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Apple, Android Devices Swamp NYC Schools' ActiveSync Server

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the wait-this-seems-like-a-word-problem dept.

Android 205

longacre writes "Just a few months after the New York City Dept. of Education shelled out over $1 million on iPads for teachers, the agency has stopped accepting new users on its Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync server as it is 'operating near its resource limits' due to an influx of iOS and Android devices. A memo from the deputy CTO warned, 'Our Exchange system is currently operating near its resource limits and in order to prevent Exchange from exceeding these limits, we need to take action to prevent any more of these devices from being configured to receive email. As of Thursday, November 10th no additional users will be allowed to receive email via NYCDOE's Exchange ActiveSync.' Existing setups will continue to operate, and students will not be affected."

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Best use of money? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249602)

Imagine what they could have done with the $700k they would have saved by choosing a tablet other than an iPad.

Re:Best use of money? (4, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249630)

Bought a decent mail server?

Re:Best use of money? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249648)

Ah, the ignorant replying again. Must be because it's M$, and not the fact that its an underspecced system.
Throw a few more CASs at it and it should be fine. How this is news, I don't know.

Re:Best use of money? (2, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249720)

I don't see what's specifically insulting Microsoft with, "Bought a decent mail server?" as a comment... It could be insulting the juggernaut from Redmond, or it could be insulting the hardware. It's a supposition on your part that the OS/daemon is being insulted.

Mind you, I would not be surprised if the software was the target, but that's mainly because I don't think that the service was originally designed for the kind of usage that it's now seeing. We also don't know from the summary what versions of things they're running, they could still be back on Server 2003 or the like...

Re:Best use of money? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249750)

Please note that free discussion has ended and this topic is now being directed and moderated by a Waggener Edstrom Rapid Response team on behalf of Microsoft.

"Monitoring conversations, including those that take place with social media, is part of our daily routine; our products can be used as early warning systems, helping clients with rapid response and crisis management."

http://waggeneredstrom.com/about/approach [waggeneredstrom.com] [waggeneredstrom.com] [waggeneredstrom.com]
http://waggeneredstrom.com/clients [waggeneredstrom.com] [waggeneredstrom.com]

Re:Best use of money? (0)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250164)

Ah, the ignorant replying again. Must be because it's M$, and not the fact that its an underspecced system.
Throw a few more CASs at it ...

Grrr ... >:-(

(0) infidel /home/keeling_ dict cas
8 definitions found

From The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing (26 July 2010) [foldoc]:

    CAS

          1. {Column Address Strobe}.

          2. (channel associated signaling) {in-band
          signalling}.

From V.E.R.A. -- Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms (June 2006) [vera]:

    CAS
                  Code Access Security (VSTO, .NET, MS)

From V.E.R.A. -- Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms (June 2006) [vera]:

    CAS
                  Column Address Strobe (IC, DRAM)

From V.E.R.A. -- Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms (June 2006) [vera]:

    CAS
                  Communicating Applications Specification (FAX, Intel, DCA)

From V.E.R.A. -- Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms (June 2006) [vera]:

    CAS
                  Computer Aided Selling

From V.E.R.A. -- Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms (June 2006) [vera]:

    CAS
                  Computer Algebra System

From V.E.R.A. -- Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms (June 2006) [vera]:

    CAS
                  Content Addressed Storage (EMC)

From V.E.R.A. -- Virtual Entity of Relevant Acronyms (June 2006) [vera]:

    CAS
                  Computerized Autodial System

This [urbandictionary.com] (see #6 & 7) is pretty funny too.

Back on topic, it seems a bit ridiculous that fscking NYC (FFS!!!) can't afford to buy the hardware & software needed to shore up this system. Wow. And I thought Sub-Saharan Africans and Bangladeshis had it tough.

What a clusterfsck!

Re:Best use of money? (2)

HateBreeder (656491) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250232)

What's more ridiculous is that you insist on using terns that contain the word "fuck" and then use the substitution "fsck". If "fuck" is so impolite for you to use, then why not express yourself differently?

Re:Best use of money? (3, Funny)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250294)

What's more ridiculous is that you insist on using terns that contain the word "fuck" and then use the substitution "fsck". If "fuck" is so impolite for you to use, then why not express yourself differently?

I'm screwing with the Pakistani forbidden word IM filter. :-)

Re:Best use of money? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249856)

No, they are using Microsoft Exchange.

Re:Best use of money? (2, Insightful)

multimediavt (965608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249948)

Imagine what they could have done with the $700k they would have saved by choosing a tablet other than an iPad.

Bought a decent mail server?

My thoughts exactly! The devices aren't the problem, their proprietary commercial mail system that sucks is the problem. Nice to watch people eat crow when they tout the charms of commercial software and its scalability advantages and it epically fails and costs more money than a FOSS solution. Best quote I ever heard was from a guy talking about AD, "It's got to be complicated, it has to scale." Face-palm!!!

