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Operating Systems

Journal somersault's Journal: Virtualisation 2

So I finally got round to trying virtualisation :) When I looked at it before most options were rather expensive or limiting. Of course when I first looked at it I had the idea that I'd prefer to have direct disk access rather than run from a fake hard drive, but I can see the logic in keeping the hard drives in files as it will make it much easier to transfer the VMs between machines and create full backups really quickly.

I've been meaning to look into this for months, but have been busy with coding and generally keeping things running as they are while at work. I'm often stuck between "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and the knowledge that I could improve the way things are working around here if it weren't for the fact that there are workers in Houston who need to connect into our network til about midnight UK time, so any serious maintenance I want to do I've had to do at midnight on a friday night. At home I spend most of my time playing the PS3 or watching movies, though this past weekend I finally remembered to try setting up a VM.

I have been using OSX exclusively at home and decided that I may as well run OSX at work too, with an XP VM for the things that need XP (Outlook, Windows development IDEs.. and I guess Winamp :p ), while the rest of the stuff I use (Firefox, Apache, perl, and even Remote Desktop) all have native OSX versions.

After a test of this I may consider rolling VMs out onto some of our servers, but I'm not convinced that the overhead involved in running several OSes instead of one will be worth it when it comes to server performance - especially when it comes to memory. Exchange likes its memory. Hardware permitting though, it would be pretty cool to be running a Linux base OS (which wouldn't need rebooting very often, if at all) and some Windows Server stuff on top, with different services across different VMS, so that if one service screws up it can be rebooted (or otherwise sorted, but reboots are usually a good start) without affecting anything else, and it would be easier to do stuff like roll back patches. Our fastest server is a dual core Opteron with 4GB of RAM - which to me doesn't seem suitable for server virtualisation. We're also going through a bit of a cash crisis at the moment (the sales department haven't been doing their job very well!), so I'm definitely not going to ask to upgrade any servers at the moment, but I'll bear it in mind for the next round of hardware :)

I'm also interested to see if any of our engineering packages can run properly on VMs (would probably require a decent level of OpenGL support to run at anything near acceptable speeds), and then I'd be justified in buying something like an 8 (or more :D ) core beast with oodles of RAM and a massive RAID array, then have the engineers remote desktop into it when they need to do heavy calculations. At the moment we have a couple of machines for fluid dynamics or stress calculations so that a solve can be left running without slowing down other work, but they are only running XP Pro and therefore can only have one user logged in at a time obviously.

If anyone reads this I'd be interested to hear what they have been doing with Virtualisation? One of the most basic and practical ideas I've heard is that someone does all his browsing in a VM - that's a great idea from a security standpoint, but if it requires keeping a spare copy of XP going just to browse then it is perhaps a bit wasteful. Running a browser in DSL could be a good idea from a resources standpoint, but then you can't use Internet Explorer for the very few sites that may still require it (though you could always install WINE). Thankfully I haven't seen any sites recently that don't work in Firefox :)

I do ramble a bit, sorry if my sporadic thoughts smack slightly of ADHD, or if my thinking is still a bit behind the bleeding edge - I am perfectly capable when it comes to technology and especially computers, but since I moved away from home I no longer spend all my spare time in geeky pursuits, as my friends have always been more interested in stuff like music and film. I love music and films too of course, but I often forget how much of a geek I really am deep down ;) It's funny to hear my friends or people on radio/TV talk about computers, you just have to laugh (or sometimes, cry) at how clueless they are. I've spent my whole life using computers so I just know so many things that seem so obvious to me, but other people only know what's going on onscreen and often have no clue of what's happening underneath. But I digress (massively, uncontrollably, neurotically). I shall stop here and let others either tear me apart or provide useful and informative discussion.

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  • I'm looking into going the VM route here too... multi-server environment that I'm looking to consolidate as part of my greening process. Currently pushing 60KvA (IE: 200kBTU/hr) through a server room designed for 1/4 that, so there's a tipping point for heat that I'm looking to avoid as well. While I can't bring new boxen online, nobody said I can't use my old software distribution server (recently replaced) to VM a couple of non-critical functions (Archive File storage, print server, etc...). I would l
    • Yeah we're approaching the limits of our server room power capacity as well. The whole thing isn't exactly very well organised - it has grown organically over the last 15 years or so, and so we have a 200Mhz Windows 2000 Server box running alongside a dual core Windows 2003 box, with services spread all over the place.

      I've been here full time for about 3 years now, I've consolidated Exchange onto one server instead of being spread across two, and also moved DNS and DHCP over to that server, and that was eno

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