Migrating to virtualized environment purely to retain support for legacy software

15 pts.
business case
Legacy software
Hi I have a software system distributed across multiple servers that's getting a bit long in the tooth, in that it uses (soon-to-be) unsupported versions of Windows and archaic versions of various third party software products, all running on pretty old hardware. There is therefore a risk that the failure of a non-replaceable hardware part could lead to major problems - specifically that the existing OS & other software will not run on newly procured hardware. Options to address this risk would include (A) upgrade all of the software products concerned or (B) migrate to a virtualized environment (whereby the exact same third party products would run under the exact same operating systems, albeit hosted by a spanking new server & OS). My question concerns option B. If the core aim of the exercise is purely to maintain the status quo of the current software, as a general principle would you consider this a legitimate motivation to virtualize? (By 'maintain the status quo' I mean that the potential benefits of virtualization such as server consolidation, ease of deployment, failover, DR etc are nice-to-have but not essential.)

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Absolutely I would consider moving old as hell servers into a VM to keep the status quo a good reason to do so (and I have done so in the past). I’ve moved machines that were getting close to 10 years old running Windows NT 4 and SQL 6.5 into a VM so they would run for ever after enough fans in the server failed that the machine wouldn’t fire up (we had to borrow fans from another server of the same age to get the machine up so that we could P2V the server then return the fans to the other machine).

While we would like to always be able to upgrade to the latest and greatest of all software packages some just can’t be done. There is no upgrade path, the upgrade is to expensive, the vendor doesn’t exist any more, etc.

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  • JuSi
    Thanks for the response. My reason for asking what appears to be a no-brainer is that the general impression I have (gleaned from local IT expertise and online) is that migrating to a virtualized environment is (a) a major investment of capital/time/effort in terms of deployment, configuration, testing and support and (b) should really be undertaken as part of a long-term strategy whose ultimate goals are to develop an architecture that will enable the system to grow/develop/adapt. (The bespoke software within my system is still subject to continual support & enhancement.) I should also point out that the system in question is a mission critical 24/7 production system.
    15 pointsBadges:
  • Bpina
    If you are willing to handle failover tasks manually, or simply don't need the advanced features available with the paid for versions of VMware or Citrix Xen, you can use the free versions they offer to support old applications and OS'es for just the cost of decent server hardware. The free version of Citrix Xen in particular is an excellent virtualization platform, it offers most of the essential basic services and the performance is outstanding. The guest servers run better than they ever did on the hardware they were on before. VMware server (free) also works pretty well, the hardware requirements for it are not nearly as strict as the ones for Citrix. However, the performance of the guest systems isn't quite as good , either, but that is not meant to imply that they are inadequate. Most of the vm's we run here are still on VMware server because the performance is acceptable, and I can utilize older servers that would otherwise be fit only for non-critical storage or the recycling bin. All of my new servers that are being utilized for virtualization are now running Xen. If you want the additional nice features that the paid versions offer, Xen is really a hard deal to beat, especially if you stick with the Linux version. But if you're a diehard Windows person, then you'll want to run it on Win 2k8 so that you can take advantage of the improvements MS has made to Window's vm hosting abilities. As for just using Windows native VM software itself as the host system, I just don't see the need to spend the money on the server license just for the host OS itself. There is nothing to be gained unless the thought of Linux totally unnerves you. And if it does, it's time to live a little and start thinking outside of that box. Good luck with it, I believe you'll find taking the vm plunge to be much less daunting than you think.
    105 pointsBadges:
  • graybeard52
    I have done exactly what are are asking about. I took 5 old PC (2 Win 2003 server, 2 XP, one Win 2000 desktop) and moved them to a spare server as VM's running under the free ESXi. Works great. Easy to convert. I know next to nothing about Linux. I would suggest using the free ESXi rather than VMServer, I had problems running under VMServer, but ESXi is very stable. Also, I agree - why pay for another license.
    3,115 pointsBadges:

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