Is P2V always the best solution?

I saw this post post on Simon Gallagher's Blog Using Virtualization to Extend The Hardware Lifecycle. Simon made a good point. Can we take the physical hardware out of the equation? Well I guess that is exactly what VMware and virtualization is doing. We are no longer dependant on physical servers any more.

I would like to however raise another point of view. Correct, the easiest solution for a system residing on aging hardware is to P2V the system to a VM – and it seems that I have solved my problem. But have I? I posted a question about 9 months ago with this exact same thought.

Do you really want to carry over legacy Operating Systems and applications and continue to support them forever?

You might find yourself with legacy operating systems, applications that Vendors no longer support, personnel do not have enough knowledge of these old operating systems, and will not know how to solve problems when they arise.

Classic example: A Windows NT4 Server that has a legacy application was installed on it. The product was developed and installed over 6 years ago. A new system was requisitioned and designed to replace the old, for obvious reasons. The original company that developed the product no longer exists, staff that understand and support the application are no longer employed by the company. A project was planned and executed over the period of a year to replace the old system. The project was completed on schedule with close to 100% success. The new application Owner agreed that the old system would stay available for a period of maximum 6 months after going live with the new system and the old data would not be required to be migrated to the new system. Those six months have come and passed. When push came to shove – and we wanted to power off the server – the application owner (and thereafter it became a management decision) demanded that the old server stay online.

The hardware was over 7 years old. No parts, no service, and no guarantee that it could be restored successfully if the hardware was to die. The only solution that we were able to come to was to P2V the machine to a VM. Of course the process works, but now the organization is stuck with a NT4 server that has to be supported. Operating System upgrade to Server 2003 is being planned and tested.

I do sincerely suggest that you create a policy that a VM/Server should have its lifespan defined according to your company’s requirements. Any VM/Server that has passed that lifespan should not be automatically migrated to a VM to remove the hardware dependency – but should be installed as a new OS and have the applications on the old VM/Server migrated to the new OS. Just the same as if your hardware would come of age and have to be replaced.

Do not blindly P2V systems, just because you can.

You will regret doing so in the long run.

I for one do not want ancient Windows/Linux systems in my datacenter. Would you?