Virtualization: the black box bomb

It lurks in the corner of many data centres these days. Actually, no, it used to lurk in the corner. Now it lurks on a virtual server. If it don't start we're screwed. What is it?

It is the ancient application that nobody understands any more. The one that never seems to get funding for replacement but the users can't live without it. heck it is too hard to replace. Nobody knows how it works. They don't even exactly know what it does. The experts have died, the vendor went bust, the documentation is lost. There is no source code, no data model, no spec. It ran on its own server for years, as I say lurking in the corner. It was "black boxed": everything it needed was moved onto the one server - op sys, database, batch processing - so there would be no version problems with upgrades. Nothing else was allowed on there in case it got upset.

Then the servers were all rationalised, consolidated, virtualised. The decrepit old machine vanished. Now the application runs in a virtual server: even more invisible, even more forgotten, even less understood.

From time to time it hiccups, has a tantrum, glitches. Someone calls the service desk. Nobody knows what to do except restart the virtual machine. Fingers are crossed, breaths held, then it comes back up and sinks into obscurity again. Until next time. Until the day it doesn't restart. Every time it plays up, every time there is a crash of the parent virtualisation server, every time there is a DR test, every time the virtualisation software is upgraded... they are like pulling the trigger in Russian roulette. One day luck will run out. And there is no plan B.

Does your site have a black box bomb ticking?


you're lucky

If you have managed to get this "black box" virtualized you are luckier than most, in many datacenters there is one cabinet that from the outside looks like any other....

but beware....

once you open it up there sits a (insert an old OS) server (or 4) no-one understands/knows the passwords/understands why they need modems, secretly the replacement hardware for this device is purchased via expenses over ebay, and when the row is required to be powered down for maintenence... a power cable appears to maintain this cabinet as no-one is sure the disks will spin up again.

Of course I joke, this wouldn't be possible in this day and age...

That situation exists because...

... IT 'resource' was snubbed by business. IT guy sat it out and then left. Business owns it now. Business problem from beginning to end - what's the business going to do? Tough titty I say.


You're being entirely unprofessional, as well as childish and petulant. IT is constantly faced with bad decisions by the business. these arise from poor communications on both sides, and a failure to understand IT which is a failure by both sides again.

Stomping off to sulk is not in the interests of the organisation that pays you.

Not petulant

Hang on there! The system only existed because there was a business need. It was built by an IT guy, the business did not manage it or it's lifetime. The IT guy left - no-one said he sulked - lot's of guys just retire. It's a business problem. They took their quick satisfaction and then dropped it, it came back to bite, but they never managed it's lifetime. No? Why are you so cranky?

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