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

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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.

Hy­per­vi­sor in­stal­la­tion

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, 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.

Openx­en­man­ager in­stal­la­tion

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 win­ 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://de­ 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

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