Jun 14, 2011

Seriously, I've decided on a virtualization technology!

If you are a regular reader of Bauer-Power, first of all thank you, second of all you know I've been fiddling with an alternative virtualization platform to VMware ESXi. The main reason being I wanted certain features that VMware ESXi just doesn't support with it's standard free version. Features like clustering and vMotion.

At first I started playing with Proxmox VE, which looked really promising. It is a free, open source hypervisor that uses KVM. It was okay, but it was quirky and kind of a pain in the butt some times. I thought screw it, I'll just setup VMware ESXi in a shabby manual failover configuration and it would be good enough.

Right after writing my article about using ESXi, a reader by the name of Davis asked if I tried XenServer. I hadn't tried it at all. The last time I looked into XenServer the free version wasn't much better than ESXi. Apparently while we were all sleeping though, Citrix decided to release a bunch of cool features in their free version! Some include central management with XenCenter, XenMotion, and clustering! Hallelujah! Just what the doctor ordered!

Here is a list of features you get in the free version from the Citrix website:

  • XenServer hypervisor
  • IntelliCache
  • Resilient distributed management architecture
  • VM disk snapshot and revert
  • XenCenter management
  • Conversion tools
  • XenMotion® live Migration

Plus, the look, feel and functionality of XenCenter is almost just like vSphere!

While I'm waiting on my new servers to set my virtualization environment up on, I setup a test XenServer environment using two Dell Vostro 1500 laptops. Yes, XenServer ran on two laptops! I then joined the two servers into one resource pool or cluster, and added a shared iSCSI LUN from my Buffalo Terastation. After that I setup a Windows XP VM, and installed the XenServer tools to test XenMotion, or live migration. Guess what? It worked like a mutha flippin' charm! Check it out!

Like Proxmox, XenServer has the drawback of not being able to thin provision VM's stored on a shared iSCSI LUN. This isn't a huge issue if your SAN supports thin provisioning on the back end. Higher end SANs like EMC, Compellent and NetAPP support this. Buffalo Terastations, and OpenFilers however do not. Still, not a deal breaker though. I figure since I'm using cheap storage that it wouldn't be too hard to get my boss to let me buy more when I use up 6TB.

Are you using XenServer in your environment? Do you use the more expensive Enterprise or Platinum versions? How do you think it compares to VMware? How about Hyper-V? Let me know what you think of this setup in the comments!

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