Goodbye i386 … Hello amd64!

Last Sunday I retired my NetBSD/i386 server installation after over 12 years of service. Back in 1996 I installed NetBSD 1.1 on a PC with a Cyrix 66MHz 486 CPU, 16MB main memory, a 1GB IDE hard disk and a 10Mb/s ISA ethernet card. The system’s job was to drive my analogue leased line and provide some Internet services like a web server and mailing lists.

Over the years both sofware and hardware got changed several times. I’ve updated the machine to all major NetBSD releases from 1.1 to 4.0, frequently even to beta versions of the next release. The hardware usually got upgraded when I bought a new PC for running NetBSD/current and playing games under Windows. In that case the server inherited the old CPU and motherboard. Whenever an upgrade happened the server would either keep its hard disks or its NetBSD installation was copied from the old to the new hard disks. But in all those years I never re-installed NetBSD. By the year 2000 the server was driven by an AMD K6-III 400MHz, had 128MB main memory, several gigabytes of disk space and a 100Mb/s PCI ethernet card.

In 2001 the server’s Internet bandwidth received a serious boost when the Deutsche Telekom AG finally provided Silke and me with an A-DSL broadband connection. But without a fixed IP address for the machine I had to rely my friend Markus’s server beaver to handle our e-mail. In 2002 that fortunately changed when KAMP started offering broadband including a fixed IP address. In all that time the server has been down or offline only very rarely, usually when Silke and I moved house.

In December last year I had bought hardware for a new server, an HP Proliant ML110 G4. As the machine has a 64Bit capable Intel Xeon CPU and upgrading it to 5GB of main memory was affordable I decided to switch to NetBSD/amd64. As I also wanted to try out all the exciting improvements in NetBSD/current I decided to try it on the new machine. I therefore postponed the server upgrade until the NetBSD 5.0 release cycle had begun. In the meantime I tested NetBSD/xen, fitted the machine with a pair of fast server grade SATA hard disks, optimized the RAID performance and benchmarked NetBSD’s new journaling file system.

Last Sunday the time had come: the new server was ready with all the necessary software installed and most of the data copied to its RAID array. After a final batch of rsync passes to get the missing data to the new machine I powered down the NetBSD/i386 system for good. There were a few problems with e-mail delivery and the network card at first. But in general things have worked reasonably well after a few configuration tweaks. I’ve made sure to keep at least one last backup of the NetBSD/i386 installation. But so far it doesn’t look like it is coming back.