Re:Best use of money? (5, Informative)

chewedtoothpick (564184) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250158)

Currently trying to find any kind of Open Source collaboration Server - I can assure you that the software costs alone are within 5% on any of the decently known and supported alternatives such as Zimbra, Zafura, eGroupware, open-Xchange etc. Zafura is the closest in terms of quality, but based on my testing, I have noticed that with my 15-user test groups (all users using at least three devices to sync continuously) Zimbra is the closest to Exchange in terms of efficiency, and if you remove OS resource usage I have noticed that the Exchange daemon is the most efficient. I hadn't gone through any kind of upgrade testing to see how easy that is (which could alone still sway me away from my current direction of updating Exchange) but when compared to how much easier it is to tie Exchange into Active Directory and properly apply any domain-controlled policies to clients, Exchange wins hands-down in any system that isn't wholly unix from the ground-up.

In conclusion, you are misinformed if you think any kind of FOSS system can compete with Exchange. If you want any kind of collaboration utilities (Calendar or Contact sync and grouping, etc) then you discard the F part and usually the OS part too - and the supposed knights of FOSS are even more greedy than Moneyholesoft from Redmond. At least Redmond allowed us a 3-month trial with 60 users to test out compared to the others. VMWare let us try Zimbra with 30 users for 30 days before they wanted to charge us - nobody else would even let us trial their packages at all.

Re:Best use of money? (5, Informative)

Albanach (527650) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250180)

their proprietary commercial mail system that sucks is the problem.

You really think so? Microsoft sell Exchange to some of the largest organizations on the planet. It might not be my choice of mail server, but I don't think blaming the software is the right think to do here. There's plenty of evidence that Exchange can scale - it might need powerful hardware, or specialized configuration but it's clearly possible and widely implemented.

The real trouble here was not not the choice of software. Rather it was a failure to anticipate the growth and react to it before it became an issue. That's a very basic SysAdmin issue for any software, proprietary or otherwise.

Re:Best use of money? (5, Insightful)

jbplou (732414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250270)

The problem could just be a lack of capacity planning. When management says we are going to add $1 million worth of iPads on to our mail system plus let users use iPhones and droids the mail admins should be evaluating their infrastructure.

Re:Best use of money? (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250332)

I agree whole-heartedly with you that AD is overcomplicated and, for perhaps 99% of users, a solution to a non-existent problem, but don't go bashing Exchange just because it's MS. It's a lot more than just a mail server, it is a collaboration suite, and the people who buy it, buy it for all those non-mail extras that are very tightly integrated.

To recreate the same with open-source, most of us are forced to use webmail, as there is no standardized mail client that can handle all the extra stuff. You could probably stuff Thunderbird full of plugins and end up somewhere close, but the maintenance nightmare means it's still probably cheaper to just buy Exchange and Outlook for everyone.

Postfix and Courier/Dovecot may be good enough for us minimalist geeks, but it's like comparing a tricked-out Honda Goldwing to a home-built fixed-gear bicycle. Both will get you there, but the expensive one is a lot more comfortable.

Re:Best use of money? (1)

egamma (572162) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250436)

The proprietary hardware and software devices aren't the problem, their proprietary commercial mail system that they didn't build out sufficiently is the problem.

FTFY

Re:Best use of money? (1)

fostware (551290) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250610)

Not exactly correct...

Exchange (esp 2010) can be configured fine.

The ActiveSync clients occasionally ramp up zombie connections or uncleanly close connections after their timeout. Apple have a couple of KBs (KB3398 comes to mind) on the very subject.

An example is one of our Hosted Exchange clients. iPhone 3GS running iOS 4.3.3 currently holds 125 connections to w3wp.exe (web service) our average is 2, or next highest is 6. That's not a bad email system, it's poorly written client code - to which Exchange CAS roles do an OK job for when there's only a couple of miscreants.

Re:Best use of money? (5, Funny)

OS24Ever (245667) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249730)

Then the headline would have read 'NYC Schools waste Millions on tablets no one uses'

Re:Best use of money? (0)

laird (2705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249790)

Given that the tablets appear to be so popular that they're swamping the mail server, they're demonstrably not "tablets no one uses",

Nice .sig though.

Re:Best use of money? (1)

Stalks (802193) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250210)

Woosh!

Re:Best use of money? (4, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250218)

He was saying that if they chose tablets significantly cheaper than the iPad, as the parent suggested, no one would use them. It's probably true.

Re:Best use of money? (4, Insightful)

smash (1351) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249972)

Like which decent tablet is significantly cheaper than an iPad?

Re:Best use of money? (4, Insightful)

laird (2705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250038)

"Imagine what they could have done with the $700k they would have saved by choosing a tablet other than an iPad."

The iPad is under $500, so it costs the same or less than any other decent tablet. Are you saying that there's a tablet that costs $150 that's comparable to the iPad? That is pretty hard to imagine. Don't forget to include the management costs - iPads are extremely easy for an enterprise to manage, because they integrate nicely into Exchange (e.g. you can define mail policies on your Exchange server, and iPads do what they're told - encrypt, require password lock, etc.). Android doesn't do this properly yet. That leaves the RIM Playbook, which aside from sucking has the same list price as the iPad. I guess you could save some money buying discontinued products that are being dumped, but that's not a great enterprise hardware strategy. :-)

If you want to complain about the project, complain that they didn't plan for adding one more ActiveSynch server so they had capacity to support their users. Given educational pricing, the software is nearly free, and even an overpriced server would have been a trivial percentage of the project budget.

