Egmont Højskolen is an inclusive folk high school in Denmark with about 120 employees and 220 students. To manage multiple servers for different purposes and to provide service for IT equipment like PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones to its staff and students, the school uses Proxmox VE to simplify the IT infrastructure.
Today, Proxmox VE is the virtualization solution of choice for Egmont Højskolen and the team manages a production cluster with eight Proxmox VE hosts providing live migration, a NFS-based shared-storage system, and clustering. Additionally, the school has a test cluster with four hosts functioning as their playground for testing ‘stuff’.
Virtualization to cope with increasing complexity of IT
“At the school we have to manage a lot of IT equipment, including many stationary computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. And we run quite a lot of servers for different purposes. One of our main challenges is to keep the servers up and running all the time. And also to move everything from a backup to a new physical machine if something breaks. Today we use Proxmox Virtual Environment.”
Egmont Højskolen is a danish folk high school, which is a special kind of boarding school for pupils over the age of 18. Students typically spend six months at the school engaging in all kinds of subjects from philosophy, arts, sports, and many others.
“One special thing about our school is that some of our students have a disability in one way or the other,” says Hans Otto Lunde, teacher and system administrator at Egmont. “But most of them have none, and the big idea is to live inclusion and to teach both groups, that we can perfectly live together - despite being different. This is our most important value: Respect for and solidarity with others. We call it a kind of ‘life-education’. Our goal is to prepare the students for their studies and jobs. But mainly, we hope that the students will leave us being wiser and happier, than they were before coming to Egmont Højskolen.”
From XenServer to Proxmox VE
“Around 2015, we started looking into virtualization with the goal to stop the ever increasing complexity in our IT department. We evaluated XenServer and VMware, and I also had an eye on Proxmox VE. Our main limitation was the budget. Like many other schools, we can't just go and buy the newest and fanciest hardware.”
“In the end we decided to go with XenServer. But then, about two years ago, we started to have hardware problems with the blade server system running XenServer. We had to move everything onto a temporary system, the "quick & dirty" way, and immediately started to re-evaluate different virtualization solutions.”
Building our own system
“Finally, we decided to build our own system. On Ebay, we bought three blade systems, each of them with four physical servers with two Xeon CPUs each. We also invested in a NAS storage system with a lot of hard disk space and redundancy - a highly available system with two NAS servers mirroring each other. And we bought two 10 GB/s switches that are tied together for redundancy and connect the blade servers to the storage system.“
Proxmox VE with interface for live migration and clustering
“Me and my colleague really like open-source software. Looking again at Proxmox VE it was clear, that it had evolved massively, since I had last tested it. It’s VERY stable, and it gives us the possibility to live migrate servers from one Proxmox VE host to another. Additionally, it has a really nice interface, which you can access from any [!] member host of the cluster.”
“Sometimes a host has a kernel update and needs to be restarted. But with Proxmox VE we can theoretically keep all the VMs running forever – you just migrate the VMs away from the hosts that needs the update, and then back again.”
Implementation: Proxmox VE cluster setup at Egmont
Currently, Egmont school has ended up with a traditional Proxmox VE setup, and they run the VM's off a NFS-based shared-storage system. In total they have eight hosts in a production cluster and four hosts in a test cluster, the latter being the playground to try out "stuff".… .
“Proxmox is a modern company and their software is open-source licensed with the AGPL v3, so anyone can download it and use it for free. They do this by utilizing other free and open-source software like the Linux-kernel with KVM, Corosync, Ceph, and other projects. And they tie all these technologies together in an integrated "package", so we don't have to do that. A very nice package, indeed.”
Supporting the support team
“The Proxmox team makes money by providing expertise and support to customers like us. And indeed, they are very good at it. Why we decided to buy a subscription, although we could download the software for free? We tried it out, and it was so convincing, that we kept it. It is clear to us, that all the software development, the Proxmox team does, needs some financial backing.”
“This is why we subscribed to the Proxmox support service that gives us the possibility to get technical support from them whenever we need it. Although we are quite tech-savy guys at Egmont Højskolen, we might need support one day…you never know. And the Proxmox guys are certainly more ‘techy’ than us with regards to Proxmox VE…”
“More power to them.”
Hans Otto Lunde
Højskolelærer/Systemadministrator, Egmont Højskolen
About Egmont Højskolen