Moving a legacy system to a virtual environment

One of the specializations of Omega Byte Kft. is that the computers they supervise are always have to be operational.

In some cases, this may not only mean the replacement of individual cards, but also the replacement of the complete control computer.

What can we do with outdated Windows XP-based systems?

Thanks to the support of Windows XP officially ending on April 14, 2014 - and the end of an era - the latter can be expected for several machines in the future, which unfortunately makes it difficult to operate the devices in question.

These machines have been operating for several decades, so replacing the motherboard also means replacing the peripherals installed on it and closely related to it. In many cases, the expansion cards installed in PCs do not support operating systems newer than Windows XP, since they were purchased sometime during the Win95 - Win98 period (more than 20 years ago).

Another problem is that in order to replace the cards mentioned above, the complete production line would have to be reprogrammed, which is very expensive and time-consuming - adding that all this would have to be done because of a single downed computer.

Our preferred solution to the situation is Windows XP running in a virtual environment, which can also be functional in the long term. With one or two exceptions, all kinds of devices can be virtualized and, moreover, the physical layer underneath can be replaced at any time by observing one or two conditions.

Old systems in a new, virtual environment

As far as possible, our company chooses the manufacturer that produced the original OS as the supplier of the host operating system, since it fits better into the given corporate and industrial environment. This means a Windows host in the case of a Windows-based guest, and a Linux host in the case of a Linux-based guest.

If the machine in question has, in addition to the common hardware elements (VGA, LAN, Serial port, etc.), individual expansion cards, then virtualization must almost certainly be solved on a Linux basis, because for the time being, none of the Windows-based solutions adequately support the routing of individual cards to a virtual machine.

While performing our tasks, we had to make Windows XP on the production line of one of our partners operational, which primarily meant replacing a 20-year-old piece of hardware. There are several software running on the machine that do not have a version compatible with Windows 10, which is why we started to virtualize here as well. The PC was connected to the production line using a PCI Softing Profibus card, which could not be transferred to the Guest system on a Windows basis, so XUbuntu became the host, on which a QEMU performed the virtualization.

Further professional information: Virtualization on Linux basis