xeon 5570 with 48gb ram is underutilized with 13 virtual servers on it, and that's only 1/4 of the thread count....
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