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Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

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  • Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

    My apologies for the "noobiness" of this question.

    I have a couple old (circa late 2004) servers each with eight, 32-bit Xeon 2.8GHz processors and 18GB of RAM, that are sitting in a rack doing next to nothing. From a high level, these servers seem like good candidates for visualization. However, I'm wondering how wise it is to use such (relatively) aged hardware for something like this, especially since the processors lack any hardware-assisted visualization technology. I know these servers are automatically excluded from using MS's Hyper-V given the processors, but ESX doesn't seem to have this limitation.

    What do you all think? Could/should I deploy VMs on these servers and have them perform at almost native (as if they were installed in a "conventional" way) speeds? Do the virtulization extensions in recent processors really help that much with ESX? Is it worth the time, effort, and, oh yeah, money to deploy virtulization on this hardware?

    Much obliged.

  • #2
    Re: Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

    From a VMware support standpoint, the hardware needs to be on the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). The ESX and ESXi HCL is a bit on the restrictive side, so make sure you're covered from a server hardware, peripherals (HBAs, NICs), and storage standpoint.

    If you're covered by the HCL, then I'd say yes, go ahead and use that hardware for lab or production.

    The question of "will VMs on this host perform the same as on physical hardware" would be answered consistently no matter what hardware you are using for your ESX host. In other words, slower or faster host hardware doesn't change the fact that you'll get up to 98% relative performance using virtualization as opposed to installing on physical hardware. Under the right conditions, a VM can also outperform a phsyical box due to the characteristics of the underlying ESX host hardware that tends to have more robust subsystems. For instance, in almost all cases, a VM will boot up MUCH faster than a physical server.

    Yes the virtualization aware CPUs help, particularly with the handling of ring 0 cpu access (system calls, context switching, etc.)

    Jas
    VCDX3 #34, VCDX4, VCDX5, VCAP4-DCA #14, VCAP4-DCD #35, VCAP5-DCD, VCPx4, vEXPERTx4, MCSEx3, MCSAx2, MCP, CCAx2, A+
    boche.net - VMware Virtualization Evangelist
    My advice has no warranties. Follow at your own risk.

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    • #3
      Re: Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

      I agree with Jason on this one.

      I have 2 brand new screaming servers that host most of my VM's on, including Exchange 2003 and SQL 2005 with no issues. The kicker was, these 2 servers were going to be dedicated exchange and sql boxes.

      Now, I have more than 10 total vm's. I too also have one more older server that has decent cpu's but needs a bit more memory and it wil lbe a great fail over server for vmotion or the el manual method.

      At least you could use the older server for vms that run file services or smaller apps.
      Chris

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      • #4
        Re: Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

        Originally posted by jasonboche View Post
        From a VMware support standpoint, the hardware needs to be on the Hardware Compatibility List (HCL).
        Yes, duh, don't I feel like the idiot I am.

        I checked and everything is on the HCL for ESX (but not ESXi) save for the HBAs. Our plan at this point is to try out the free bare-metal server offering (I forget the name and am too lazy to look it up) and load up some Guests to test things out. If we like what we see, we'll investigate spending some money on the whole setup. This will also be good for when we go to implement new Exchange and SQL (read: much more mission-critical) boxes down the road.

        Thanks and cheers, all.

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        • #5
          Re: Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

          What type of hardware are you running?


          Originally posted by KnacK View Post
          I agree with Jason on this one.

          I have 2 brand new screaming servers that host most of my VM's on, including Exchange 2003 and SQL 2005 with no issues. The kicker was, these 2 servers were going to be dedicated exchange and sql boxes.

          Now, I have more than 10 total vm's. I too also have one more older server that has decent cpu's but needs a bit more memory and it wil lbe a great fail over server for vmotion or the el manual method.

          At least you could use the older server for vms that run file services or smaller apps.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

            Originally posted by ErEkoSuave View Post
            Our plan at this point is to try out the free bare-metal server offering (I forget the name and am too lazy to look it up)
            That would be ESXi
            VCDX3 #34, VCDX4, VCDX5, VCAP4-DCA #14, VCAP4-DCD #35, VCAP5-DCD, VCPx4, vEXPERTx4, MCSEx3, MCSAx2, MCP, CCAx2, A+
            boche.net - VMware Virtualization Evangelist
            My advice has no warranties. Follow at your own risk.

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            • #7
              Re: Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

              I'm running Dell 2950's loaded with about 32 gig of ram each.
              Chris

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              • #8
                Re: Should I use Old Server(s) to host VMs?

                I have a couple of old Dell 6650's (4x2GHz & 16Gb) running ESXi, absolutely no problems at all.
                If the information you receive helps please let us know and leave reputation points where appropriate.

                The good news about computers is that they do what you tell them to do. The bad news is that they do what you tell them to do. - Ted Nelson

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