vSphere running paleozoic Operating Systems

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Recently on the Italian VMware Community (VMTN), a user asked a simple question: with ESXi 5.1 support for Windows NT4 has been suspended, can I still run this operating system in the latest ESXi releases?

In these days vSphere still supports a huge list of “historic” operating systems, even if NT4 has been official placed in the “Deprecated” state (you can find further info about this in the article KB2015161)

NT4 on ESXi 5.1

The question made me think.

We are so used nowadays to all the modern concepts about virtualized infrastructures, with ideas like SDDC (software-defined datacenter), workload portability, cloudbursting. Within few years we got so used to these technologies we forgot some of the first use cases of virtualization, just like an hardware refresh where the operating system was not supported anymore on the new server model. Virtualization has given us a “generic” virtual hardware with drivers for so much operating systems.

We do not need to have dedicated drivers for raid cards, network cards, chipsets, only the hypervisor needs them; above the hypervisor, every OS runs on the virtual hardware.

Time goes by, but nonetheless with VMware you can still run really old OSes. If someone still needs to run old applications for his/her activities, and they are only supported on old platform like Windows NT4, VMware still allows them to do it, even if NT4 has been released back in 1996, that is 17 years ago! And we can also protect this operating system with all the high availability features coming from VMware.

It will come the day we will have to update or replace those old applications, since with vSphere 5.1 NT4has been declared Deprecated, so it’s probably going to disappear in the next releases. But being able to run an OS almost 20 years old is cool nonetheless!

Finally, some nostalgia. After the question on the community, I quickly created in my lab a small Windows NT4 server VM, just to see it again running. Here it is:

NT4 running on ESXi 5.1