This document was last updated June 20, 2017.
Escape Online 5 has been developed using Microsoft .Net architecture. We utilize a 3-tier architecture: client - application servers - database servers. The purpose of this document is to provide initial information regarding hardware and third party software required to implement our system. As hardware and other associated networking gear evolves so rapidly, and each implementation is unique, this document should be used as a guideline when discussing the equipment you will purchase for your implementation.
Also, note that the size of your organization(s) will dictate the hardware selections. Escape Online 5 can scale from a single server implementation for a small district, to nearly the largest COE type operation.
Introduction to Escape Online 5 Architecture
Escape Online uses a three-tier architecture model.
- Client tier. Each user requires an Intel compatible personal computer. The client program is installed once on the PC, and all future updates are automated. Note that Escape Online 5 is not a web-based application; it is a "thin client" application. These PC's do not require a connection to the database server.
- Application Server Tier. This consists of several servers that run the Escape Online 5 server programs. Typically, there is a piece of hardware called a "load balancer" in front of the Application Servers to equalize processing load.
- Data tier. This is the SQL Server database tier, which will be managed by one or more servers.
This architecture makes Escape Online more flexible, manageable and scalable. Advantages include:
- The database is hosted on a server that is not connected directly to the Internet.
- Each tier can be scaled separately, depending upon your requirements.
The following graphically represents the architecture of Escape Online.
The Escape Online 5 server environment is standard to enterprise class ERP systems – several powerful servers and a powerful database environment. The following are brief descriptions of the hardware components that make up the Escape Online 5 system.
App servers host the Escape Online 5 application services. Our system is made up of hundreds of services, which respond to requests by users.
- Clients connect to servers randomly. Having more than one physical server means one entire server can fail and not significantly impact the system.
- Local storage. There is no local storage requirement other than the OS and our service assemblies. Thus, big disks are not required. We are recommending SSDs for speed, power and heat considerations.
- Virtualization. All our customers are using virtualization to enable multiple virtual servers on physical servers. This provides flexibility and performance.
One server acts as the database server, running MS SQL Server. All requests for data from the App Servers are processed by this server. The DB server has higher memory requirements than the App Servers, and the County may want to provide for some local SQL DBs.
Storage Attached Network
Thus far, our customers have experienced peak loads nearing 500 concurrent users. Our customers have had great success with SAN devices, utilizing many individual drives to spread data across numerous “spindles.” These intelligent data storage devices do a great deal of management and optimization themselves, relieving IT staff.
Hardware Load Balancers
Our customers utilize load-balancing devices to spread client connections automatically across application servers. A recent enhancement will probably eliminate the need for these load balancers, but it is still in the testing phase.
Server Operating Systems
Windows Server 2012 R2 is the optimal operation system for both application and database server given it is the latest Microsoft server technology and supports 64-bit applications and hardware. Other supported operating systems include Windows Server 2008 (x86, x64), 2008-R2 (x86, x64), and 2012.
Test Server Requirements
Nearly all our implementations utilize a test server. A test server is also an ideal way to begin an implementation. The application and database server functionality referenced above can be combined on one server, for the purposes of getting the implementation team up and running, working on data conversions and so on. We highly recommend starting with a single test server, to get the system up and running as soon as possible for the implementation team. Most organizations will further utilize the test server for testing new versions, and doing training on a non-production database.
Networks are all about bandwidth. More is always better. As a rich user experience type of application, the Escape Online 5 system moves significant amounts of data between client and server.
Typically, the network within a given organization is not really an issue. The issue is the network between the application servers and the clients. There are two factors to consider - bandwidth and load. For districts having sites utilizing technology such as DSL or ISDN, performance will be less than desirable if there is much other load on the connection besides the Escape traffic. With many networks, the web access for teachers and students also use the same connection, and their activities put a load on the connection.
Even T-1 connections can be overwhelmed with web traffic. We suggest that the business office traffic be separated from teacher/student web traffic, in order to have a consistent level of service.
In general, you want the most bandwidth that is available. We can discuss any bandwidth limitations in your network as part of the implementation.
As technology has become more mobile and schools implement data intensive devices across their networks it may become necessary to prioritize network traffic. Technology departments may need to take advantage of Quality of Service (QoS) technologies to allow for a more consistent data work environments for school business officials.
Our desktop client is a lightweight “presentation engine,” a true Windows EXE. Disk requirements are negligible (30 mb). Power users process a lot of data with our application, thus it does require a reasonably up-to-date desktop to achieve reasonable performance.
Optimal desktop performance is obtained from multi-core computer systems running with 2.0 GHz+ Processor and 4GB+ of RAM. Supported operating systems include Windows XP, Windows Vista (x86, x64), Windows 7 (x86, x64 - Windows 7-x86 is recommended), Windows 8 (x86, x64), Windows 8.1 (x86, x64), and Windows 10. The minimum screen resolution is 1024x768.
The recommended desktop setup is an Intel i7 based machine, with 4GB+ of RAM. Multiple processing cores on workstations allow multiple applications to process work on dedicated processors, greatly improving overall system performance.
For tablets, we recommend Windows-based devices, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet.
In addition, users may also want to have the latest version of Microsoft Office products. Escape Online supports direct export to Microsoft Excel from lists and reports. In addition, reports also export to Microsoft Word and a variety of other formats, including PDF, RTF, XML, HTML, CSV, and plain text.
For the Employee Online portal, the minimum width is 1024px.
As for specifics, we have different requirements for different configurations, depending upon your needs. Please review the section that most closely resembles your organization.
- County System Requirements
- Stand-alone District System Requirements
- Small County System Requirements
These requirements are really recommendations that you should consider and discuss with Escape Technology, your IT staff, and your vendors.
Small County System Requirements
We define a small COE to have approximately 15,000 ADA or less.
For small COEs, we have a cloud-based solution we call XCOE, where Escape Technology provides the proper hardware, software and application, in a hosted environment, so you can spend more time focusing on organizational and educational needs.
The only technology required for XCOE is an adequate connection to the internet and our client software on your PCs/laptops. (This is easy!)
For more information about our XCOE solution, check out our Project XCOE page.