Monday, August 17, 2009

Development On a VM - who needs a desktop?

Recently, in our dev shop, we have taken delivery of a rather high end server class machine. We installed linux on it and VMWare. It is, needless to say, way faster than any of our desktops.

We created a VM, installed ubuntu on it and then added that as a hudson slave. With that VM, the time for the simple compile job is down to 13 seconds from 45 seconds (gives you an idea of how fast it is).

We created another VM with ubuntu and I started tinkering around on that VM. I installed eclipse on there and started using it for my development by exporting the desktop to my workstation. The remote desktop equivalent in VMWare is very good - more than adequate responsiveness etc. My personal laptop/desktop is now just being used as a dumb terminal...

The advantages of developing this way:
  1. Hardware upgrade costs are significantly reduced - don't upgrade your developers hardware when next upgrade cycle starts - let them keep their current hardware (and use it as a terminal) and give them a VM to develop on.
  2. Maximum value is extracted from available hardware - I reckon we could put about 4/5 developers on our new server, depending on size of applications being worked on. This will mean that the server hardware will be very well exercised, a lot less wasted CPU cycles
  3. Configuration and down time are almost non existent - new developer arrives, just provision a new VM from the image and he's up and running. Developer's image gets corrupted, same solution.
  4. Significant cost reduction - because economies of scale can be leveraged, and hardware is better utilised, hardware costs are significantly reduced.
The only disadvantage of this solution is the lack of mobility - you need to be within a fairly fast network of your beefy server for this to work, let's hope that line speeds can be made fast enough to handle this.

For dev shops which issue laptops is less of a solution, but if you have a location full of desktops, don't upgrade them, just use them as dumb terminals and virtualise their requirements.

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