Showing Its Age

Are these computer too old to be in production?

I went to register a new car recently at the DMV and couldn’t do it. Apparently the state DMV system in Colorado was down that week, and had been down for two weeks because of a DR situation. The primary system had failed, and after being down, the state agency moved to their older, backup system. However when that failed, many of the remote offices were down and were issuing extensions to car owners for registrations.

I am guessing that the Colorado state DMV system runs on some sort of mainframe or mini, and not on a 15 year old PC architecture. However I do know lots of companies that are working on older software, often on older versions of Operating Systems that might struggle to work on newer hardware. It makes me wonder if we will start seeing these types of problems for database applications over time as companies look to extend the lifetime of their IT infrastructure.

There was a time when it seemed many companies were refreshing servers every 2-3 years, and they would upgrade to a new version of their OS or database platform whenever the vendor released it. However the last 5-6 years have seen many people holding on to older systems. I know lots of companies that are on 4 or 5 year hardware refresh cycles, and there are still lots of SQL Server 2000 instances still running out there.

For awhile it felt like keeping a database application alive for 10 years was a stretch, but as I look at the evolution of SQL Server, and the power that we have with modern hardware, it doesn’t seem like a stretch. The advances in virtualization can prevent newer hardware architectures from being a problem, and perhaps even extend the lifetime of old software significantly.

I do think that the latest releases of SQL Server are much, much more efficient and powerful than previous versions. Today’s hardware can even be more cost effective given the price of power and cooling. However if all you need are core database engine features, I’m not sure it’s worth upgrading. Just be sure that you have a better backup plan than the CO DMV.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcasts

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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