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  1. #1
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    Safe disk partitioning and RAID 5?

    We're a dental practice currently running Windows Server 2003 on a Dell Poweredge 1800 which has 4 160GB SATA drives in a RAID 5 configuration.

    Can partitions be safely resized on a RAID 5 setup?

    The reason I'm asking is our dental practice management software has a new version out, but I'm reluctant to deploy the upgrade until I can be sure that said upgraded software will run acceptably under a Windows Terminal Server environment. I've done a trial upgrade on a copy of our database (on another system running a trial version of Server 2003), and accessed that trial upgrade remotely via Terminal Server. For the most part, the upgrade completed successfully, and the software runs.

    However, screen updates in the appointment scheduler portion of the software are painfully slow over a remote connection. I'm trying to find out whether it's just because the trial system is underpowered (it is in at least one respect: the software requires 2GB of ram for the server, and the trial system only has 1.5GB installed), or whether it's because the upload portion of our DSL connection is just too slow for the way the new software draws the screen in the scheduler.

    To that end, I would like to find some way to a trial upgrade on our production server, but in a dual-boot setup. I'd adjust the size of the partition on the server so I'd have room for a trial copy of Server 2003. I'd install the trial copy of Server 2003, and then install the new version of our software. When I was ready to test the new software remotely, I'd set up the boot partition to boot the trial version, and do my testing (naturally, during a time when we're not using the production database.) When testing is complete, I'd change things back to the original boot setup.

    I just loathe the idea of going ahead with the upgrade on the production server, and "hoping for the best", because once we upgrade the database to the new version, it's AWFULLY difficult to revert to the old version.

    Please point out the flaws in my line of thinking. I'd like someone else's thoughts on whether the potential reward (testing the new software and finding out whether indeed it *is* or *is not* usable via Terminal Server) is worth the potential risk to the boot record on our production file server.

    I may end up just not doing the scenario I'm describing here, simply for the fact I'm not wild about the idea of monkeying with the boot setup on our production file server.

    Of course, I'd have at least two backups of our database before proceeding with *any* testing.
    Last edited by carroll.ray; 2011-11-10 at 13:40. Reason: Additional information
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  2. #2
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    If your array runs from hardware rather than a software RAID, it might be possible to shrink the RAID partition on each disk with a 3rd party tool, but you might spend a lot of time recovering your RAID if it all goes horribly wrong. If however it's a software RAID, then I don't think there is any practical way of implementing the way you outline, because you have JBOD until the RAID software controller running.

    Have you considered virtualising? Either the trial installation, or better still, both production and trial. If you go the whole hog, you could run VM's on bare metal using a hypervisor such as VMWare ESXi. That way you have the opportunity to run both on the same hardware RAID. If that's not a way forward, for a trial basis, you could look at hosting a VM inside the production server, but you might need to be careful with hostnames and addressing.

    Virtualisation is one of the big advantages when running production and test platforms.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tinto Tech View Post
    If your array runs from hardware rather than a software RAID, it might be possible to shrink the RAID partition on each disk with a 3rd party tool, but you might spend a lot of time recovering your RAID if it all goes horribly wrong. If however it's a software RAID, then I don't think there is any practical way of implementing the way you outline, because you have JBOD until the RAID software controller running.

    Have you considered virtualising? Either the trial installation, or better still, both production and trial. If you go the whole hog, you could run VM's on bare metal using a hypervisor such as VMWare ESXi. That way you have the opportunity to run both on the same hardware RAID. If that's not a way forward, for a trial basis, you could look at hosting a VM inside the production server, but you might need to be careful with hostnames and addressing.

    Virtualisation is one of the big advantages when running production and test platforms.
    I hadn't thought about trying a virtual machine on it until after I made that post. Our server doesn't have the "hardware-assisted" virtualization needed to run a hypervisor, though.

    It's a hardware-based RAID controller. Based on what you point out about the issues running RAID (either hardware or software-based) brings to the proposal, I don't think I'll try that.

    I may look at going the Virtual PC (or Virtual Box) route. One question: I've got 6GB of ram installed on the production server, but since we're running Windows Server 2003 32-bit on it right now, it of course only has access to 4GB. The dental software requires 2GB of ram on the server. Will 4GB of available ram be enough to realistically run the virtual machine?