Re:Best use of money? (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250168)

The playbook would also require a blackberry phone for everyone to check their email via.

Re:Best use of money? (1)

jbplou (732414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250246)

Use it to buy iPads after everyone complains they bought junk nobody uses.

Re:Best use of money? (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250352)

None. To buy an Android tablet comparable would be as much if not more.

Triple the load =/= triple the servers? (5, Insightful)

SlashdotWanker (1476819) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249624)

Issues like this are the reason you need to fully flesh out costs before flipping the switch on a large organization like this. almost every teacher I know has a smartphone of some kind and a lot of them are starting to get tablets. Why offer the service when you cannot fully offer it?

This is what you get with golf course deals (4, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249652)

This is what you get with golf course deals people out side of IT makes deals like this and tell IT to make it work with out giving them the funds to make it work.

This why IT needs unions so they can stand up and say NO! we can't do it with the funds that we have. I hope that they don't place the blame on IT for something that is not there fault.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249714)

Unions work best for the health and safety of their workers. Anything beyond that is mob rule.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249812)

Unions work best for the health and safety of their workers. Anything beyond that is mob rule.

Healthy workers are going to do a better job. Do you want your life to depend on parts made by a non-union machinist running a 104F fever who can't afford to take time off? Or cops who are even more on the take than they are now? Or non-union truckers using fake log books to run 100 hours a week and falling asleep at the wheel, taking your car out in the ensuing accident? Or a non-union food worker who can't file a union grievance when they're cheesed off, so they take a dump in that 3-story-high tank of hot chocolate syrup used to make your "health bar" (yes, that last is a true story - 2 incidents caught by testing - it would have been cheaper to pay union rates and give the employees more "skin in the game").

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249912)

For your first point, I'm not in disagreement. They work best for protecting health and safety of their workers. I'm not sure how you read something else into that.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (4, Insightful)

laird (2705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249814)

"Unions work best for the health and safety of their workers. Anything beyond that is mob rule."

Add in "and are properly equipped and trained and resourced to do their job successfully". For example, air traffic control unions negotiated limits on how many hours controllers could be forced to work, and when they unions were broken and controllers were forced to work so many hours, with no breaks for even going to the bathroom or eating meals, endangering passenger's lives. And when teachers' unions negotiate limits on the numbers of students in classes, so teachers can actually teach students effectively.

Or do you think that the MBA who runs a company knows how best to do people's jobs, not the people who actually do the jobs?

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (2)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250224)

So, what we're talking about here is the question of who can be trusted with power, workers or management?

The answer is simple: neither. All the horror stories you've heard about unions? True for some union somewhere. All the horror stories you've heard about management? Also true for some managers somewhere. It'd be a different world if we could just assume people would cooperate when it was in their obvious common interest, but we can't. Good faith is such a fragile thing.

If there were one quality which could fix everything that is wrong with this world, it would be integrity. But we can't be truthful with each other because we're not honest with themselves. We often act like our personal insecurities entitle us to be a**sholes. So the best we can manage in a world where integrity is so uncommon is to organize all the a**holes into competing teams then let them duke it out.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

S73rM4n (2523312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249748)

^This, times 100! There's a saying one of my co-workers has (I work in IT, specifically in network engineering) - "it's technology, not magic." I don't know how many times I get a job that has been sold to the customer to do x, y, and z but actually only has the specs to do x!

Between that and the now pending bill to mark IT workers above a certain pay level (which will only be lowered over time) as exempt to the laws governing OT for hourly workers I am, for the first time, actually thinking that I would join a union if given the opportunity!

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249862)

wait, what i read of that was OT for IT workers salaried with a base rate over X.

What kind of salaried workers get OT... That is part of the deal with being salary. The flip side of that is that you don't usually have a punch card, or "we see you were 5 minutes 3 times last month, here is your box"

Now if it is hourly employees I'm right there with you, but with a salary all you get to do when you work OT is increase the base hours and lower your $/Hour you get paid.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249782)

This is what you get with golf course deals people out side of IT makes deals like this and tell IT to make it work with out giving them the funds to make it work.

This why IT needs unions so they can stand up and say NO! we can't do it with the funds that we have. I hope that they don't place the blame on IT for something that is not there fault.

I hate to tell you this, but cronyism, kickbacks, and side deals exist just as much (if not more) in union shops as they do outside them.

The fault could lie with the architect being dumb enough to fall of the marketing "specs", or in not doing what every sysadmin does when speccing out an Exchange system: pad the resource demand to at least 150% of whatever Microsoft's Capacity Planner whitepaper says you should.

You see, here's the thing - while yes, there are instances of dumbassed CTO/CIOs running out and buying some stuff, then telling you to make it work? Most shops I worked in as a Sr. Sysadmin have always dragged me into the process, and at the very least I had to come up with some sort of capacity figures, and come up with a base amount of hardware, projected license usage, and the like. The only times where capacity had ever fallen short on my part has been systems I inherited, systems where an unexpected new use was found for the resource, spiking demand on it, or in rare cases where it wasn't critical, but some CxO wanted it done in spite of their being no real budget for it.

