My Blog Lives In The Matrix

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A while back, Jon Galloway asked the question, Can Operating Systems tell if they’re running in a Virtual Machine? What a silly question! When was the last time an Operating System questioned its own existence? Is that going to be in the next version of Windows - Windows Vista Into Its Own Soul? Or perhaps Apple will come out with Mac OS Existentialist?

Perhaps a more interesting question is whether or not you can tell that a web server is running in a virtual machine? Last weekend I migrated my blog into a virtual server running on a pretty sweet host machine and so far, my site seems to have gained an extra spring in its step.

Given that it’s hosted on the same server as that bandwidth hog, CodingHorror.com, I’m very pleased with the performance thus far. At least until he gets Dugged again.

In Jeff’s post, he mentioned that CrystalTech hooked us up with a beefy 64-bit dedicated server. Several commenters noted that there was no 64-bit offering on their site. The reason is that they hadn’t received much demand for 64-bit servers until we came along with our bullying tactics.

Dedicated Dual & Quad
Core Through a contact over there, I wanted to see if we could work out a hosting deal. Jeff was adamant that we get a 64-bit server, which they didn’t have at the time, but could certainly order. I pretty much didn’t want them to go through all that trouble and was ready to move on, but they insisted it was not a big deal.

They lied…er…understated their case. Rather than simply build a single 64-bit server, they took this as an opportunity to build out a whole new product offering of 64 bit dedicated servers.

So what started off as me trying to scam some discounted or free hosting ended up spurring these guys to start a new product offering. Nice!

I’m now hosting this site and SubtextProject.com on this box, but our CCNET server is still in a virtual machine hosted generously by Eric Kemp of Subsonic fame.

I used to be skeptical of hosting my site in a virtual machine, as I felt like if I hosted closer to the metal, I could wring out extra performance. But let’s get real here, I’m not taxing this machine in any way.

I’m sold on the benefits and convenience of virtualization.

Tags: CrystalTech , Hosting , Virtual Machine

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17 responses

  1. Avatar for Joe Brinkman
    Joe Brinkman November 1st, 2007

    Perf is so transient but your site will live forever. Ok... maybe not YOUR site Phil... but definitely Jeff's. Anyway think of this; next year when they get the brand new extra beefy server with cheese, it is a simple xcopy and one or two tweaks in the VM host and your whole site is on a new box with nary a gif or a .config out of place. Virtual machines - the ultimate zip file.

  2. Avatar for Justin
    Justin November 1st, 2007

    Thanks for the info. I have yet to personally see a decent VM running. I have tried it at home and a few people from work have also tried it on our work servers (with VMWare) but we can't seem to make it perform to an acceptable level. It always seems to be sluggish.

  3. Avatar for Joe Brinkman
    Joe Brinkman November 1st, 2007

    Oh... and to answer Jon's original question I would paraphrase an old sunday school hymn "Yes VM loves me, the BIOS tells me so"

  4. Avatar for Steven Harman
    Steven Harman November 1st, 2007

    Zing!
    Boy, Joe has been laying out some nice zingers lately. Reminds me of the SNL Zinger vs. Burn skit.
    But seriously... VMs do rock the Casbah! Of course, I'm still running my site on the bare-metal machine as it's only a single-core machine with 2GB RAM. Then again, the want need to move to a VM could be just the thing I need to justify shelling out some $$ for a new box.
    I love talking myself into stuff.

  5. Avatar for Brian Donahue
    Brian Donahue November 1st, 2007

    I've been on CrystalTech since a friend referred them to me back in 2000. Nice to see you Alpha Geeks finally catching on! ;-) Welcome to the family! Long live CT!

  6. Avatar for DM
    DM November 1st, 2007

    What software are you using for this? VMWare? VMWare server?

  7. Avatar for The Other Steve
    The Other Steve November 1st, 2007

    I've been with crystaltech since 2000 as well. Welcome!