    In the interim, I have since found out that our internet connection at the main office *is* going to be upgraded. So, that may help answer some of my questions. We'll have to see.
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  4. #4
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    Re virtualisation, it depends what else is running on the host, and what software you want to run inside the VM.

    With only 4GB available on the host, I think it will struggle if you run a live copy of the 2GB production software on the host as well as a test copy inside the VM. However, if your production software is offline while the VM is running, then 4GB should be plenty.

    For guest virtualisation, my preference would be VirtualBox which is highly configurable. Perhaps experiment with it on a spare machine somewhere first before dropping it on the server.

    In an ideal situation, you could invest in new hardware with native VM capabilities and plenty of RAM. Take an image of the production server and drop that onto a hypervisor, alongside a virtual test machine, but that is clearly not an inexpensive solution and I suspect the IT requirements would be overridden by those of the business.

  5. #5
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    I'd shut down the production database while doing the testing. Of course, the production database is the older version, that has less hefty hardware requirements. But, I figured on shutting down the production database while I was doing my testing. That would pretty much mean my testing would be on the weekends. The server, although older, has dual Xeon processors. I'd like to upgrade to Server 2008 R2, which is 64-bit. But, Server 2003 is doing the job for us right now. And, I'm not wild about making any major changes to it unless it's necessary.

    Right now, I think we'll hold off on checking out the trial database on the server, until our Internet connection is upgraded. That may be enough to make it usable. On the other hand, I'm hearing of other dental offices that have upgraded to the new version of the database, only to revert to the past version. They've met the hardware requirements, only to have it still be taxing their hardware. I'm thinking this new version of Eaglesoft (the software in question) is turning into Patterson Dental's version of Windows Vista. It's a major upgrade, and they've made significant changes to the database, as well as the interface. Hardware requirements were bumped up significantly.
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  6. #6
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    I have been through dozens of app upgrades in similar situations to yours. I've also supported Terminal Services and Citrix Presentation Server/XenApp for many years. What Tinto says suggests is sound advice for testing, but your limitations are hardware. You're kind of between a rock and a hard place, I don't know that you have any real good options. But as you are already suspecting, your performance issues are most likely caused by the app. I can almost guarantee its not a Terminal Services issue, unless you have a lot of TS connections going over that DSL line. You may want to measure the bandwidth usage with something like SolarWinds. (http://www.solarwinds.com/products/t...dth-gauge.aspx)

    One thing you might look at is renting a virtual server. There are several services that do this (see below). I thought MicroSoft was going to get into this at one point but I can't find anything on it. There is a link to MS Azure, but I'm not sure if that is what you need.

    http://www.apps4rent.com/rent-server.html
    http://www.skytap.com/
    http://www.electric-cloud.com/
    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/

    EDIT: You didn't mention what kind of data base this is running on, SQL? SyBase? Oracle? Something else?
    Last edited by Doc Brown; 2011-11-15 at 10:38.
    Chuck

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    It's a Sybase-based database, as far as I know. At least, that's what the current version is running on. I don't recall for certain what the new one is running on, but I *think* it's Sybase as well.

    As an addendum, the desktop PC I was doing the trial on, has gone "belly up". We've got another one on order, but it hasn't come in. And, to do any further testing, I'll probably have to go to a trial of Windows Server 2008, as there are no Server 2003 drivers for the new system coming in. There appears to be only Windows 7 drivers available on HP's web site. If I recall correctly, Server 2008 and Windows 7 are based on the same code base, so drivers for Windows 7 *should* function under Server 2008, right?

    Right now, any sort of upgrade is definitely on hold, until I can determine whether it's an internet connection issue, or it's a software overloading the hardware issue.

    As for the number of connections we run on our terminal server, we're licensed for 10, but normally have only three running, when we're accessing the terminal server.

    According to speedtest.net, our download speed is 5.05Mbps, and upload is 0.65Mbps. That's as it stands now. An upgrade to UVerse is in the works. Couldn't find out on AT&T's web site what the upload speeds were for their UVerse version of high speed Internet service, but their download speeds are "up to" 24Mbps.

    I know in a terminal server environment, barring a synchronous connection, the upload speed is important. The current version of our software has been functioning fairly well under Terminal Server over our current DSL service
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  8. #8
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    I love the way vendors tell you the "new" system requires more grunt when it's doing the same work for the same number of people. Unless there are a bunch of background processes that consume lots of resources you will see almost no difference.