IMHO, no union on Earth can change such dynamics without seriously screwing up IT (and those working in it) in the process.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (2, Insightful)

laird (2705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249834)

The point of unions isn't that they render everyone angels, it's that it creates an organization that can negotiate in favor of worker's interests to balance the organization that already exists to support management's interests. So an IT workers' union could impose checkpoints in a process such that the workers could make sure that adaquate resources, training, tools, etc., were provided to allow the workers to be successful without working insane hours compensating for poor planning or resourcing. Yes, a good management team ought to be thinking of such things, but the software industry's track record is poor enough (only 10% of IT projects deliver what's required on time and budget) that giving the IT workers more leverage doesn't seem like a bad idea.

Heh, just wait (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38250048)

I'm not saying IT workers aren't social, or don't tolerate bureaucracy, but....

Just wait until the union you join enforces workrules which limit your productivity or options.

Some years back we serviced a rack-mount system we had delivered at Lockheed, which was a union shop. Only the 'equipment tech', could remove the device from the rack. Only a soldering tech could solder. Our engineer wasn't even allowed to type on the keyboard, some other specialist was required.

When the job was done and it was time to put the equipment back in the rack, the equipment tech was nowhere in sight. When our engineer 'just did it', it created a cross-company fiasco requiring senior level apologies and a personal apology from our engineer.

So, IT workers, good luck with the union. You're gonna LOVE it.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (0)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249822)

what you need is a IT that stands up and says "NO! we can't do it with Microsoft tech". We need to drop maybe ten thousand or so dollars on a decent server and run postfix, dovecot and caldav on it instead. Not drop $1m on it to run Exchange that will still need additional funds in the future.

It is ITs fault for specifying a huge resource hog like Exchange when they knew they had limited funds (ie the money would run out eventually) for licences and servers. Someone here said that MS's capacity planner tool suggested it would work fine with only 5 to 10 servers for that many ipad users. That's 5 to 10 modern-day servers not cheap PCs in a rack.

Of course, if IT already had the exchange system in place for a few users, and the business came and told them to support a few thousand extra, that's when IT should stand up and say "We've analysed the capacity and we need either a few million dollars extra, or we need to re-architect the system to cope".

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (2)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250092)

Go ahead and form a union, lots of people will keep making it work and getting your management's money.

FWIW, I have Exchange 2010 running in VMware. The host is only a Q6600 quad 2.4Ghz with 8 gigs of RAM. The Exchange VM is 3 cores + 3 GB RAM. Tiny. But it seems to serve 4 iOS devices and 2-4 Outlook clients simultaneously without any issues. The host itself runs 4-5 other VMs.

It's admittedly dog-slow to startup and even console logins are slow to process and launching the Exchange GUI is agonizing, but it does work, and this is all in a memory footprint way smaller than recommended.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38250208)

Wow, that's a lot of clients. I can see why it's stressing out your system.

I'm sure it's just like the NYC system.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

gavron (1300111) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250060)

Unions are obsolete. They have destroyed our automotive sector, they are destroying our healthcare sector, and they have no business in IT.

Unions are the mafia of business. If you don't like the RIAA/MPAA/BSA/MAFIAA then you should stand up to the unions that are the mafia as well.

I'm sure it was great to claim that Unions saved kids from working in coal mines... but that's just mythology. Unions cause higher expense to
companies, greater waste, all of which is passed on to us, the customers.

Unions: go screw yourselves. Send your goombas elsewhere. We don't want to pay for them, you, your shop steward, your "smoke breaks" or anything else that raises our costs and provides NOTHING useful.

IT needs unions like a burger needs kimche.

E

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250268)

So fine go tell the boss that you can't do it and then they say we can fine some that will and then who they get messes things up even more and you take all the blame and maybe even have to go to court after being sued / maybe even jailed for messing the system up.

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250570)

So fine go tell the boss that you can't do it and then they say we can [find] [someone] that will and then who they get messes things up even more and you take all the blame and maybe even have to go to court after being sued / maybe even jailed for messing the system up.

See my .sig

You tell the boss you can't do it, means you've informed them that their assumptions are flawed and unreasonable.

They pull someone in to do it anyway, and they can't make it work, just like you said it wouldn't work.

How is it that you then get blamed for it not working? That "someone"'s failure proves you were correct and the boss was wrong.

Eh?!?

Re:This is what you get with golf course deals (1)

teg (97890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250646)

Unions are obsolete. They have destroyed our automotive sector, they are destroying our healthcare sector, and they have no business in IT.

Like everything else, there is a balance. Too much power to unions is a very bad thing, too little power gives an extremely one sided relationship. As for destructive power, unions are strong in Northern Europe and Scandinavia.... both of which are doing pretty well.

Re:Triple the load =/= triple the servers? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249690)

maybe they could ask everyone to just configure them work as fetch instead of push?
I mean, it's the same amount of people as they used to have. they just now have a mail client in the pocket.

or perhaps they got a connection limit somewhere they could just up, if the problem is that the transfers take more time and connections drop far more often than from their wired desktops.

