Monday, 7 October 2013

WYCRMS Part 1: But I Have to Reboot My Own Windows System All the Time!

In 1997, a HP 9000 engineer wouldn't blink telling about a server that had been running continuously for over five years.I found this remarkable at the time, and couldn't imagine a Windows server lasting that long. I have moved on, and frankly expect my Windows servers to survive that long today. Very few share this position, and I'm trying to find out why it's so lonely on this side of the fence.

1. But I Have to Reboot My Own Windows System all The Time!

I've mentioned before how Windows makes you lazy. One of the great things about Microsoft Windows as a platform is that software developed on a $500 workstation can be installed on a $50,000 server and probably work without problems. Of course, getting your home-brew software to scale is a different matter, but you get the idea: One platform, different size.

Almost every Windows engineer cuts their teeth on Windows at home, and this informs their experience and expectations of the platform. Like everyone I get tired of the bogging down after a few days/weeks/months uptime and reboot just to clear things up, but that's my fault and not Windows.

I'm lazy.

Typically, I'm running browsers, office suites, anti-virus, any number of games, and install new stuff roughly once a fortnight. Flash, Java and Windows Update are constantly pestering me to reboot after updates. I've even been the one to reinstall completely after a year to see the wonder of a zippy start-up and responsive GUI, only to have it slowly crawl as I add functionality (including those games). Happily, my Windows 7 installation has lasted two years by now with no significant falloff in responsiveness, so that's getting much better, and I only power down/reboot of my own volition when I'm fitting lights and need mains power off - even then it's more likely to be a hibernate.

Servers are not workstations. Any good enterprise has controls for how changes are made to IT systems, and even simple patching requires testing and approved windows to take the system down and update it. In my experience a server will undergo a major overhaul at most twice in its' operational lifetime, and organisations with exceptional controls have zero - new version? New server!

A good server (and I think of Windows Server 2003+ as good servers) will run for decades given quality power and no moving parts. Of course hardware fails, but Microsoft have put in man-decades to get Windows to handle routine changes without downtime. I remember Windows NT 4.0 needing a reboot for an additional IP address. Modern versions of Windows can hot-plug an entire NIC (physically) without a blink, though admittedly I've never actually encountered anyone who uses the facility.

If an engineer merely mentions that, in their experience, Windows needs rebooting I question their experience. I mean it: I question their experience!

Windows is solid, and I can recall only one confirmed bug where Windows will fail (actually, begin to fail, an outage is not a certainy) for the simple factor of running continuously for a given time. When someone speaks of a memory leak that has caused Windows to run out of (insert wooly term here), again I question their experience and the quality of the software/vendor driver code. I've stopped blaming Microsoft.

When I run my applications on Windows Server and, more importantly, when I am paying someone to manage those systems for me, I expect them to have faith in their products and promise me server availability. Rebooting breaks availability.

Previous: Why You Can't Reboot my Server

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