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How to run Citrix XenServer 5.5 on VMware vSphere

June 22nd, 2009

Well fresh from my return from the Citrix iForum I decided to fire head long into installing XenServer in my home lab so I could have a look at it.

I already run VMware vSphere 4i on my home lab which consists of an HP Proliant ML115 G5.  Instead of buying another machine to install Xenserver on or rebuilding my current vSphere server I thought I would try and install XenServer inside a virtual machine.  As Eric Gray over at vCritical proved you can install vSphere 4 inside a vSphere 4 virtual machine so surely the same would be possible XenServer 5.5, shouldn’t it?

Well the screenshot below should prove exactly that,  Xenserver 5.5 successfully running on vSphere 4i

xenservervm

So how did I conduct the install,  well first of all I downloaded the ISO from Citrix’s website and then did the following.

1 – Create a Virtual Machine with custom settings.
2 – Select the new Virtual Machine version 7 hardware.
3 – Select Red Hat Enterprise Linux v5 (64-bit).
4 – 1 vCPU and 1GB of RAM will suffice.
5 – I used the LSI Logic Parallel SCSI Controller.
6 – Create a disk based between 20 – 30GB (less has caused issues, see comments below)
7 – Make it thin provisioned if you want,  why wouldn’t you?
8 – Connect the ISO image to the VM and start it.
9 – Follow the prompts on screen to complete the install.

I only had one issue during install and that was when the following message appeared,  I carried on installing XenServer and it completed without issue.

xenservervm3

However when It came to starting up windows based Virtual Machines,  like the message above indicated, I couldn’t.  XenCenter showed the following error.

xenservervm4

Basically because Windows requires the hardware virtualised assist features (Intel VT or AMD-V),  hypervisor on top of hypervisor masks this underlying virtualisation assistance and hence Windows can’t operate.  What I did manage to get up and running was virtual machines running Debian Lenny 5.0,  so at least I had something to play about with and test out XenServer features such as live motion. Linux machines on XenServer start up in a para virtualised mode and are therefore supported where hardware virtualisation assist is not available.

check out the Debian Lenny based DreamLinux desktop edition,  this should give you some VM’s to play within your virtualised XenServer environment.

So although I didn’t get XenServer operating like I wanted to in Vmware vSphere, I did get  it working enough to play about with it and it’s features.  To be honest that’s all I was after in the first place!!

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Citrix iforum – Xenserver 5.5 Citrix Essentials / Vmware Price Offer

June 18th, 2009

I was lucky enough to attend the Citrix iForum in Edinburgh this week, which was a first for me and a credit crunch alternative to VMWorld. I must admit I was looking forward to it as I’ve been meaning to take a closer look at Citrix XenServer for some time now.  I wasn’t disappointed as I got to spend some time on the demo stand and saw a few technical  and case studies presentation.  I have to admit I was impressed,  I was sitting here thinking Hyper-V was the only other hypervisor worth looking at,  how wrong was I.

So to quickly set the scene, Citrix XenServer 5.5 is completely free, and for that you get the following feature set .

xenserver

To get hold of the value add features,  known as Citrix Essentials your going to have to spend some money.  I got a quote today for the Citrix Essentials offerings, at the moment it’s £1,360 for Enterprise and £1,680 for Platinum. For this price you get the following, which on first viewing is pretty good,  especially when you consider the Lab and Stage management features which are separate products within the VMware product range.

xenserver2

 Citrix Essentials / VMware price offer

As indicated by the title of this blog post Citrix were advertising a special offer around the purchase of Citrix Essentials 5.5 starting in Q3 this year.  If you are willing to share with Citrix your VMware SNS renewal quotes they will give you a price for Citrix Essentials that matches or betters the price of your VMware renewal.  Technically resulting in you paying out no more than you were going to be spending from your budget anyway. now you’ve just got to find the resource to rip an replace your existing virtual infrastructure (joking!).  I’d suggest following up with your Citrix sales representative for more information as I can’t find anything official on the Citrix web site,  it was however mentioned on 4 different occasions during iforum so it must be true.

In all seriousness though,  I spoke to people at the iforum who were existing VMware customers like me.  One guy had a project to add three additional ESX hosts,  he reckoned he could do 3 XenServer hosts with the same functionality for the cost of one ESX host.  He was off to download it and set it up in their company lab the next day,  I have to say I can see why, especially with company budgets constrained the way they are.

I’m going to get my home lab setup with XenServer so I can do a few more blog posts on some of the interesting features such as Storage Link and the distributed management database.  I’m genuinely intrigued now.

If you want to read a little bit more about the usage of XenServer in the real world,  you might want to read about Tesco’s use of XenServer to virtualise 1,500 servers.  Alternatively you might want to read the following performance review of hyper-v, ESX 3.5 and XenServer to understand a little more about how they compare (vSphere obviously tilts the performance balance back in VMware’s favour).

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