Re:Triple the load =/= triple the servers? (1)

laird (2705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249860)

If I had to guess, the issue isn't the specific protocol, it's that the number of mail clients doubled. That is, if they have 1,000 employees, each reading mail from a desktop computer, and each employee gets an iPad that they use in addition, they went from 1,000 mail clients to 2,000 mail clients, which would require them to scale the mail server to support it. If I had to guess, the iPads turned out to be much more popular than expected, greating demand that they were unprepared for.

Re:Triple the load =/= triple the servers? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249704)

Depends. Usually, even for a school, allowing every employee to latch on their personal gear to the school network isn't exactly a good idea - if not for security reasons, then for liability reasons.

I should clarify the liability part: I know that schools are a bit more open (and less prone to having trade secrets), but there are still privacy issues (discussions of student behavior tends to stand out) that would demand a school limit just how far and wide (and on whose devices) their internal emails should go.

Personal devices in schools (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249762)

I do not think that privacy is the chief concern when it comes to personal devices on school networks. More likely there is a support contract getting in the way; my high school (in NYC) had a bunch of desktops that could not be connected to the school's network because of a support contract stipulation. Internal emails are probably easy to forward or otherwise export from the schools' computers, and the security is probably very poor (when I was in school, the only think separating the teachers' network from the students' was the IP address assigned to the computer -- and anyone could manually set the IP address, which is how we defeated the censorship firewall).

Re:Personal devices in schools (1)

Ayanami_R (1725178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250194)

The problem with personal devices in education is 1) The average user expects us to support them. We take no responsibility for anything a school didn't buy through the correct channels. 2) Legally protected data travels round on machines we cannot track 3) See #2 4) See #2

Re:Triple the load =/= triple the servers? (1)

multimediavt (965608) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249966)

Issues like this are the reason you need to fully flesh out costs before flipping the switch on a large organization like this. almost every teacher I know has a smartphone of some kind and a lot of them are starting to get tablets. Why offer the service when you cannot fully offer it?

Well, for one you have managers in municipalities that are the stereotypical promoted because they can't do shit. Two, you have a mantra of "doing more with less". Three, the devices were probably bought with one-time monies, so there was no continuing source of funds to draw from to deal with problems like this. Four, ... Oh you get the idea!

No better CAS topology experts? (3, Interesting)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249640)

Given the resources, is there any reason they couldn't scale this right? I only pretend to know anything about Exchange, but this seems kind of strange.

I'm sure that resource limitations -- server CPU, disk, etc -- are the source of this, but you'd think a high profile customer like this would be able to get MS involved before the story becomes "iPads crash Exchange" or "consumer tablet bests high dollar PC server."

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249646)

Exchange scales very easily. They must be over-budget, or just lazy.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (2, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249786)

part of the problem is that Exchange is not an email server (many people think that because they only use it for email). It's a "groupware" server that does email, calendars, notes, journals, todo lists, integrated MSN status, etc.

Now admittedly, all those things shouldn't be particularly resource intensive, but the Exchange systems that have been around for years always struggled to to simple things. I think that they made it better at resource usage, but then probably made it much worse by bundling in crap like MSN status updates and probably facebook integration by now too.

If they replaced Exchange with a straightforward mail server like Dovecot, they'd handle a hundred times those users with ease. Sure, they wouldn't have an integrated calendar... but which of those users uses the exchange calendar anyway, using some preferred iOS or Google calendar.

In short, Exchange should only ever be used if you're inside a corporate network and you're an all-Microsoft shop. And you're rich enough to buy the super servers and licences you'll need. For everyone else, stick with stuff that just does a couple of things very well.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

rabbit994 (686936) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249838)

Now admittedly, all those things shouldn't be particularly resource intensive, but the Exchange systems that have been around for years always struggled to to simple things. I think that they made it better at resource usage, but then probably made it much worse by bundling in crap like MSN status updates and probably facebook integration by now too.

It's actually been really simplified. Instant Messaging is handled by seperate product called Lync (If you are staying Microsoft). Exchange is simply Email/Calendar/Contacts/Notes/Tasks. Facebook intergration is Outlook driven and Exchange server doesn't do any of that for client.

If they replaced Exchange with a straightforward mail server like Dovecot, they'd handle a hundred times those users with ease. Sure, they wouldn't have an integrated calendar... but which of those users uses the exchange calendar anyway, using some preferred iOS or Google calendar.

Spoken like true Linux Zealot who has no clue what Exchange does or how big companies rely on Email/Calendar/Contact side of it. Not to mention ActiveSync has basic security features like... remote wiping of devices and forcing passwords. While this is feature of iCloud as well, it allows IT to wipe any iOS device instead of hunting down iCloud password, logging in and then ordering it to remote wipe.

This problem is easily fixable with more hardware/licenses, deploy additional CAS servers to handle the load.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (4, Informative)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249846)

I am not a Microsoft fanboi by any stretch and those were all valid criticisms of Exchange 2003 and prior, however Exchange 2007 and later have a pretty clean architecture and good support for open standards. The only real argument against is that, it is very expensive and you might really only need mail in which case you can get carrier class mail handling with FOSS.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250582)

I'm dealing with an Exchange 2007 server with a busted OWA, and what I've found out is that the links between Exchange and IIS are so deep that a full recreation of OWA from scratch means reinstalling Exchange 2007.

