Building a Home Lab Using the Free Citrix Xenserver 6
Citrix recently released Xenserver 6, codenamed Boston, based on the open source Xen hypervisor 4.1. As the version number 6.0 implies, this is a major new release of the product, and features new optimisations and scalability additions. Let’s use it to s
IT enthusiasts always keep experimenting with operating systems and various con guration scenarios, and do require some kind of home lab. Citrix Xenserver 6.0 is best suited for building virtualised home labs for free. It is a complete bare-metal, managed, server virtualisation platform based on powerful open source Xen technology. Citrix Xenserver’s free licence offering makes it feasible for a home virtualisation lab.
You will get the hypervisor for free, but you still require decent hardware to run your home lab on. Citrix Xenserver can be installed on any server hardware that has a CD/DVD drive manufactured in the last three years. But in our case, we are going to install it on a system with a processor made for the desktop. To successfully virtualise your home lab, you require a 64-bit CPU with VT-X or AMD-V features. To identify a processor’s virtualisation extension, you can run the following command:
grep –E --color ‘vmx|svm’ /proc/cpuinfo
or you can use a free Windows-based tool called CPU- if you are on a Microsoft system. Intel and AMD both have a huge line of VT-X and AMD-V processors ranging from the
high end to the low end, but for our purposes, AMD Phenom II X6 with six-core will suit us the best. Another factor that impacts successful virtualisation is Ram—you must populate all the available DIMMS with ample RAM on your motherboard. 8 GB RAM would be good and 16 GB great. Don’t forget to add storage—1 TB HDD will be suf cient for all your guest virtual machines and you also require a laptop or desktop to install Openxenmanager (for Linux) or Citrix Xencenter (for PC) to manage your virtual home lab.
Xenserver requires virtualisation extensions (VT-X or AMD-V) to run HVM (Hardware Virtual Machine) mode VMS (e.g., any Windows VM), and without them you can only run PV (Paravirtualization) mode VMS (e.g., any guest OS modi ed to run on a hypervisor). First download Citrix Xenserver from www.citrix.com/xenserver, and burn it on a CD to directly install on your hardware. Use the CD as the rst boot device. The installation of Xenserver is straightforward and resembles the text-based installation of Linux.
During installation, provide one static IP to Xenserver for management and also remember the root user password provided, as it is required to connect with the management console. When the installation nishes, the machine will reboot and welcome you with the Citrix Xenserver splash screen. Citrix Xenserver 6.0 hypervisor provides console-based access for further con guring the hypervisor using Openxenmanager.
Here, I’m not using Citrix Xencenter for reasons related to FOSS freedom. Openxenmanager is an open source clone of Citrix Xencenter, earlier called open Xencenter. It is based on Python and requires python-gtk-vnc (sudo apt-get install python-gtk-vnc) libraries to be installed rst, as it communicates with Xenserver and the VMS inside it using VNC. I’m using Ubuntu 10.04 to install Openxenmanager. The installation of Openxenmanager is very simple. Go to http://sourceforge. and download the rev 48 tarball, untar the downloaded le to your preferred path for software installs and open the terminal. Then go to the untar location, type python window.py and Openxenmanager will appear to serve you. Click on add new server icon and a dialogue box will appear asking for the IP and root user password for the connection provided during hypervisor installation. After successful connection, Xenserver will appear.
Openxenmanager doesn’t warn you about activating the Xenserver with the free licence. You have to do it manually within 30 days; till then you can enjoy the platinum version’s features. To get your activation le for a free licence, go to http://deliver.citrix.com/go/citrix/ xenserver_activation and register with your valid email ID, as the licence le will be sent through e-mail. Download the license.xslic from your email ID and copy it inside the Citrix Xenserver’s /etc/xensource/ using a removable drive. Then remove the le extension .xslic and reboot the Xenserver. Openxenmanager supports licence activation using the Citrix licence server appliance and it doesn’t support the free licence activation.
But once activated with the free licence, it displays the dialogue box for attaching the licence le, which is a little buggy though. Your home lab is now almost ready to rumble. Openxenmanager provides you loads of information about your hypervisor hosts and running VMS.
Create your first VM
With this release, Xenserver has increased support for guest OSS including Ubuntu 10.04, Debian 6, Oracle EL 6, SUSE EL 10 SP4, and experimental support for Solaris 10 and Ubuntu 10.10. Before hopping on to the virtualisation bandwagon, you have to create some storage repositories. Xenserver supports all kinds of storage options.
First create an ISO repository for storing all ISOS, or improvise the CD/DVD drive of Xen Hypervisor. Create new storage for all your virtual machines if you have a NAS or ISCSI, although you can use a locally attached HDD on your hypervisor to store virtual machines—it won’t impact the performance of your home lab. If you want to make your home lab near perfect, you can use Openfiler to create a NAS and use its ISCSI capability. With two such machines and ISCSI or NAS at your disposal, you can also try out Xenmotion, a Live Migration feature offered by Xenserver. To create a new VM, click the New VM button on Openxenmanager.
A wizard will appear with myriad options, ranging from Windows to Linux templates, and will guide you through con guring the installation media (the ISO repo, Xenserver or DVD drive), Homeserver (storing VM locally), CPU and memory, storage and networking, before you can hit Finish.
The moment you do so, you will be directed to the VM Console screen, where the VM will boot and the setting up starts.
After setting up the OS, you can either use Openxenmanager Console or RDP to access the VM you just created. You can also import a pre-built Xen compatible appliance (.xva or Xen Virtual Appliance) using the import VM wizard as shown in Figure 9.
This wizard is straightforward and asks you for the home server (local storage), storage and network.
After hitting Finish in the import wizard, Openxenmanager will start the import of Xen Virtual Appliance.
With this kind of home lab set-up, you can unleash the raw power of your desktop machine and utilise its full potential. A home lab can also help you nurture your virtualisation, storage and networking skills. Hope you liked this crazy ride.
Figure 7: A new VM
Figure 6: New storage repositories
Figure 5: Xenserver added
Figure 3: Openxenmanager
Figure 4: Citrix Xencenter
Figure 1: Free licence offering
Figure 2: Text-based installation
Figure 8: VM console window
Figure 9: Import VM wizard
Figure 10: Importing the appliance