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Replacement for VMware Server

Project ID: 
Current stage: 

Description: Thanks to the Simple Server Virtualisation project we now have several dozen servers running in virtual machines, the infrastructure for which is provided by VMware Server. VMware Server is no longer being supported and needs to be run on an old version of SL5, so needs replacing urgently. Moreover, it does not support migration and replication.

Deliverables: The project will identify, and deploy, suitable technology for hosting our virtual servers for the next five, or so, years.


Customer: The School of Informatics, as user of most of the services running on current virtual servers. Other parts of the University, and organisations external to the University of Edinburgh, also use some services hosted on our virtual servers and would indirectly benefit from a more reliable and configurable virtual server hosting infrastructure.

Case statement: Several dozen of our servers run on virtual machines. These virtual machines are run using software called VMware Server. It was convenient for us to use this software as a short term measure but its suitability is degenerating from "barely adequate" to "dangerously unstable" and it has to be replaced. Among its inadequacies:

  • It can only be configured through a web interface. Such configuration is both time-consuming and prone to error, and is not amenable to automation with LCFG.
  • The software is not keeping pace with developments in the Linux kernel. It is less stable when used with the current SL5.5 kernel than with the SL5.3 kernel so we are having to hold back our VMware Server host machines at SL5.3. This is not ideal and can't be maintained for more than a few months.
  • It appears to have stability issues when the underlying storage platform is underperformant, but this may be the case for any virtualisation technology.
  • The virtual machines' serial consoles can only be accessed through the web and even then only on a strictly limited range of OS environments. We need better access to our servers' serial consoles than is provided here; quick and easy access is a considerable advantage especially in emergency situations.

IS have an established VMWare based service. This is based on the bare-metal enterprise VMware product which has a good reputation for reliability. This will shortly (Nov/Dec 2010) be opened to non IS groups. We would have to have strong reasons for not making use of this service.




Priority: Our current VMware Server hosts are already having to be held back to outdated OS versions; this situation can only get worse. A replacement is urgently needed. This project should therefore be assigned a high priority.






  1. Produce requirements document (mandatories and desired), consulting with other COs.
  2. Evaluate the IS service against our requirements document, including experimentation with guests.
  3. If the IS service does not meet our mandatory requirements
    1. Investigate technologies (eg KVM, Xen). Consult with other CSE schools.
    2. Evaluate the technologies against our requirements document and produce a report summarising findings.
    3. Choose a technology
    4. Develop tools to deploy chosen technology - simple virtualisation
    5. Deploy - simple virtualisation
    6. Migrate services from VM guests on current service to VM guests on the new service
    7. Enhance tools to support live migration of guests
    8. Deploy - migration


Risks: Several dozen servers and services already use our virtual server hosting, and a less inadequate service might attract many more. These virtual hosts run a wide variety of services for the School of Informatics and beyond. Any replacement would need to be utterly dependable or put these services at risk.


Proposed date Achieved date Name Description