I've come to loathe Exchange.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249910)

I'd bet every conference room in the building has an account. You invite to you meeting and it auto accepts if it doesn't have a conflict. Anyone that should be able to schedule meetings can also view the details of the rooms "events".

Want to go to lunch? send out a meeting invite. To be honest the thing that has always seemed to get the most real use is the calender system.

Know of a host-able calendar that integrates with LDAP, allows "bot" type accounts, has an easy to use(at close to OWA as it can be) web interface, allows users to have multiple calendars, and manage sharing on each both on a per calendar basis, and on an event basis? Can you delegate to other users with it, so the secretary can add the VP to events or send out invites on his/her behalf?

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250222)

Kerio can do all those things you're asking.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250302)

i don't know but give me a week with IDLE and i'll have a .py that does all of that AND a box of chocolates

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38250310)

Zimbra [zimbra.com] does most of what you're looking for - if not everything.

Don't be fooled by the "open source" label though, it's still mostly a proprietary system. At work we use it mostly to serve outlook clients, though, which I believe is a mistake, the product is designed to be used mostly as a webmail/calendar/contact system.

Even so, even with the "community edition" which is basically just the basic system where they've stripped out everything priorietary (ActiveSync, Outlook Connector, backup system, and lots of other useful stuff):

- host-able - check
- calendar that integrates with LDAP - check
- allows "bot" type accounts - check
- has an easy to use web interface - check
- allows users to have multiple calendars - check
- manage sharing on a calendar and an event basis - calendar basis check, event basis... well... check it out and see if it does what you want to do
- delegate to other users with it - kind of. the VP can share the calendar with their secretary, and their secretary can then use their calendar to accept events...

We run it at work, serving mostly Outlook clients, and it works well for basic use cases, although we've had one client wanting to migrate back to Exchange because of lacking support for delegation of tasks.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (2)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249792)

Yes, provided we are talking about an Exchange 2007 or later environment you can scale as big as need, Provided:

1. You have adequate hardware resources
2. You have selected an appropriate deployment strategy for your organizations size, and anticipated growth. If you expect to grow big but currently are not you do need to make some architectural decisions which will raise upfront costs.

*Modern* Exchange is among Microsoft's products that really can be considered carrier grade. Like all MS products through there is plenty of rope for the improperly trained to hang themselves with. Its not hard for an rank amateur to get Exchange running well enough even for a fairly large organization for years, and suddenly find they have steered themselves down the wrong architectural path are about to hit a wall and have only very expensive, in both time and money terms ways out.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (2)

Locutus (9039) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249802)

Don't be so sure about that hardware being the "resource limit" although it could very well be the case. Microsoft requires you pay a per device/client access fee and it could be they are exceeding what they paid for. The number of Microsoft Client Access Licenses( CAL ) to connect to the Microsoft Exchange Server wasn't listed and they are being pretty vague as to what "resource" limits are being reached.

LoB

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (2)

adamstew (909658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249982)

Exchange CALs are licensed per user and not per device. Each user can have any number of devices hooked up. If they are already properly licensed for each of their users, then all devices that any of those users brings are already licensed.

Also, even if they had met their limit on CALs, they are so cheap for the education market, Microsoft practically gives them away.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

danomac (1032160) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250404)

Yes, but only basic management can be done with mobile devices on a standard license. An enterprise license allows more control over mobile devices.

Something else to keep in mind...

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250024)

If the people at the New york School system were stupid enough to go with per device CAL's, they deserve what they get. User CAL's are almost always going to be more economical. The only exception is in a shared PC (call center) structure.

If they have per use CAL's, the activesync devices are free (assuming they have CAL's for the users to begin with).

As for this article, it is probably being blown way out of proportion. This is just a memo by the IT dept to let the management know they need to buy extra servers and failed to include the server cost in their iPAD setup. They may also have to increase Internet bandwidth at their primary datacenter if the devices are not using WiFi to connect, but again if they dont let the devices connect to their LAN/WAN infrastructure (preferably in a secure VLAN), they deserve the issues they have.

In reality, a few CAS servers with 4-8 cores and 64 Gb of memory will do the job on this. Yu are probalby talking 30-40k in outlays. Which is nothing for an organization their size.

Blaming this on Exchange would be like blaming Cisco & your ISP for underestimating the lod on your internet pipes.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250334)

but the reason you exceeded your bandwidth estimates was Yet Another Cisco Exploit turned your core router into a warez proxy for all of eastern europe

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

S73rM4n (2523312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249804)

Reading the linked article and letter attached I would guess it's not an issue of CALs or software issues, sounds like it's strictly hardware. The number of additional devices (android and apple tablets, phones, etc.) sounds like it's putting strain on the physical resources of their server(s), specifically those that use ActiveSync. I don't know much about that particular service but I would expect it's fairly resource heavy.

The fact that they're not cutting off RIM devices makes it highly likely that they need additional server resources. This, of course, is as much a management issue as it is a technological one. Obviously there was no research, or not enough, done prior to rolling out the new program to determine if their existing hardware could support a rapid influx of thousands of additional devices. I would speculate that this is due to the decision to add the tablets being made, then the IT staff was simply informed "make these work" rather than finding out if there would be issues post rollout.

