VMWare on Servers

Another interesting Joel note is about using VMWare on servers. When VMWare came out years ago, smart sysadmins I hung out with realized that it would be useful this way. But it hasn’t really taken off among folks I know.

At Tellme there are a couple reasons why we don’t use it. First, it doesn’t run on the Solaris x86 servers. Second, we are very price sensitive, since our business model calls for us to deliver a complex and potentially very expensive service via a large set of very cheap systems. So, when we consider a change that involves putting new commercial software on all those little machines, the costs can add up quickly and overwhelm the benefit. I haven’t done a specific investigation at Tellme, but my gut instinct is that it wouldn’t fly.

As for the platform support, it occurred to me while I was writing this that VMWare’s server side products could actually solve a problem we’ve been having. The problem is that new hardware comes out faster than Sun can add support for it in the Intel-compatible world. Windows and Linux seems to keep up somehow, but Sun keeps falling behind. So if we truly need Solaris x86 (I think we do, but the arguments for this are beyond the scope of this posting), then what are we to do as the hardware that Solaris x86 works on keeps getting end-of-lifed by the manufacturers?

If Solaris x86 can run inside a VMWare virtual server, then the answer could be to run VMWare on Linux on the random hardware that comes in the door from month to month, and put Solaris x86 on them inside VMWare.

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