Building the Flaming Dog Lanfestival environment

One of the fun things I get to do is co-organizing the Flaming Dog Lanfestival, where my main responsibility is to design, build and manage the networking infrastructure.

About the Flaming Dog Lanfestival

Last year Michiel de Jongh and I organized the Flaming Dog Lanfestival for the first time. This event is sponsored by OGD, our employer. In the weekend of 7th,8th and 9th of July 2007 we set up an event in Delft, the Netherlands where game-enthusiasts could play games on their PC's, watch movies in the cinema, compete against each other in the Dutch Open Allround Gaming and relax in the lounge. The event was a great event last year and our boss agreed to organize it again this year.

Microsoft products and services

Last year we didn't have much options. The infrastructure servers were Windows Server 2003-based, the game servers (4 in total) were equipped with Windows XP and the PC's dedicated to the Dutch Open were installed with Windows XP as well. One might argue this setup was conservative. I agree, but bare in mind this was our first experience with this kind of event. After organizing everything else (location, finances, licenses, permits, marketing, sleeping accommodations, lighting, sound, print, etc) there simply wasn't enough time to do things cool from a technology point of view.

This year the list with Microsoft products is slightly longer:

  • Windows Server 2008
  • Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2006
  • Windows Server 2003 R2
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
  • XBox 360
  • Active Directory Domain Services (ADDS)
  • SysInternals BGInfo

The products are Microsoft latest and greatest (where possible) and their installations are targeted on their intended use. Luckily there is also more time available, which results in this post. (among other things)

 

Overview

Windows Server 2008 Server Core Domain Controllers

I'll be working with Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008 to provide Active Directory Domain Services (ADDS) to the network. These services will be needed for our ISA Server Enterprise Array and for management of the four Game Servers. I installed two Read-Write Domain Controllers for redundancy purposes.

I installed Windows Server 2008 Standard without Hyper-V (Server Core) on the two machines that I designated as my two Domain Controllers. These two machines are Dell Optiplex GX260 boxes, with one Pentium 4 2,0GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 20GB hard disk and a ATi Radeon 9800Pro video card each. Both boxes installed Windows Server 2008 without any glitches. The hardware I needed worked without adding drivers.

These boxes might not be all that, but I have loads of them available and they are definitely up for the job of Domain Controller!

For more information on creating your own Server Core Domain Controllers read my May 2007 post on Installing Server Core Domain Controllers.

These boxes are not to be Domain Controllers pur sang. I installed them with a couple more roles and services:

  • Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
  • Domain Naming System (DNS)
  • Distributed File System (DFS)

File Servers with Distributed File System

Both Domain Controller were also file servers, equipped with Distributed File System. There were three types of files on these servers:

    1. Game updates & patches
    2. Photos
    3. Videos

20GB of course isn't far from enough for installing Windows and acting as a File Server. Using the much loved orange LaCie Rugged USB drives provided up to 160GB of sheer file sharing pleasure. USB drives can't be striped or mirrored in Windows, but this wasn't a problem, because we created redundancy using Distributed File System. For more information on Distributed File System on Server Core installations take a look at the Distributed File System portion of my Kitchen Cupboard SC'enario.

ISA Server 2006 Enterprise Array

Consisting of two of the same Dell Optiplex GX260 boxes the Flaming Dog Lanfestival also features an Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2006 Enterprise Array.

The location for the Lanfestival doesn't feature a sewer pipe diameter type of broadband connection (2Mbit to be exact), which is a slight problem if you want to offer Internet access to 250 persons, a couple of XBoxes and upload pictures to the Flaming Dog website at the same time. This is where the transparent proxy feature of ISA Server came in.

Due to legislation and the possibility we get raided by the Dutch government we wanted to control the (kinds of) traffic that passed to the Internet and where the possibly malicious traffic originated. This is where the logging feature of ISA Server helped us.

A lot of people and processes depended on the availability of the Internet. Certain games didn't even allow multi-player action without an Internet connection. This is why Paul and I opted for an ISA Server Enterprise Array. Paul and I installed and configured the stuff in the following manner:

  1. Installed two Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2 boxes *
  2. Joined the boxes to the domain
  3. On the first box we installed the Configuration Store server and the ISA Services. We opted to create an Enterprise Array. Paul added the internal ranges and allowed non-encrypted firewall connections. (this basically allows everyone to access the Internet without the need for a firewall client or proxy settings)
  4. The second box received a replica of the Configuration Store and the ISA Server media. This box was made part of the ISA Server Array using Windows Authentication.
  5. After the initial configuration we configured some basic firewall rules.

* Remember: ISA Server doesn't run on Windows Server 2008

Windows Vista Ultimate

Dutch Open gaming rigs

The Dutch Open featured 10 Gaming rigs, based on Dell XPS 420 systems. I installed 11 of these boxes with Windows Vista Ultimate with SP1, together with the games we played:

I am very pleased with these rigs, as they offer superior processor power (Intel Quad Core processor), 2GB of RAM, 2 250GB Hard disks in RAID1 and a SlideShow MiniView screen.

We bought these boxes because we needed to replace some older rigs. Keith Combs' write-up led to a better understanding of them. The ability to host a PCI-x SCSI controller and two additional SCSI drives (for VMWare purposes) was decisive. The MiniView is considered to be a little bonus. (We haven't found any use for it yet)

The decision to equip the Dutch Open gaming rigs with Windows Vista SP1 instead of Windows XP SP3 was easy. ExtremeTech proved Windows Vista SP1 is on par with Windows XP SP3 and Crysis (not a Dutch Open game, but nice to have on these rigs to kill time) simply looks better on Windows Vista, because of DirectX 10.

Game servers

Next to our 10 Dutch Open rigs we needed a couple of boxes to act as game servers to host gaming sessions for mini competitions. (like Call of Duty 4, Battlefield 2 and CS:Source) I decided to dedicate my trustworthy Dell Dimension 9200 boxes to this purpose. You might remember these from my earlier adventures. I joined these boxes to the domain so I could easily put game admins in charge of these servers. Configuring screen savers, remote desktop settings and local security group membership (restricted groups) through Group Policies was real pleasing. Configuring Active Directory user accounts to only be able to log on to certain servers provided the needed granularity in Game Server administration.

XBox 360 consoles

Microsoft Netherlands generously devoted 6 XBox kiosks to our event. This type of pillar is usually found in toy shops, so they were good to go in our environment.

 

Concluding

Being responsible to make an event like this happen from a technology point of view isn't difficult, when you choose the right products, have enough resources and can spend time building your infrastructure.

Speaking of resources… I guess I did something wrong, since I'm typing this from my graveyard shift. Being responsible for something sometimes sucks, especially when your infrastructure is performing as it should and you end up writing this kind of silly stories…

Thanks

I like to thank Paul, Michiel, Liv, Daniel, Rinaldo, Joeri and everybody else that helped to make the Flaming Dog Lanfestival happen from a technology point of view. I appreciate your help and support. You guys are the best!