Re:No better CAS topology experts? (1)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250046)

In all fairness, it is often very hard to estimate load on a system of this sort. You can estimate the number of devices you will need (if you are even told), and ammount of traffic across them, but without actual piloting and load testing in your produciton environment the estimates can miss factors (like users deciding to ONLY use their tablet or phone for connections.

Well.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249662)

I see budget priority may be a little skewed. dun-dun-dun. weighing options... ipads? Server? Ipads? Server? Ipads? Server? screw it lets splurge on some ipads!

problem solved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249674)

Thus solving the problem forever.

Get ready for the headlines (4, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249678)

Get ready for followup headlines a few months or years from now:
  • NYC drops $600 million on new email system
  • Consulting firm under investigation for defrauding NYC public school system in email debacle
  • Should public schools have email systems?

This is a pretty standard situation in New York City: lots and lots of money is spent, with poor planning, sweetheart deals with incompetent firms, and then a bunch of fallout.

Re:Get ready for the headlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38250262)

"City's $1M Sink Clogged with Apple Bites" (NY Post)

So wait a minute... (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249680)

$1m spent on iPads only comes to ~2,000 iPads at most (assuming the cheapest model at around $500 each). According to Microsoft's handy little Capacity Planner [microsoft.com] (Exch 2010), it shouldn't take but perhaps (very rough calc here) 5 or 10 servers at most to handle that, unless they're also allowing every school employee to latch on their personal gear as well.

I'm guessing that something's missing from the story here...

Something's missing from the story (1, Flamebait)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249694)

Just that their IT staff is incompetent..

Re:Something's missing from the story (2)

smash (1351) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249998)

Alternatively, PHB simply said "iPads for all!" without consulting the IT department or asking about the back end infrastructure required to support such a decision.

Re:So wait a minute... (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249718)

I'm guessing that something's missing from the story here...

They were probably near capacity before the tablets were deployed. NYC has a lot of schools and a lot of teachers and administrators checking their email. The fact that tablets are involved is secondary; if 2000 additional desktops had been deployed, the systems would probably have been overwhelmed as well. My guess is that the email system was deployed years ago, possibly by a consulting firm that is now out of business, and that some poor IT guy has been trying to keep everything together on a shoestring budget all this time. The tablet deployment probably occurred without anyone actually consulting the IT staff to see if the system could handle the extra load, and probably by the same group of decision makers who ignored IT's requests for additional servers prior to the deployment.

Re:So wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249832)

Someone's job is to work out what 2000 extra desktops would mean to system or what any additional demand would be.

Re:So wait a minute... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249950)

Clearly the IT guy should be fired.

Re:So wait a minute... (1)

laird (2705) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249946)

They don't need 5-10 servers.

Keep in mind that they're not talking about adding 2,000 mailboxes, just adding 2,000 devices to access existing mailboxes. So they don't need more storage, just more server compute capacity. If I had to guess, it might be as simple as them running ActiveSynch on a single, under-resourced server (or VM) as a POC, and they didn't expect (or prepare for) the increased demand of 2,000 more tablets. Should be easy to fix. Though inevitably they're trying to do a dozen other things, and it'll take three months to do the paperwork to get the approval to buy a new server and get it deployed. Remember,

Re:So wait a minute... (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250672)

They don't need 5-10 servers.

Keep in mind that they're not talking about adding 2,000 mailboxes, just adding 2,000 devices to access existing mailboxes. So they don't need more storage, just more server compute capacity. If I had to guess, it might be as simple as them running ActiveSynch on a single, under-resourced server (or VM) as a POC, and they didn't expect (or prepare for) the increased demand of 2,000 more tablets. Should be easy to fix. Though inevitably they're trying to do a dozen other things, and it'll take three months to do the paperwork to get the approval to buy a new server and get it deployed. Remember,

Except they specifically said that their servers can't handle the load.... so it sounds like the *do* need more servers.

Which is not a big deal, all it takes is money for licenses and hardware. I don't know why this even made the news, it should read "School bought iPads without appropriate backend infrastructure to support them". It's not like Exchange can't scale to handle a few thousand Activesync devices.

Go figure (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249682)

Lack of resource forecasting/planning will get you every time. Its not like they didn't know how many would be deployed and on what schedule.. geesh

hehe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249724)

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
dumbasses.
"Bill, what do you think we should do? Should we buy $1 million worth of iPads or update our mail server and then use the remaining for iPads?"
"Ummmmmmm...F*#! THE MAIL SERVER! I WANT A MOTHERF#!?IN' IPAD AND SO DO YOU!"
"Yeah, but we could just make sure we are the first in the group that recieves them?"
"DAMNIT MAN I SAID BUY THOSE F#$*IN' IPADS!"

Probably Apple's fault (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249740)

Right?

Teachers should just switch to gmail (0)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249756)

If I were a teacher in NYC, I would just go rogue and use my gmail address. It is very accessible from my new iPad and I can avoid Exchange hell from my school district's IT staff.

Re:Teachers should just switch to gmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38250008)

Except educators are subject to laws dealing with the privacy of student information. Google's terms of service can change at a moment's notice. I'm sure district policy is to restrict all communications with students and parents to only the district-provided email address. In the case of a data breach, an individual teacher would be better protected if they were following district policy. Not to mention the potential creepiness issue of a teacher using personal email to contact students--email that can't be looked at by administrators in the case of accusations of inappropriate behavior, etc.

