What Is A Real Server, Anyway?

An anecdote from the production side. We???re in the midst of a minor squabble over support for a third-party app running on a VM. Read on for the punch line ......

September 22, 2007

3 Min Read
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An anecdote from the production side. We???re in the midst of a minor squabble over support for a third-party app running on a VM. Read on for the punch line ... Following industry trends, we???ve cleared up rack space in our IT center, virtualizing older one-off servers to simplify our environment and help shift the capital budget to more meaningful items. Part of our plan has us running VMware Server (freeware) on a non-VT server to host a few low-demand Windows VMs. Cost savings played into our non-ESX choice; none of the guested apps is a heavy hitter, but all require Windows, so VMware Server was our platform of choice. The host platform has dual cores, 4 GB of memory and a stable Debian base; the VMs are running different flavors of OS (Win2k3, XPPro, etc.) as required by various legacy vendor apps. By and large we've been happy with our low-budget solution.

We had new gear (non-IT stuff) installed as part of recent campus-wide mechanical upgrades (pumps, valves, things that need very large wrenches to fix) offering software-based remote monitoring and control. The minimum specs and system requirements for the vendor management application were modest, so we created a new Win2K3 guest on our Debian/VMware Server, installed the app and everyone was happy.

Our vendor rep was intrigued; one of the biggest hassles these guys deal with is the physical setup and implementation of servers in client sites. He liked the speed of deployment and relative ease of configuration of his app on our VM. Our mechanical folks were happy ???cause they could monitor and fix problems without needing to climb down in a tunnel to flip a valve, and we IT folks were happy ???cause no real pain was involved getting the control app up and running. Then an issue popped up with the new system. We called our local mech systems rep in and the problem was resolved. Then the problem resurfaced. Repeatedly. In a nutshell, the management app was doing a good job polling equipment but seemed to be having a tough time receiving notifications from remote gear. This is not a good thing; when IT logjams occur, bad things happen. When mechanical systems jam up, really bad things can happen.

Our local rep spent a few days going back and forth with his support center. Progress was being made, possibilities were eliminated. The on-site guy had a few things left to run through when he mentioned our VM-config ... and here comes the punch line:

What do you mean ____ isn???t running on a real server? That???s the problem. Put it on a real server.We're running on Win2K3, we said. We have plenty of resources, we said. Um, everything else with the app seems to be running fine ...

But it's not running on a real server.

So we're getting a real server next week. Which will get us back in the good graces of vendor support and will allow us to resume root-cause analysis.

Our local rep doesn't seem to think the VM-ness of our environment is part of the problem.

Based on his level of interest, I suspect he thinks VM-ness might play a big role in future solutions for his company.6618

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