Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Virtualization on the Servers

I attended a virtualization conference with VMware presenting here in Vancouver.

I have used virtualization for some years on a desktop environment. On your OS of choice, setup VMware Server (or Player), then install any other OS of choice into a virtual environment. Very slick. Run your desktop of choice, a Linux distribution I hope(!) and then if you must, run Windows XP within a virtual environment.

Thats all great - been there, doing that!

What I started to get interested in is how to reduce the number of physical servers in our server room. For a small to medium sized corporation we have a large number of boxes to manage. The logical place to start, those nice shiny new HP servers we got (and haven't been used yet). We have two HP ProLiant DL380 G5 servers, 8 GB RAM, two Xeon quad-core CPUs, redundant power and drives - these are sweet boxes. We purchased on the intent that they would be J2EE application servers for our newly developed primary application - except they will be underutilized for 12-18 months. These babies are too sexy to just leave around.

Enter virtualization!

Before I call up VMware for pricing and get on their mailing list for nagging, I thought to try out Xen. It has been included in the enterprise-ready Linux distributions for a short while. It takes a different approach to virtualization and though I don't have the knowledge to tell you which is better, Xen's hypervisor approach seems to be the logical way to go. So I install XenSource XenEnterprise onto one of my sexy boxes.

Let me say that virtualization is very cool - no matter how you look at it! But using Xen on the server is (almost) better than sex!

I set up 4 of the 8 CPUs on the one server plus 4 GB RAM to be the J2EE virtual environment. Running a test J2EE environment under Debian GNU/Linux is liightening fast. We will be doing more tests, with diagnostics, but comparing to a handful of development environments the virtual environment flys.

That wasn't all. I installed Windows XP Pro as a 1 CPU, 512 MB RAM virtual environment for doing some testing of the Java client application. I will also be installing other virtual environments to max out the resources before we continue into diagnostics.

There are a few concerns with going the XenSource route rather than VMware - but the cost savings alone is incredible. We are not yet done evaluation but the more I play the sexier it all is!

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