Brien Posey's Windows Blog

Dec 30 2008   5:44PM GMT

The Theory of Evolution

Brien Posey Brien Posey Profile: Brien Posey

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I have finally returned from vacation and dug out from all of the clutter that always seems to accumulate while I am gone. While I wish that I was still in the Caribbean soaking up the sun, I’m ready to get back to business.

In a way my vacation was quite the eye opener for me. No, I didn’t spend my time off optimizing a cruise ship’s or a hotel’s datacenter. Rather it was what happened in my own datacenter while I was gone that was an eye opener.

What happened was a lesson in evolution. Not evolution in the sense that I think that my great, great, great grandfather was a chimpanzee, but in the sense that one of my servers has evolved.

Because I write about so many different types of topics, I had to convert the entire second floor of my home into a datacenter. I spend an astronomical amount of money on hardware each year, and believe me when I tell you that you don’t want my electric bill.

Back in the spring I decided that I could cut costs by buying a really high performance server, and using it to host virtual machines rather than using dedicated hardware for all of my lab servers.  Normally, I attach battery backups to all of my production servers, but I never bothered to buy a battery backup for this machine, because it wasn’t actually a production machine. It is just hosting fifty or so virtual server images, many of which I blow away and recreate on a regular basis.

A couple of months ago though, I started working on a new book. The book’s labs all build on one another, so I have been forced to create virtual machines and maintain them for longer than I normally do.

While I was on vacation, we had several power failures that took this server offline. The power fluctuations corrupted the hard drive containing the operating system. When I remembered that all of the virtual machines that I needed for my book were on the machine and that I have a fast approaching deadline, my heart sank (at least until I remembered that I do back the machine up).

I put a new hard drive in the server, restored my backup, and all was right with the world again, or so I thought. Initially, the RAID array containing all of my virtual machine images seemed to be undamaged. This morning though, I booted one of the virtual machines that I had not used since before my vacation and had a bit of a surprise. I was not able to open any of the management consoles. Every time I tried I received a Class not Registered error.

This error message usually means that a critical DLL file is no longer referenced in the system registry. Since I was up against a deadline I took the lazy way out and reapplied the latest service pack. This corrected the problem quickly and easily. Even so, the whole situation made me realize that servers can go from trivial to mission critical without anyone really realizing it. It has me thinking about what other precautions I need to take to safeguard other machines on my network.

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