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I'm writing up a cost analysis report on migrating in-house users from standalone workstations to thin-clients connected to a rack mounted server running Windows Server 2008 with RDS (formally TS). I was thinking of using HP's T5145 thin-client as the users would need dual-monitor support.

My question lies with the rack server(s) I'll be purchasing to host the virtual machines. I'd love to hear some suggestions on which rack products I should be looking at to get the most bang for my buck. Initially I would be looking at migrating 10 users, possibly 20. These users would be using in-house data-entry applications, light web browsing, and word processing. Nothing Currently they're mostly using 3 year old WinXP workstations (P4 2.4, 1GB DDR).

I have been looking at Dell's PowerEdge servers but I'm new to RDS and I'm not quite certain the processing power and memory I'm going to need for such an endeavor. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Thank you all very much.

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Any Nehalem (Xeon 5500 series) based server will work fine for your purpose. The platform is designed to play very well in virtual environments, and this means, among other things, the ability to use huge amounts of RAM (and RAM is the one thing you should be very generous with). In the PowerEdge line, the choice would be between R610 and R710 systems, HP Proliant has similar servers with their DL3x0 G6 models. As long as you stick to 4GB DIMMs, you'll see that memory upgrades are dirt cheap, so get loads of it. Start with one CPU, then if you see that to be too little, get a second one. Considering the performance of these systems (we're running R710 for some pretty heavy Oracle stuff, and it's incredible), you will probably be able to move all your users to a single server (or two, if you want redundancy).

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Thank you for your comment. The solution could have been given to either of based on the usefulness of your reply but yours was in first. Thanks again, this information has been incredibly helpful. –  JohnyD Oct 19 '09 at 10:55

We run under peak load about 50 users on a single RDS, and a lot of it depends on whether or not you enable the "Desktop Experience". Desktop Experience runs best under 32-bit colour (default is 16-bit), and loads a lot of additional bitmaps. We keep it disabled, but our users have a traditional desktop for these duties. For a thin-client that might be worth while.

Two monitors will also increase the stress on the servers. Try running a single full-screen desktop session, and then run /span (on a normal windows MSTSC session) and see the difference... althoug this could be due to inefficiencies at multi-monitor spanning in the RDP client.

So, for 50 users consuming a maxium of 300Mb of RAM (average about 100Mb) we run a Dual-Quad-Core 2.1Ghz and 24gb of RAM. The memory utilisation is massive overkill (but room for growth is a good thing), we rarely ever hit 50% utilisation.

Our users are all remote, so we throttle things back visually, but even at 32-bit colour, dual desktops and desktop experience I doubt you will saturate a 1Gb link on 10-20 users. Make sure your network cards are LACP compatible if you want to add more bandwidth later (if users start to see choppy video performance).

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