Now, Google Apps for the district is another story. But going rogue on teacher/student interaction is just a bad idea if you're a teacher.

Re:Teachers should just switch to gmail (2)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250066)

Spoken like someone who knows nothing about email systems.

I am guessing that there are strict restrictions on using external email to relay school information.

After all do you want your information on your childs health, disciplinary issues, grades, concerns over abuse, etc etc. to be stored on googles mail server? I sure as hell dont.

Re:Teachers should just switch to gmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38250400)

@Sprouticus

Spoken like someone without a clue. Our local universities and schools use email services through Gmail and have no issues whatsoever. They got off the M$ standard and have been saving thousands a year, with less complaints from staff and students. It's a lot more secure than that Exchange server, which a 13 year old with halfway decent hacking skills can crack.

Re:Teachers should just switch to gmail (4, Insightful)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250572)

Spoken like someone who knows nothing about email systems.

I am guessing that there are strict restrictions on using external email to relay school information.

After all do you want your information on your childs health, disciplinary issues, grades, concerns over abuse, etc etc. to be stored on googles mail server? I sure as hell dont.

I trust my anonymity with Google more than with a B-grade IT worker at a school district. Imagine 2 possible scenarios:

1. Google does something with my email data i don't like.

2. A disgruntled IT worker at the school district sells my email data for drug money.

#2 is far more likely.

Re:Teachers should just switch to gmail (2)

bytethese (1372715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250126)

Depending on the rules of a particular organization however, you could get fired for that. At my currently employer, you cannot use a personal email address for business purposes. Doing so leaves business records in the cloud and that's a no no. Since this is a public school, I'm guessing that it would also be a no no there too.

oh god! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249788)

WE CAN'T HAVE OFFICIAL SCHOOL EMAIL ON OUR IPADS!!!!!! ANARCHY!!!!
fuck you slashdot! I am yelling! stop filtering my text! I swear I will fucking end you! damnit. okay, that was an empty threat.

Predicting the future (1)

jamesl (106902) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249810)

It's great when a prediction is both public and quantifiable.

Google Apps? (0)

tburke261 (981079) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249858)

Why not go Google Apps? The enterprise version is free for Education and non-profits and has almost all of the features Exchange does (and likely all the features needed by Education). Easy to support and for the most part, hands off. Huge mailboxes, decent sites and docs and a UI that many find better than Outlook.

Disclaimer- I don't work for Google, but I do work for a media company where we rolled out a 5,000 seat Google Apps estate.

Re:Google Apps? (2)

smash (1351) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250014)

Not everybody likes having their data owned by Google.

Not the MTA (0)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38249878)

First, Exchange is not an email server. It is a groupware server. If they are using it as the MTA then they should be shot on sight. That being said, if one machine can not handle 2000 accounts there is something critically wrong with the software or the choice of hardware running it. If they didn't anticipate adding 2000 accounts to an existing system see: shot on sight.

Re:Not the MTA (1)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250118)

yea for sladot. A few corrections

1) Exchange 2010 has a perfectly good MTA. I would argue that MTA's are the least of what a modern email system does.
2) Activesync utilizes 80/443 for connections, not port 25.
3) They are not adding 2000 new accounts, they are adding 2000 new devices to connect to the accounts.
4) In all likelyhood this is a simple issue of the CAS (Client Access Server) not being size right, or not being sized to include the increase in traffic which would occur (mind you the IT dept might not even have known about this deal when it was made. Hard to size something out when you dont know about it.
5) In all likelyhood this is just a matter of throwing hardware at the issue. If the CAS is running on an old server, or is very undersized, you just add a couple of servers into the array to handle the load.

It is not unlike a website getting overloaded and needing more nodes to handle the traffic. Im assuming they are already load balancing of course, but even if they were not it is not a huge deal. I put in an Exchange 2010 2 server CAS Array in 3 hours. configuration took a couple of days.

Re:Not the MTA (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250292)

3) They are not adding 2000 new accounts, they are adding 2000 new devices to connect to the accounts.

If the 2000 accounts existed and different devices are now connecting to them then there is something fundamentally wrong with the software.

Typical... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38249954)

This is the same IT group that closes its employee payroll information site on nights and weekends. Yup, you read that right -- the NYC DoE "Payroll Portal" where 80,000+ employees check their pay stubs is only open during business hours. It's never been clear why that is -- they couldn't possibly have people pulling the data manually for each request, could they? So you teach all day, go home, apply for an apartment, and can't get your pay stubs at 8 p.m. from a system that is touted as convenient and accessible over the public internet.

Point being, this is a function that is probably short on resources, but also fails to make the most of the funding and systems they do have.

Re:Typical... (1)

smash (1351) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250032)

Maybe they're....y'know.... doing a pay run. or maintenance....

Virtualization, Anyone? (2)

arhhook (995275) | more than 2 years ago | (#38250044)

Deploy another host, deploy another template VM to distribute load? Surely it's a plug-in, click/drag fix once they add a new host, right? +1 Scalability.

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