Citrix XenServer - Review & Tutorial


Updated: August 27, 2011

XenServer is a free, open-source and unsupported version of the Citrix Xen-based virtualization line of products, including Advanced, Enterprise and Premium editions. It's an entry-level teaser to what Citrix can do, albeit a fully featured one, no strings attached. It is also the basis for Xen Cloud Platform (XCP), which we reviewed a few days back.

Most of the stuff shown here today will be very similar to XCP. Still, you should read through, note the subtle changes and understand which software is best suited for your needs. Again, home users will probably find less use for a standalone hypervisor, but it can be a great candidate for companies, large and small. Please, follow me for a tour.

Teaser

XenServer setup

This part of the article is very similar to XCP. The installation is virtually identical, except for the menu branding. Like the last time, in order to demonstrate with screenshots, I performed the installation inside a virtual machine, which is definitely not how XenServer ought to be used. You need a physical host, with a plenty of RAM, lots of fast disks and virtualization technology extension present and accounted for.

Keyboard setup

Storage

Installation & Packs

It is worth mentioning that once you begin the installation, it will first install from Base Pack. Remember the Supplemental Packs we mentioned during the Cloud setup? Well, there, they had no meaning, but they are quite important and useful if you plan on deploying XenServer.

Installing

Supplemental Packs are addons you can use to boost the basic functionality of the server, including security, latest hardware and more. Not as straightforward as installing an extension in your browser, but useful nonetheless. Most importantly, this allows you to plug in new technologies and capabilities developed by third-party vendors into XenServer. Notable examples include Microsoft SCVMM Integration and HP SNMP Agent packs.

The default image comes without any supplements. In this regard, the installation is identical to configuring the Xen Cloud Platform.

Using XenServer

Next, there shalt be a boot:

Booting

And you'll reach the familiar interface. From here on, the usage is similar to XCP. There's the command line, where you can execute Xen commands, as well as SSH. No libvirt yet.

Graphical console

Conclusion

XenServer and Xen Cloud Platform are virtually identical. The question which one you should choose depends entirely on your business needs. If you require tight integration with other technologies and solutions and need a continuous support from the vendor, then you ought to choose the Citrix product. If you can self-sustain your virtualization layer, then XCP will do just fine, even without the Supplemental Packs.

XenServer is a solid, robust product. It's also the most humble offering, with advanced tiers of support and features offered in return for money. As a free product, it scales well against the competition. libvirt functionality is the only thing really missing. Definitely worth testing and exploring. That would be all.

Cheers.

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