Virtualization is cool!

November 26th, 2007 by Jeff | Dump Core

Okay, so the subject line kinda screams “I’m a n00b!” But at least it’s true.

I had a new task added to my plate recently. We’re in the process of consolidating some servers at work, moving some of the work to virtual machines using VMware. Like just about everyone one else in the tech industry who hasn’t been living under the PDP-11s, I’ve heard all the hype about virtualization and how it’s going to revolutionize everything there is to revolutionize. Naturally, the idea sounds cool. Who wouldn’t want to create a “virtual computer” living inside their current hardware that you could simply delete and recreate as easily (almost) as if you were working with a simple text file? Of course, all I’ve really been exposed to until recently was the hype, and maybe what little I know about virtual machines and emulation that I’ve picked up from playing with Java, MAME, and DOSBox.

Well, I was recently assigned the task of creating a new virtual Linux box (openSUSE for the nosy distro snobs out there) to serve as our new source control server, using primarily Subversion and Trac. (Yes, we’re a Microsoft shop using Open Source source control and tracking tools. I enjoy the irony too.) It was a bit surreal firing up VMware and creating this new, clean slate to install upon. You specify what type of virtual processor to use (and how many), how much memory and disk space to allocate, and click the start button. Hello, BIOS! The setup took a bit longer that I expected (mostly because we downloaded packages from an online repository instead of just downloading the DVD ISO) but within a few hours I had a brand new openSUSE “box” ready to go. I’ve been configuring it off and on for several days now, setting up SVN and Trac and finding the best way to migrate our existing projects over without losing any ticket or module ownership data. But the wildest part of it all is that once I’m done building this thing, I can just export the virtual machine files to the new, final host and kick it off again, and it’s as if the machine had always existed there. Surreal, I repeat. Surreal.

About the only thing keeping me from creating a blue billion virtual computers around the house is (a) time and (b) system resources. (I doubt I can justify leaving that many virtual machines running at once.) Geek fun!

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