Should you run anything on physical hardware?

I frequently get into a discussion which goes something like this: I have this high-cpu service which would just work fine and fast on physical hardware but I’m running up the capacity of my VM. Why don’t we just run it on the physical hardware?

The first answer would be that virtual hardware has too many benefits to just easily go back to the physical world. VMs can be replicated, copied and deployed at will. If you also have a decent tool kit to deploy multiple VMs with respective configurations at once on demand, you can replace and fail over quickly. If you have a physical server, you need at least a fail over server – which will also be physical. You also have to pay a guy to fix it if it breaks. Is it really worth the additional money and time?

The second answer, and I think the more important one, is that you should really ask yourself if you are trying to solve a scale problem the wrong way. Sure, I know the occasional optimised C++ service with constant demand happily working for years on one server. But are you sure the demand will not increase in 3 month, 6 month time, beyond the physical capacity of the server? Are you then starting to beef up the server, spending more time and money? Maybe it’s time to look into a distributed architecture that can scale across multiple VMs and you solve the scaling problem before it become big and costly.


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