Hardware and performance

 
 
Picture of joe sumpter
Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 

Hello,

We are in the process of locating a large scale Moodle host. We would prefer to use a host that utilzing a configuration similar to the following:

  • Windows Server 2003/2008
  • SQL Server 2005/2008
  • PHP 5.2+
  • FastCGI
  • IIS6+

We are anticipating 100,000+ registered users once the site is up and running over the next year.

Question 1: Is there a recommended Moodle Partner that can support this type of implementation?

Question 2: Are there recommended configurationsfor Moodle to support scalability and redundancy as our site grows?

Question 3: Are there any major concerns we need to be aware of with such a large scale implementation hosted on a Windows platform?

Thanks for your feedback and please feel free to reference previous forums if these questions have been answered before.

 

 
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Picture of Howard Miller
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
Group DevelopersGroup Documentation writersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I wonder why - as you are looking for hosting - that you are so prescriptive about the configuration? I would be quite happy to take on a site for 100,000+ users but I wouldn't want to get into Windows for anything bigger than 5 people and a dog!!
 
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Picture of Greg Lund-Chaix
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 
Seconded. While it's theoretically possible to do it on Windows, I expect the vast majority of experience and expertise out there running large sites is going to be on Linux.

Why run WIMP when you can run LAMP? wink

-Greg
 
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Picture of Murad Jamal
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 

Hi Greg,

do you really advise windows users to move to linux environment ?

in my case, I have not ever used Linux, I also do not know where to start, can you guide me to move to linux world ?

thank you so much in advance !

 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
I'm not Greg. Still I hope my 2 cents are agreeable to you smile

> do you really advise windows users to move to linux environment ?

If they are happy, why should they?

> in my case, I have not ever used Linux, I also do not know where to start, can you guide me to move to linux world ?

If _you_ want to try, then that's a different question. Reading through your journey of learning SVN, then touching CVS and now trying to unlearn SVN to make space for git in the Developer forum, the "steep learning curve" is not too steep for you. Just keep in mind that in the Unix world there is a clear difference between servers and clients [1]. You might want to takle them one by one. Unix comes from the server world, and is still the undisputed leader there. Look at the numer of Unix/Linux amount the top 500 super computers for example, or the Google server farm, or the uptime statistics of the leader server hosters. I advice you strongly to start experimenting with Linux as a server - no GUI please. Debian is a good middle path.

Changing your client is completely different. If you want to see how Linux feels, just throw an Ubuntu-DVD [3] into your laptop and install a dual-boot system. I don't see a reason why you should abondon your Windows laptop right now if you are used to it and you get the job done.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Client_server
[2] http://www.debian.org/
[3] http://www.ubuntu.com/

 
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Picture of Greg Lund-Chaix
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 
do you really advise windows users to move to linux environment ?


That's not what I said. I said:

I expect the vast majority of experience and expertise out there running large sites is going to be on Linux.

That's a very different statement. If I were going to build a new large-scale system, I wouldn't consider using anything but Linux. Moodle is much more heavily tested and used for big systems on Linux than it is on Windows. I've been running Linux systems for 15 years, though, so that's a much easier decision for me. Because you don't have any Linux experience, that makes the decision much more difficult. If I were you, I'd be *very* cautious about building a large system on a platform I don't know - too many opportunities for project-killing rookie mistakes.

I'd recommend two things:

1) Stick with what you know until you have a compelling reason to make a change. Test it on Windows first. Load test it. Push it hard and see if it will hold up under your expected traffic load. If it doesn't handle the load, *then*:

2) Get some help. Hire a consultant. There are many good Moodle partners out there who *do* have the requisite Linux expertise. Hire them to help and teach you what you need to know.

Visvanath's suggestions are good ones. Grab an old desktop and fire up a test system on Ubuntu Server. Play with it, get a feel for it. fire up a LAMP stack on it and load Moodle on there. Learn to love the command line, shell scripting, and all the tools that come with Linux. Get comfortable with Linux in a non-production test environment where it's OK if things go wrong before ever considering to use it in production.
 
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Picture of Murad Jamal
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 

thank you Greg for your advice ..

I will install Linux Ubuntu on my laptop and a second boot option, and start playing with it ...