  8. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked November 1st, 2007

    @DM We're running the 64-bit flavor of Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1.
    > but your site will live forever. Ok... maybe not YOUR site Phil...
    > but definitely Jeff's
    Oh, it'll live forever. Whether anyone continues to read it, that's another question.
    I like that quote, "Virtual machines - the ultimate zip file." Albeit, a very large zip file.

  9. Avatar for Wyatt Barnett
    Wyatt Barnett November 2nd, 2007

    The big kicker for VMs seems to me to be disk I/O. They work great for web application servers which live in memory and are, more often than not, bandwidth constrained if anything. So long as you can dedicate NICs to machines, you can get adequate performance.
    Now, I have seen a few attempts at putting database servers, which are disk IO constrained, on virtual hardware. That ain't pretty . . .

  10. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked November 2nd, 2007

    Well the database for Subtext is also on this VM.

  11. Avatar for Scott
    Scott November 2nd, 2007

    Oh people will read it. You'll be amazed at the number of comments you get complaining about Microsoft's business tactics now. Not to mention all the ones that will blame *you* for any perceived failings in ASP.NET as a whole even though all that stuff was built waaayyy before you started there and you had to suffer right along with them. ;)
    VM's have always rocked. It's just that more people are noticing it now. My bet is that somebody will come out with an OS that is essentially a consumer level VMWare ESX or maybe even move the vmkernal into a ROM.

  12. Avatar for Ken Robertson
    Ken Robertson November 5th, 2007

    @Scott: Check out VMware's ESX Server 3i... basically, ESX on a flash drive, and will retail for $450 for 2 sockets.
    Personally, I use ESX Server and it absolutely rocks. I had 13 VMs running a dual 5130s with 16gb ram (with only ~12gb ram in use). Have since moved to a multi-server environment. ESX is the bomb... way better than Virtual Server, and likely better than Viridian.
    Virtualization is definitely the wave of the future for servers. Nice to see it doing so well for codinghorror and haacked.com.

  13. Avatar for Keith Rull
    Keith Rull November 8th, 2007

    I use CrystalTech for one of my clients and they are very happy with it. I just wish i have the buck to use it for personal use. Oh well, maybe someday when I'm a blog rockstar like you and Jeff :P
    Cheers!

  14. Avatar for Jon Galloway
    Jon Galloway November 25th, 2007

    What about when the VM host goes down and takes all machines down? I'm sure that wouldn't ever happen. Again, anyhow. ;-)
    I understand the benefits of partitioning - I guess. Seems dumb in this case, as you and Jeff (hopefully) trust eachother, but that's at least a benefit. You're apartment threaded.
    The portability argument is awesomelly silly, though. You've got a single server doing nothing but serving two websites, and they're both very simple ones. How hard is it to move a SubText install? Backup and restore a small SQL DB, copy a single folder, update config file if necessary. Thirty minutes? It'll take more time (a lot more time) to copy the virtual machine image. So, to allow for the eventual possibility that you'll move servers, you're running three copies of Windows 24/7, and none of them is configured to serve web pages... which is the entire reason for getting the server in the first place. I'm not saying the overall setup is dumb, but the portability argument makes no sense.
    I've got no beef against VM's as a technology, but the arguments people make for using them are often pretty illogical.
    Oh... and I know you were joking, but the reason I asked if Operating Systems can detect if they're virtualized is because a virtual machine rootkit would be virtually unstoppable if the OS couldn't tell.

  15. Avatar for Haacked
    Haacked November 25th, 2007

    Well I have a private subversion server running as well. Yet another thing to install and configure.

  16. Avatar for Jon Galloway
    Jon Galloway November 25th, 2007

    Hmm - that's a closer call on the Subversion server. I'd still bet that it'd be quicker to install Subversion (especially with something like VisualSVN), then dump and import the Subversion repository than to compress, copy, and extract the VM image. But I agree that as soon as you hit problem one with the SVN install, the VM starts to look like a smarter choice.

  17. Avatar for Johannes Meyer
    Johannes Meyer December 18th, 2016

    haha, "Dugged", now that's a blast from the past!