I LOVE the smell of virtual in the morning!

For quite a while now, I’ve been a bit concerned about my development environment. One internal server that has been the development server for maybe 5 years now? Getting a little long in the tooth and a little slower than I’d like. The standard corp schedule is upgrade/replace every 3 years. And this has pushed it a little further than I’m comfortable with.  Of course all sites are hosted on an off-site production server so an internal failure wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on anyone’s live website. But if the dev server goes down, that creates a panic situation that NOBODY wants or needs! For the most part, this setup has worked out well for the last several years.

However, as more and more websites are being created by Lizardwebs, there has been a growing fear that I may lose my one server due to hardware failure or some other nasty glitch up – and lose all the dev work! Not a good feeling. Though production is hosted on offsite commercial webservers, losing the web development environment and having to go into panic mode to get another server up, AND losing any changes, has not been a pleasant scenario.

A couple of weekends ago, I set out to create virtual servers on completely new hardware (keeping my faithful old dev server alive throughout) to create a redundant server setup.  It wasn’t without it’s WTF?? moments, but overall, not too painful an experience.

Creating multiple servers now is no more difficult than just copying a file for the most part. Basic OS setup, add all the little extra programs like antivirus and such that are desired, the MS sysprep action, and voila!  There is now a server image that can be launched within a few minutes if another server is needed!  Beats the heck out of even Ghost’ing an image!

It does give redundancy to all the web server activities! That is the best part. If I were to lose a web server now, all it would take to bring it back online is to either, 1. switch all traffic to the other online webserver, or 2. copy over a single file and bring up a new server in probably under 10 minutes.  And of course the odds of losing BOTH servers at one time is considerably smaller than the possibility of losing 1 of just 1 server.

Also dual domain controllers, DNS servers, DHCP servers. Just awesome.  I am far more confident in the backend development setup now. Not that I was UNconfident before, but… An ounce of prevention…

After seeing virtual at work, I believe I can honestly say that Lizardwebs will likely never setup another server again for standalone use. The virtual server benefits are just too large to pass up. Being able to bring up new servers pretty much on the fly, quick reallocation of memory, not having to do fresh installs that end up taking hours. These are all huge benefits in a world where time is the greatest commodity.

Author: Eric Erickson

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