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Re: Thanks for answering the roll call. And now, a question.



> What should Red Hat be doing in the education space?

First off, I don't think that this should be looked at as just "education space".  Many
of the approaches to help education could also be sold to businesses.  Businesses need
to save money as well, and the education space leads to the business space after high
school or college.  So when putting together a model, it may help to look at the
education space as a foot in the door to the business space.

Here is a quick background on myself.  I work full time as the Tech Admin for a Senior
High School, Junior High School and 3 elementary schools with about 850 students total.
 I also run a local computer business on the side geared mostly for commercial support
along with some residential and 4 other local schools.  I work with Windows, OSX and Linux.

I think thin clients and central system management is the way to go for schools and many
businesses.  However I see 2 major setbacks in this area.  First is scalability,
currently there is not a foolproof, efficient single setup that can scale many servers
with hundreds of clients.  I know that Jim McQuillan has talked to an organization in
South America (I believe it is somewhere down there) who has put together an excellent
load balanced multi server setup that can handle a few thousand client and he hopes to
build this into future releases.  But that isn't guaranteed and is definitely a way out
in the future.  There needs to be a fast and easy way to centrally manage 5000 thin
clients with a single server cluster.  This is the main thing keeping Thin clients out
of schools in our area.  It just doesn't make sense to manage a separate system in each
classroom, they all need to be tied together so profiles and data are available in every
classroom.  Sure Samba/LDAP with NFS mounted /home directories are a way to get there,
but this isn't always speed friendly and is not widely tested for hardware guidelines. 
Second is multimedia.  Much of what students need computing for very multimedia based. 
Terminals (and fat clients for that matter) need to be able to deliver good and
consistent sound for all apps.  They also need to be equipped with the necessary
software to access all types of online content.  Many sites students use contain Windows
Media, Shockwave, Flash, Real Media, Quicktime movies, etc.  Schools need a distribution
that does this out of the box and is stable doing so.  They also need this all to play
from within a web browser.  

I am not an advocate of one to one computing being achieved with laptops.  I have
overseen laptop programs in the past, and do not think this is the way to go.  They are
costly to purchase, costly to maintain, and have a shorter life cycle than thin clients.
 I personally think that the best way to give students access from home is to have them
remotely connect back to the server cluster at the school and work just as they did in
school.  This has been done for years in businesses and there should be no reason they
can't do it in schools.  However remote connection clients for Linux are lacking in
comparison to their counter parts.  Windows Remote Desktop can pass sound, communicate
with local printers, and is much better at speed.  If I use VNC compared to RDP I simply
do not get near the same experience, RDP makes me feel as if I am onsite where VNC has
menu and typing lags.  I think an excellent Remote software package would be a great
add-on as well.

So I guess to summarize I would love to see the following come about in the future:

1. Seamless Cluster Management.  With Windows 2003 server I can fire up a management
console and choose server roles, Linux needs this.  I would love that when I fire up my
new Redhat Server it asked me what roles I would like to assign to this machine.  Roles
could be Primary or Secondary server, Application server (gui to walk through which apps
to export to other servers), DHCP server, File Server, Directory Server, DNS Server,
etc.  Then when I choose each option it walks me through a little wizard to configure
the server role.  If I happen to add a server and choose Secondary, it would allow me to
pick which primary server to choose for each role with a simple gui that let me enter in
the IP address or name of which server was the primary for File serving, Authentication,
Applications and so on.  I really think a nice GUI server role management tool would go
a long way.

2. Strong Multimedia delivery.  I know there has been a lot of talk that a move
PulseAudio as opposed to ESD or ARTS should help.  But along with sound multimedia
browser integration and a single do all player would be great.  I know multimedia is a
must for schools out of the box.

3. A good compression remote desktop tool that can transport sound and recognize local
printers.

4. RedHat is obviously closely partnered with Dell since RedHat is the only distro Dell
will install on their servers.  Work with Dell to package server setups that can handle
different sized schools.  If I could call Dell and talk to a server rep and let them
know that I am looking at deploying a Redhat based thin client setup in a school with
800 terminals and the rep could tell me that I need servers XYZ and ship them as a
configured package that I can just plug into my network and start adding terminals, I
would be in heaven.  This wouldn't go just for schools either, businesses could benefit
from this as well.  Right now when I mention such a thing to a Dell server Rep they
haven't a clue what I am even talking about.  There could be a few case studies and some
testing to determine how much hardware is needed and what the most efficient way to
cluster would be. (Personally I find a speed hit when using Samba/LDAP with NFS mounted
/home directories, there has to be a more efficient way of doing things.)  Redhat is
definitely know as a stable server operating system, couple that with Dell hardware
support and preconfigured packages, and you could stumble into a goldmine.  Maybe if
Redhat and Dell worked together you could find 64bit server setups with quad quad core
Zeon processors and 32GB of RAM and 4 teamed Gigabit NICS that could handle 1000 clients
from a single machine.  People like me just don't have the resources to test this sort
of thing and see if it is possible.

5. Work with Dell or some other vendors and build an approved client list that is known
to work with the above preconfigured packages out of the box.  This could provide a
start to finish package that is guaranteed to work.  Maybe Dell could even look at
getting into the thin client market along with RedHat.

6. Be sure that all common Education apps are in RedHat software repository and can
easily be installed with Yum Extender.  I don't think that they need to be prepackaged,
but need to be easily searched as Education applications and be available.  A good
scheduling/grading appliation such as http://richtech.ca/openadmin/ or
http://www.miller-group.net/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1 are a must in this list.

7. Possibly build local vendor support for the sale and technical support of such
systems.  I know my business would be interested in supporting Southern Minnesota,
Wisconsin, and Iowa area.  http://www.1-cs.com.  Local support options may be a key in
implementation and making end users feel comfortable.  If nothing else knowing support
is available could set minds at ease.

I think if Redhat could find solutions to the above problems they could dominate one to
one computing and the terminal services market in both Education and Business.  I am not
sure how much of the above is even in the realm of RedHat's scope but if nothing else
they may be able to be a good facilitator.

And you thought your message was long :-)
Jim Kronebusch

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