I heared from a friend of me, that Linux is hard to configure in general, like when you install apache webserver and configure it, it needs some manual tweaks to get working, not like the easyness of windows .. is that right ?

p.s. can I have all my windows apps (for example, Microsoft Office 2007) installed on Linux Ubuntu ? do you have any advice in that ?

 
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Picture of Henning Bostelmann
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
Murad

As for installing Apache: This depends very much on which flavour of Linux you're using. Ubuntu is rather stable in that respect, in my experience. You install Apache using the package manager, and it just runs, no tweaks required. (Of course, if you're planning to run Apache under high load then you will need to make some changes to the configuration, but you would hopefully do the same on Windows machines.)

We run our Moodle installation on Ubuntu Server Edition, and - apart from the Moodle code - we are using only the packages that come with Ubuntu (Apache, PHP, MySQL). It works fine, though of course some Moodle-specific changes to the configuration have been made.

Note that Windows applications can in general not be installed on Linux. In particular, your Office 2007 will not run. (But why would you need it on a Moodle server?) Ubuntu comes packaged with other applications that do the same task, such as (in this case) Open Office. Have a look at the package manager.
 
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Picture of Lindley Bailey
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 

I did the desktop version of Ubuntu and then used the menu to add MySql server

Then sudo aptget moodle (If I remember it right) and had only one configuration change required. I had to add moodle as a local website (in apache) then it just works.

I used this info to add moodle as a second website on my machine:

https://help.ubuntu.com/community/ApacheMySQLPHP

You could do the server version, but then you are limited to adding packages via the command line. (I think)

The desktop version was as easy as XP to install (maybe even easier as I am used to XP not Ubuntu), but it only took me 3 hours to go from bare hard drive to installed, updated, and Moodle running.

When I tried WinXP Pro w/SP2, it took 3 days just to get all the updates installed from MS.

Try the Desktop version, Ubuntu has excellent help pages.

Sincerely

Lin Bailey

 
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Picture of Greg Lund-Chaix
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 
Actually, I disagree on one important point - don't use the desktop version. Use the server distribution. The desktop version installs a *lot* of extra stuff that is irrelevant and unneeded on a server like X, OpenOffice, etc. None of that belongs on a server and shouldn't be installed - especially if you're trying to learn about running a large scale site on Linux.

Install Ubuntu Server and learn to love the command line.
 
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Head
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
I disagree on another point too;

Do not install Moodle via apt-get if you want to learn about maintaining a large site; download the standard package and install it following the docs page here: Manual_installation_on_Ubuntu

Jon
 
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when not driving the keyboard, when not climbing a mountain, when not out in the garden...
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 

Joe,

I would concur with Jon's thought, but would add a couple other specific reasons as to why apt-get is the wrong way to go...

We made this mistake a 2 weeks ago:

a) it installed a 1.9.4 which is now quite old, and doesn't include any of the security fixes which were included in 1.9.7 - the possible savings in time/effort (in going the apt-get route) are easily offset by not having these changes...

b) the 1.9.4 will run, but has been hacked in terms of the included version number, so that when one goes to upgrade to 1.9.7+, the update goes ok until one tries the last step and calls /moodle/admin notifications and is informed that it thinks it's in fact been back leveled...  and will continue to complain about this as long as one is using this installation. The only real fix to this is to start over from scratch, ie, delete/drop the moodle database, and then redefine it, ie, all one's work has gone down a rathole.

c) the incremental time to do a 1.9.7+ install from scratch is maybe 15 minutes greater than using the using apt-get, but one learns a lot about the moodle and its structures in that process, making the 15 minutes well spent.

d) the moodle install docs are quite good - follow the steps from a to b and you'll get there without any fuss.

greg

 
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Picture of Lindley Bailey
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 

Until after my post I thought I had said something intelligent. Now I see how complex and different a small scale/large scale and a desktop/server can be.

This only goes to show there are no stupid questions/answers (I hope you still feel this way), just a lack of understanding by the questioner/answerer.

I had thought that the apt-get process was the way to go. I'll to go back to the sources and reread them again with your observations in mind.

I'm just glad my moodle is still small, so that I can make changes now while it's easy.

Thanks for the discussion, keep it going, as I'm learning a lot.

Lin Bailey

 
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Picture of Murad Jamal
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 

I've just finished installing the desktop version of ubuntu ...

it was like a breeze ...

