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We're rapidly migrating to a nearly all-virtual server environment, using high-end hardware to host it on. This is freeing up a bunch of our old (but not too old) mid-range server hardware.

What are your recommendations for making use of these decommissioned machines?

My first thought is to set some of them up as mini virtual hosts running vmware-server - but perhaps someone has a better suggestion, or a way to link them all together to share resources as a more capable virtual host?

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7 Answers 7

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Disaster recovery preparedness, move them to an alternative site if possible. Mirror or log ship your sql databases, make another domain controller, print server, etc.

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Donate your old equipment to WiderNet, "a service program at the University of Iowa that works to improve digital communication in developing countries."

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or any non-profit for that matter –  Matt Jun 26 '09 at 18:03

Testing deployments. When pushing new features out to batches of servers you'll often want to test it first. Having a spare small cluster of servers would be ideal for this.

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Too true. The value of having some test servers lying around on separate hardware really can't be overstated. (Well, you probably could, but it'd take some work.) –  Electrons_Ahoy May 1 '09 at 23:11
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Set them up with the same virtualization platform your new production servers use and have a true test environment... –  Oskar Duveborn May 1 '09 at 23:25
    
This won't always work, for example when the old hardware doesn't have VT extensions (quite likely), and your main platform is HyperV (or something else that requires VT) –  Sander Rijken May 5 '09 at 19:22

Old servers are simply a complete waste of energy to run, get rid of them so no ones temped to use them to waste more precious energy and cooling. You may also find virtualisation hypervisor will not support the older hardware as the CPUs and chipsets will not support virtualisation efficiently at all. In my experience, staff are always reluctant to discard working hardware, but they forget moores law relentless march and the costs of simply running less efficient hardware, its a false economy. Theres that sweet spot where its cheaper to decommission a few older systems and purchase one new system with the energy savings.

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There's definitely something in this. There's a sweet spot in terms of the costs of operating an old server and given the efficiency of modern server hardware and the low cost for relatively entry level systems which are several more times powerful than mid-to-high range stuff from 4 or 5 years ago, it can very quickly become more cost effective to retire old hardware than re-purpose it. –  RobM May 27 '11 at 7:37

You can use them for scheduling activities like nightly builds or for storing backups.

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Keep a couple as "lab" machines, but jettison the rest. If you keep them around they're sure to start to be more production-like and before you know it you've got them back in production. And jettison doesn't mean throw away, find them a good home (school, university, your house)

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If you don't have the money to buy proper network disks, slower older machines can often do quite a good job of acting as a file share.

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