Implementing Large NT Networks in a Heterogeneous Computing Environment at SLAC


Freddie Chow, Andrea Chan, Jonathan Wong


Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

Stanford, California


  • SLAC Environment
  • Support Model and Issues
  • Central Management Software
  • NTrigue

SLAC Environment

  • 500 Windows NT
  • 200 Windows 3.x
  • 700 Macintosh
  • 700 UNIX and X Terminals
  • 200 VMS Workstation

Driving Force for NT

  • PeopleSoft business application to replace application on mainframe
  • Availability of large number of applications

Issues Shared with Other Research and Academic Institutions

  • Limited resources
  • Budgets, decisions and computing support are at the departmental level
  • Lack of centralization and standards

Former Support Model

  • A few people at central computing services
  • Network of casual support persons from departments

This was OK when primary computing was done on VM, VMS, UNIX and PC's and Macintoshes were secondary.

Need for Change in Support Model

  • Windows NT becomes a mission-critical computing platform
  • Inadequate support level have impact on productivity
  • Windows NT is more reliant on servers and network
  • Proper implementation of security becomes important
  • Need for better-trained system administrators

Emerging Support Model

  • Central servers support and central services support
  • Centralized coordination of client support with department system administrators
  • Department system administrators are responsible for their areas - good response time, customized service
  • Centralized programs for software and hardware bulk purchase at discount prices
  • Persuasion to achieve consensus rather than dictating

Policies from Hard Lessons

  • Single site-wide NT user account
  • Establishing domain policies
  • Windows 95 usage guidelines

Domain Policy

  • All NT workstations must join a domain
  • Adequate hardware configurations for domain controllers
  • Every domain to have Primary Domain Controller, 2 Backup Domain Controllers, UPS and be in secured area
  • Domain system administrators should be technically proficient, wear a pager and implement alert paging where possible
  • Domain system administrators should implement security fixes

Windows 95 Policy

Windows 95 is not supported, but we give guidelines for networking because many visiting collaborators bring in Windows 95 laptops for short periods.

Usage Guidelines

  • Report machine to department system administrator at arrival
  • Department system administrator checks for proper configuration
  • Revert to original configuration at departure if possible, and reclaim IP address

Central Management Software

  • Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS)
  • NICE/NT by CERN (European Laboratory for Particle Physics)

Comparison of Two Models

  • Commercial off-the-shelf versus home-developed
  • Windows NT-only versus mixed with Novell NetWare

What SMS Provides

  • Electronic software distribution
  • Automatic software and hardware inventory
  • Remote troubleshooting
  • Can be implemented in current setup

Requirement of SMS

  • Dual Pentium Pro 200 MHz, 256MB RAM
  • adequate disk space depends on software
  • 100Mb network interface card for SMS and SQL Server
  • Adequate planning and testing before deployment

Small Scale Implementation

  • Upgrading NT 3.51 to NT 4.0
  • Some applications installed


  • Insignia Solution, Inc. product for multi-user Windows NT 3.51
  • Supported clients UNIX, Macintoshes, all versions of Windows
  • For UNIX and Macintoshes to access Windows-only applications


  • Set up good policies and procedures before implementing large-scale Windows NT network
  • Good planning on domain model in coordination with department system administrators
  • Sufficient training of system administrators
  • Early adoption of central management software/tools

[SLAC Home Page] [SLAC Windows NT Home Page]

Andrea Chan
Freddie Chow
Jonathan Wong

16 August, 1997 Talk at USENIX 'Large Scale System Administration of Windows NT Workshop'