Embedded Control

Will virtualization be the legacy hero?

Making the case for legacy support in both software and hardware, as well as backups.

By Jeremy Pollard

What do you mean I can’t get there from here?

We live in a bit of a rural area, and our power stability isn’t what you would call optimal. I have uninterruptible power supplies on all my office and lab equipment, so power blips shouldn’t be an issue, one would think.

And then we lost power, and we discovered it would be down for four hours or so. So an orderly shutdown was necessary. Thank goodness, I was home, or so I thought.

I went around shutting things off, making the assumption that I was doing the right thing. However, I also knew that when things fail, they will probably fail on a power cycle, but I didn’t have a choice.

As I was just about to turn off my 4-terabyte backup RAID cluster, I thought about whether or not I had everything from this RAID system backed up as such. I had just redesigned and implemented a new backup strategy and hoped that I had everything I needed elsewhere. But how often will a RAID controller go? Or even the switching power supply?

I was confident and turned the RAID off in an orderly fashion.

Also read: How much effect will linear power supplies’ EMI have on machine controls?

Then, yep, you guessed it, when the electricity came back on, it didn’t power up. I spit nails, I tell you. I realized at that exact moment that you can’t rely on anything all by itself.

I also did a quick inventory of what came back up and what data I was missing. While a backup from five years ago may not be important, it really didn’t matter now because it was gone. Oh, well. That was it. My new strategy had been successful.

But it put the fear of God into me again, for the second time in a month.

And, just to prove the point, I had three customer laptops that have failed on a power-up cycle in the days that followed.

I have been smitten with the fear that everything will now begin to fail.

I have been smitten with the fear that everything will now begin to fail. Well, not really, but I hope you can appreciate the feeling and the need for legacy support in both software and hardware along with good old backups.

So, this anxiety moved to a customer of mine who has been dealing with the same technology—Windows XP— for 15 years and is shutting down in three years. It’s all about keeping what we have running.

I had another revelation: When will we be unable to get hardware—that is, computers—that have XP support? Will it be in six months or in two years?

When you buy any hardware, Windows 7 is the entry-level operating system, even when you buy refurbished PCs. However, some of these hardware offerings still have XP drivers on the vendor’s website. Whew, I thought.

But then how can you find or buy Windows XP COA licenses legally?

Oh my, I thought, I have to have a huge amount of contingency built-in for this customer, or they will run out of runway.

So, I bought 10 Dell Optiplex 380s and found 10 XP COAs for the devices, in the hopes that this will give us the breathing room for the next three years.

Is 10 enough? We have more than 50 XP-based workstations, so I am just hoping. But with the recent activity of hardware failure, I am still in a state of wonderment.

We can’t run virtualization, which takes a lot off the table. However, that approach could make sense if we could change the remote workstations to thin clients and RDP (remote desktop) into the virtual machines.

I ran into another product/solution provider called Sphere3D, which has a product called Glassware 2.0. Sphere 3D claims you can containerize any application, run that application on top of a Windows-based server platform, deliver the application in the cloud and eliminate the end-of-life scenarios.

This would not be applicable for my customer, but it might be the ticket for some of you out there who are trying to figure out what to do with the multitude of applications that may need to find a new home.

With the hardware failure experiences that I have been experiencing in the past month, along with the absolute requirement to bring my clients into the new world and the distinct reduction of XP-supported hardware, I really don’t think that there is a choice in the matter of moving your company or clients to the real world.

In my previous column, it was because of software; this one is hardware. Will virtualization be the legacy hero? Best to find out.

Main image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net