Transformation of a computer into something less 
Wednesday, 9 December, 2009, 02:34
Posted by Administrator
The idea and practice of virtualization has been around for a long time. I've been messing with it since 2006, when Microsoft made Virtual PC 2004 free. I didn't touch hardware-assisted virtualization until Virtual PC 2007 came out, but pushed further with Xen, VirtualBox, and Hyper-V recently. The concept of virtualization is certainly not foreign to me, nor are the concepts of its execution (including some silly stuff like virtualizing database servers).

However, until today I had no experience in virtualizing a machine. By that I mean I have never converted a physical computer into a virtual machine. Sure, I've set up a virtual machine with a configuration identical to that of a physical one, and I've migrated the roles and applications over with the purpose of decommissioning the old hardware. Today, though, I took a machine that was up and running and essentially moved it from its physical hardware to a file on a disk.

Think about that for a second. Here I had a pretty low-end server (Pentium 4 3.0GHz w/HyperThreading, 1GB RAM, two 80GB IDE hard disks in software RAID 1 with 72GB used, Windows Server 2003 Standard, SQL Server 2005 Developer, SVN, IIS, blah blah blah) and, after just under an hour, the physical computer could be turned off with no loss in data or services. As an added bonus, because the host's processors and hard disks are ridiculously quick (dual Xeon E5540s and a RAID 60 composed of thirty 146GB 15,000RPM SAS disks), the virtual machine is actually faster than the old physical one.

So ... here's a machine that stood on the floor of a server room, taking up roughly 2.85 cubic feet of space (18.5 in x 10.25 in x 26 in, specifically). Now that this conversion is complete, that floor space is free. The machine now exists as a single 80GB file on a disk array in a server rack. It no longer consumes any physical space. The machine's power supply is no longer drawing current; instead, the current draw of the host machine rises a little bit. The fans are no longer dumping heat into the server room; instead, the heat output of the host machine and its disk arrays increases ever so slightly. Hardware that moves and stores bits has become just that -- bits. So freaking cool.

Now, I know I did pretty much nothing in this process apart from loading and configuring the operating system on the new host machine, installing the software that made this P2V conversion possible, and entering the usernames and passwords required to perform this task. But, in the end, it's damn cool, and I can say I've done this now. There's another, identical (hardwarewise) old server sitting on the floor of the server room right now. That is the next one on the P2V list. After that ... there are 4 more old servers remaining. One will be replaced by a virtual machine (rather than P2Vd itself), one will be replaced by new hardware, one will simply be shut down, and one needs to stay as-is until a certain specific plan is completed.
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