@Greg:

when I'm a new comer to whole new world, i think it's better to start with small things, then move ahead to big ones ... so I decided to play with the desktop version first until i gain some experience with it, then move to server version.

anyway, one main problem I've faced so far and couldn't solve it although I went deep inside the new OS : it couldn't install my wireless network card !! which the most important part of hardware, that's why I restarted my machine and used Windows OS to type this message to you smile

there is no sign of the wireless network card detection ... can anybody help me with this big issue ?

 
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Head
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
Group Particularly helpful MoodlersGroup Testers
I would search the Ubuntu forums for information about your specific wireless card... I am sure someone there will be able to help.

Jon
 
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Picture of HJWUCGA INC.
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 
Have you actually done a load and concurrent user testing on Windows to justify your decision to go with Windows?

Why Windows and not on a Linux platform? It's easier to configure, restore, troubleshoot and better with threading processes.


 
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Picture of Visvanath Ratnaweera
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
Group Particularly helpful Moodlers
A general discussion "Windows vs. Linux" or "Propriatory vs. OpenSource" is never constructive.

Nevertheles to answer the two specific questions:

> Have you actually done a load and concurrent user testing on Windows to justify your decision to go with Windows?

These are people who offer Moodle commercially to large customers. I don't think they have to justify here why they advice against Windows. My guess is that they must have gone through all this. The point is, nobody is saying you _must_.

> Why Windows and not on a Linux platform? It's easier to configure, restore, troubleshoot and better with threading processes.

If you feel that way, Windows is the right thing for you.
 
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Jason Jolaoso
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 
Well said Visvanath.

From my experience , LAMP users will never ever want to get thier feet wet with Windows - not if they can help it.smile

But then in scenarios where you have to work with the tools you are given to achieve the results required , you swim or you sink.

Windows has worked most large scale database apps I have used and if there is any drawback in these - its because you get easily 'spoilt' with all the GUI's and readily available extensions/add-ons.

Lastline- Please guys this is not a Windows vs. Linux pitch on my part . Its just my way of saying you'll get whatever you want with the tool you are working with - if you look/try hard enough.
 
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Picture of Henning Bostelmann
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
Group DevelopersGroup Particularly helpful Moodlers
I think one should not forget that Moodle is built and tested primarily on the Apache/MySQL stack, and Apache/PHP again is built and tested primarily on Linux.

Without saying that Windows or Linux is better in principle: They are not interchangeable, particularly not in the "performance critical" region. (The original post mentioned 100.000+ registered users, which is certainly a large installation). Thinking that you can just shift a large-scale application from one platform to the other without problems seems naive, to say the least. In these regions, there is no complete independence between the application and the underlying web server/database/OS.

So, while a large Moodle install might in principle work on Windows, be ready for a lot of surprises if you try.
 
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Picture of François Marier
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 
Hi Joe,

We support a few clients on Windows and to be perfectly honest, they would be better off on a LAMP stack (in terms of cost, reliability and scalability).

Operating System-wise, we have seen much lower performance (at least a 20% drop) compared to similar Linux servers.

In terms of the webserver, we have found IIS to be much less reliable than Apache and to require frequent restarts.

As for the database, SQL Server is not very well tested with Moodle, compared to MySQL and Postgres. We regularly see unexpected errors in the logs for example. Also, many of the contrib modules which are available from Moodle.org do not support Oracle or SQL Server very well (not at all in some cases).

Finally, most of the advice/best practice you'll find to build a scalable and large-scale Moodle site assumes a Linux/UNIX environment.

Francois
 
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Picture of joe sumpter
Re: Large scale Moodle Host Questions
 
Thanks everyone for contributing to this discussion. The only reason we are looking at using Windows and SQL Server was due to easier in house supportability. We have a small IT organization and most of our developers are Microsoft trained and unfamiliar with the Linux/Apache/MySQL world. So our first thought was to investigate the feasibility of hosting Moodle in a Microsoft world before transitioning from the dark side into the light smile

Anyway based on the feedback it looks like it's better to run Moodle under LAMP. We are also investigating Joomla so it looks like we would want to begin the transition into the LAMP world anyway.

Thanks again for the feedback and sorry for the delay in response

 
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