A few weeks ago, I wrote about the curious case of the eternal server, a VM that lives on forever with no natural decline or death state. The comparison I made in that piece was to the natural lifecycle of the physical server, for -- as we all know -- what goes up must come down eventually.
But not all physical servers are cut from the same cloth. Every once in a while, you encounter a physical server that's lived way beyond its normal expected lifetime and still delivers critical services day in and day out. Today, I'd like to tell you about such a server.
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Way back in 2005, I was quite impressed with the HP DL585. This box was an indicator of things to come -- it housed 64-bit x86 compatible Opteron CPUs that were well ahead of anything Intel was doing at the time since Intel was busy sinking billions of dollars into Itanium. It could handle four of those CPUs and up to 64GB of PC2700 RAM running at 266MHz. Add in the four 3.5-inch Ultra320 hot-swap disks up front and twin gigabit NICs out the back, and you had yourself one of the most powerful x86_64 servers on the planet at the time.
The reason I'm describing this server is that a few days ago I retired one after seven years of constant service. In an era where we tend to rip and replace hardware at the drop of a hat, this server represents a vastly different time in IT's history. It was born in the days when Windows Server 2003 was an infant and RHEL 3 was the new game in town.
Ironically, this server wasn't replaced because it was failing; it was replaced because it wasn't needed. For the past five years, it had been running one form of VMware hypervisor or the other, supporting a half-dozen production VMs. As the remainder of the data center was finally transitioned from physical to virtual servers, the VMs on this box were moved to the new farm, leaving the old guy with nothing else to do. Running an ancient version of VMware ESXi with no cluster or failover support of any kind, this box held it together with aplomb. In fact, the only hardware failure encountered over its lifetime was a CMOS battery. It never even lost a disk -- ever.