PowerSchool migration to VMware

The last couple of days have been busy with VMware and PowerSchool. We’ve had a consultant in working with us, and it was the perfect opportunity to migrate our student information system (SIS), PowerSchool, in to our VMware environment. I was planning on leaving PowerSchool as one of the our last physical servers to move in to the virtual environment, but given we had the experience on site to do it and I was confident in how VMware has been running, I thought we may as well give it a go. If nothing else, could simply roll back to the single physical server.

But, it all actually went fairly smoothly. I built up a template for Win 2k3 Enterprise with the base config and software, then deployed to 4 new virtual machines. One of these is running Oracle for the backend database, two are running the PowerSchool application node, with one being designated for general staff + parent logins, and the other for teachers and grading, and a final server dedicated to serving images, scripting and PHP reports. I have also snap-shot’d the database VM and one of the application nodes to be used for testing reports and in training sessions. Add in the new SIF ZIS which will be being deployed by the state over the summer, and that gives 7 virtual servers for PowerSchool, a far cry from the reliance and strain on a single physical server.

I’m really happy with how the migration went, as it really showed the power our VMware environment provides in terms of flexibility and resources. It also takes a huge weight off my shoulders, as we’ve never been able to successfully recover from a simulated failure using the backups due to the complexity of the integration between components, so with using straight vRanger Pro snapshots of the entire virtual machines, I can recover in minutes. I can also easily duplicate entire servers for testing updates, new releases (such as the upcoming PowerSchool 6), or for training purposes. Given PowerSchool is such a core system alongside FileMaker, both of which now run in our VMware environment, my management work load and stress levels should hopefully ease up considerably!

We still have a little work to do tomorrow – I’d like to automate a snapshot of the Oracle VM to a test VM that can be used by staff for building reports or whatever, though due to the way the database is tied in to the host IP, will need a little scripting. I’d also like to duplicate one of the application nodes and set it aside for testing the upgrade to PowerSchool 6. Is all positive stuff though, and giving me a lot of confidence in systems moving forward.


Senior Content Development for Microsoft writing about Azure virtual machines. Occasionally I play video games.

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4 comments on “PowerSchool migration to VMware
  1. DT says:
    Mozilla Firefox 3.0.10 Windows XP

    what did you find were the MINIMUM hardware requirements to run PowerSchool virtually?

  2. fouldsy says:
    Mozilla Firefox 3.0.4 Mac OS X 10

    Our VM’s are still deployed with 2 vCPU’s 4Gb RAM running Win 2k3 Enterprise as per the PowerSchool minimum requirements, however I know it will happily run on Win 2k3 Std too. In terms of what we’re utilizing, under 1Gb of RAM generally unless you’re running a lot of reports, though CPU usage, especially on the Oracle VM can easily start getting up to 2Ghz again. I guess it would depend on the size of your environment in terms of how many users you’re supporting, whether you’re running attendance and grading through it a lot, etc.

  3. Michael says:
    Mozilla Firefox 3.0.11 Windows Vista

    Did you use a cold clone CD for this.

    Shutdown the servers … insert CD… migrate …

  4. fouldsy says:
    Mozilla Firefox 3.0.10 Mac OS X 10

    We went from a single physical PowerSchool server running Oracle, the PowerSchool node itself, serving images, etc. to 4 virtual servers to split the load. I built a single VM as required, saved as a template and then deployed to create our additional VM’s. Oracle was installed on one, PowerSchool nodes on two, and one with Apache for image server. I then exported our existing Oracle database, imported to the new Oracle server, moved the custom pages to a sharepoint for the new PowerSchool nodes, etc. The PowerSchool documentation on moving to a new server, setting up a server array and creating an image server are very good and fairly straightforward.

    In general when P2V’ing servers to a VMware environment, I’d use the Enterprise Converter CD, yes, certainly if trying to do an Oracle or SQL server. It’s just a little safer in my opinion. It’s a big database, not worth risking it for the sake of not having an hour’s downtime doing it as a cold clone. Even once running, I’d be exercise caution trying to clone the actual running VM for dev purposes or using the VMware snapshots too much and then trying to merge them back.

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About Me

Iain Foulds, 33 years old. Originally from England, now living in Seattle. I currently work as a Senior Content Developer for Microsoft writing about Azure VMs. Gamer. Very passionate about photography. Comments and opinions expressed here are my own. More...