    Dell RAID controllers won't let you shrink without data loss. Don't go there!

    I suspect you are hardware limited because the existing system works over DSL - terminal server is only screen updates and mouse/keyboard most of the time. Everything else is done on the server.

    cheers, Paul

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    3 concurrent TS connections won't even come close to stressing DSL. Even 10 isn't going to cause you any problems unless everyone in the office is streaming movies.

    Sybase doesn't take up much resources at all. Its still essentially a flat file database. That means the app is poorly written. Big surprise there. When I was working for a health care system, we had several apps that started off life as an MS Access database created by some a doctor somewhere with too much time on his hands. Someone thought it was cool and opened a start up company based on that Access database. What you end up with over time is the very thing you are dealing with right now. All too common I'm afraid.

    BTW, the upload/download speeds aren't as important as how much of the pipe (capacity) is being consumed at peak loads. That's where tools like Solar Winds are helpful.
    Last edited by Doc Brown; 2011-11-15 at 15:07.
    Chuck

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    A wide field thought on this topic. If you're running Windows Server 2003, and especially as a workstation maybe bought at the same time has gone belly up, it sounds like maybe the server is getting old. I'd consider buying a new server. At entry level they're not particularly expensive, and as a failure would give you lots of hassle it might be a wise investment that you'll have to make son anyway. Then you install the new version on the new server, if it bombs, wipe it and install the old version. With a new server you could also go straight in with a virtual solution.

    Just a thought...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc Brown View Post
    3 concurrent TS connections won't even come close to stressing DSL. Even 10 isn't going to cause you any problems unless everyone in the office is streaming movies.

    Sybase doesn't take up much resources at all. Its still essentially a flat file database. That means the app is poorly written. Big surprise there. When I was working for a health care system, we had several apps that started off life as an MS Access database created by some a doctor somewhere with too much time on his hands. Someone thought it was cool and opened a start up company based on that Access database. What you end up with over time is the very thing you are dealing with right now. All too common I'm afraid.

    BTW, the upload/download speeds aren't as important as how much of the pipe (capacity) is being consumed at peak loads. That's where tools like Solar Winds are helpful.
    Thanks. I'll check out the link to Solar Winds when I get a chance. And, I think you're right about the software being poorly written. Up until this big upgrade (the big change was to a "line item accounting" system in the accounting portion), they released a new version every fall. No real issues to speak of with the earlier versions. However, this new version was announced two years ago, started shipping some time last year into the first part of this year, was pulled and re-issued, etc. Methinks they had/have some problems with this release.
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    Quote Originally Posted by iansavell View Post
    A wide field thought on this topic. If you're running Windows Server 2003, and especially as a workstation maybe bought at the same time has gone belly up, it sounds like maybe the server is getting old. I'd consider buying a new server. At entry level they're not particularly expensive, and as a failure would give you lots of hassle it might be a wise investment that you'll have to make son anyway. Then you install the new version on the new server, if it bombs, wipe it and install the old version. With a new server you could also go straight in with a virtual solution.

    Just a thought...
    A new server would be nice, but I don't see it happening right now. What we have now is working rather well. The only hardware issues I've had since we got this server was one of the dual power-supplies died on us. Replaced that, and have had no other issues. All that being said, I do agree that a new server would be a good purchase. I just don't see that happening.
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    Terminal Services may be a huge help

    http://thedailywtf.com/Comments/Inco..._2_0x2e_0.aspx

    You may need to click the "Expand Full Text"

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    We are already using Terminal Services to access our system remotely. That's not the problem. It's appearing more and more like it's a case of under-estimated hardware requirements on the part of the software developer.
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    carrol.ray.

    To answer your question re resizing partitions under Win Server 2003: I have (personally-not 3rd hand) used both Paragon Hard Disk Manager - Server Edition, and Easeus Partition Master Server Edition. Both are able to re-size partitions operating Windows Server systems. Dell was prone to set up older server C: drives as 4 GB in size. I've re-sized partitions both up and down in size. Both products can be installed and run - then they need to boot, do the actual re-size, and boot again. Or, they provide bootable ISO files for licensed users so you can boot off the CD and do the re-size in one step (but, sometimes they don't have the proper raid driver and you have to install and run as I said earlier).

    Good luck!
    Randy

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