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Old 12-04-2011, 01:35 PM   #1
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Client-Terminal/Application Server-Data Server Setup?

I'd like help in deciding on what I should use to complete the following set-up.


  • Client machine (X-server) has 2.80GHz and 2GB RAM (I think I'll be able to get better than this but this is a worst-case scenario)
  • Terminal/Application Server machine (X-client) is a Dell PowerEdge 2500
  • Data server machine is a Dell PowerEdge T310
  • Connections will be over standard ethernet cable

Functionality and Performance
  • The client should be able to perform the following with the terminal/application server:
    • Perform system administration of both servers
    • Launch processor-intensive (but not graphics-intensive) applications via GUI
    • Build applications with application server software via GUI
    • Build intranet pages with content management system via GUI
    • Access data and files via GUI
  • The terminal/application server should:
    • use the data server as the store from which user files are accessed
    • render html documents, etc. and add a layer of frontend organisation to the file system.
  • The data server will essentially have a flat file structure.

  • Everything will be local, so this shouldn't be a problem


What I specifically want to know is what protocols and software I should use to:
(a) connect the terminal/application server to the data server
(b) connect the terminal/application server to the client

As for (a) I believe a fileshare should be sufficient, but am unsure of any higher-level software that may add extra functionality.
As for (b), from what I understand some of my options are as follows:
  • Remote video connection, e.g. VNC, NX
    • too processor-intensive for client?
    • privileges?
  • SSH with X
    • limited GUI functionality?
  • Fileshare
    • only data?
  • Thin client server software, e.g. Edubuntu
    • don't know whether this can provide functionality outlined above?

I posted this on the Ubuntu forums and have yet to receive a response. However, I am not restricting myself to any Linux distribution. Any and all suggestions/corrections welcome!
Old 12-05-2011, 11:35 PM   #2
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VNC being too processor-intensive for a modern computer (2.8 GHz / 2GB RAM) seems to be a joke. I guess you could spawn multiple VNC servers on the application server, hardcode their passwords into a user-unreadable place on the client and run X-based user login boxes inside each X session. But this may be a slight overkill.

SSH X forwarding. What do you call limited GUI functionality? Running a browser via SSH X forwarding is usually not different from running it locally (given enough network throughput and small enough latency, but it is not a problem for an all-LAN setup). This should slightly reduce memory load on the server, which can never hurt given that the terminals seem to have enough RAM (for working as single-purpose X terminals).

For file sharing you could reuse ssh and run sshfs-fuse or something like that. This would mean that the only daemon process you need to set up is sshd, and on user login sshfs is mounted. Alternatively, you can mount entire fileserver /home/ once (running sshfs-fuse as root).

Your requirements seem to be more about what GUI applications you deploy on the terminal server, the rest is simply a checklist to prevent forgetting something obvious. So I would be surprised if configuring Edubuntu or LTSP or something would be any problem here.
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Old 12-09-2011, 11:05 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply raskin. So, for the terminal server, video connections are probably too processor-intensive. In your estimation, which is the optimal solution: Edubuntu/LTSP or SSH X forwarding? I use X forwarding with ssh regularly and loading up GUIs always seems to be very slow. This could however be entirely due to the fact that I am connecting remotely. I've never used Edubuntu/LTSP so unsure of the capability.
Old 12-09-2011, 11:41 PM   #4
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Video connection? Both VNC and X forwarding are video connections...

It doesn't look like being CPU-bound will be your problem here. But X forwarding can slightly offload RAM/CPU load to clients where you have an excess.

If I were you, I would deploy something simple with a browser on the server, connect server and client in the most distant points of the relevant building (distance is measured in network terms, of course) and test SSH X forwarding. Most probably, it would work just fine - remote connection is likely to be way slower than LAN. Next you should do something with multiple clients. If that fails, you will have spent most of the effort on reusable things. If your LAN copes with the load - you can do whatever tests you need to do before declaring this "production".
Old 12-10-2011, 03:33 AM   #5
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Ok, thanks. I'll try your suggestions.


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