In this post, I'm going to show you how to install Citrix XenServer 6 and XenCenter. I'm going to start by going over the minimum requirements (as well as a couple of recommended specifications) and then I'm going to jump into the installation process itself. Let's get started.
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XenServer runs directly on your hardware, so there won't be anything between your hardware and XenServer. In other words, XenServer will function literally as the operating system. It will talk directly to your hardware, including your network interface card (NIC) and storage controller.
It requires a 64-bit CPU with Intel VT or AMD-V enabled. Now, this is actually more like a recommended spec. It doesn't mean that XenServer won't install if your CPU isn't Intel VT or AMD-V enabled, it will. However, the features and functionality will be very limited.
Remember, XenServer is a paravirtualized hypervisor. It uses the paravirtualization technique of server virtualization. Therefore, it requires the processor that you have on your physical server to be capable of doing virtualization technology in order for you to leverage its capabilities.
You need a minimum of 2 GB of RAM just to install XenServer, but the recommended is at least 8 GB, especially if you intend to host multiple virtual machines on top of it. XenServer alone will require 16 GB of disk space. But again, you'll need more for your virtual machines.
It can work with a 100 Mb NIC controller. However, what is really recommended is a Gigabit or even a 10 Gigabit Ethernet controller.
XenServer Hardware Capabilities
You can put up to 1 TB of RAM, 16 NICs, and 64 logical processors on one physical host running XenServer. Remember that the logical processors is a combination of the cores, the hyperthreading that’s enabled, etc.
I strongly recommend you check the hardware compatibility list (HCL) at hcl.xensource.com before you purchase any of the hardware or peripherals you intend to attach to your server.
In most cases, when you go to a software vendor and tell them what you’re going to use the server for (e.g. for XenServer), they’ll first check for compatibility. However, since you may tend to buy peripherals like HBAs, NICs, and other items for the server, you want to make sure that those items are also included in the HCL to avoid issues during installation or even after.
XenServer was actually meant to be installed on server class hardware. However, because it’s a Linux distribution and because it’s using the paravirtualization technique of virtualizing, it tends to be compatible with a wide range of desktops or even laptops.
So if you want to experiment, you can actually install XenServer on a laptop or on a workstation. Odds are, it will work.
Actually, XenClient, which is the Citrix’s Type 1 Client Hypervisor (XenServer is primarily for servers class computers, while XenClient is primarily for clients such as laptops and desktops), is built off of the same hypervisor as XenServer. That is why you can get away with installing XenServer on workstation class hardware.
Downloading Citrix XenServer 6 and XenCenter
XenServer 6 is a 508 MB (ISO) download, while XenCenter is a 41 MB download.
10 minutes to Xen
Setting up XenServer is fast and easy. Here are the steps:
- Burn the downloaded ISO to a CD and insert it into your optical drive or mount it using software like MagicISO.
- Make sure VT (or AMD-V) is enabled in your server’s BIOS.
- Boot to the CD.
- Answer the basic installation questions and reboot.
- Perform initial configurations, such as assigning it an IP address, a host name, password, and so on.
- Connect to your XenServer using XenCenter.
That entire process should take you only right about 10 minutes and I’m going to walk you through that in a few moments.
XenCenter Installation Requirements
Citrix XenCenter is a Windows-based application which can be installed on either a physical or virtual machine.
It should be installed on any of the following Windows flavors: Windows XP, Vista, 7, Server 2003, 2008, and 2008R2. It requires .NET Framework 3.5.
Its minimum CPU requirement is 750 MHz but 1 GHz is recommended. Minimum required RAM is 1 GB but the recommended is 2 GB. It occupies 100 MB of disk space and operates on a NIC with at least 100 Mb speed. Finally, the minimum required screen resolution is 1024 x 768.
Now that we’re done with that, let’s jump into the installation process.
Mount the ISO CD on your physical server.
Once it boots up, it’s going to start installing automatically.
The first thing it will want to know is the type of keyboard you intend to use. Choose one and click OK.
Click OK again.
Feel free to read the License Agreement and then click Accept EULA once you’re done.
My CPU is already enabled with Intel VT. However, I chose to disable it in order to show you what you’ll encounter when installing XenServer on a system that doesn’t have Intel VT (or AMD-V) enabled. So, if your system has Intel VT (or AMD-V) but you’ve forgotten to enable it, this is what you’ll see.
All you have to do is go back into your BIOS and enable it there. For now, let’s just see what happens when you click OK.
Apparently, the system will proceed to ask you where you would like to install XenServer. In my case, I have 50 GB of local disk space free, so I’m going to go ahead and install my XenServer there. I just select that and click OK.
Select the source of your installation media. In my case, it’s Local media, but it can be HTTP, FTP, or NFS for you. Click OK.
You’ll then be asked whether you wish to install any supplemental packs like drivers of anything of that sort. In my case, I don’t have any so I just select No.
After that, you’ll be asked whether you want to verify the integrity of the ISO you downloaded to make sure it’s not corrupted and that it’s a good ISO to install from. Since I’m sure my ISO’s good, I’ll just opt to skip this part and click OK.
Set a password for your root account and click OK.
You can then choose whether to allow DHCP to assign this installation an IP address or to assign an IP address yourself. In my case, I’ll just let DHCP do the assigning.
Next up will be the Hostname Configuration. Again, you can either let DHCP take care of that for you or you can assign a hostname yourself. I’ve chosen to assign one myself, giving it the name “xs.trainsignal.com”. However, I’ll leave it to DHCP to set the DNS Configuration. As you can see, you may also do things manually. Click OK.
Find your geographical location, select it, and click OK.
Find the city or area you’re in, select it, and click OK.
If you have an NTP server, it is critical that you configure the time settings on your XenServer properly. And really, if you’ll be doing multiple installations of XenServer, you should have an NTP server of some sort running on your network. Once that’s ready, you can select Using NTP on this screen and then enter your NTP server’s IP address on the succeeding screen.
But for this walk through, I’m just going to go ahead and select the Manual time entry option.
At this point, you should be ready to install XenServer, so go ahead and click Install XenServer.
Next you'll see the Preparing for Installation screen.
If you chose to set the time manually like we did, you’ll see something like this:
Enter the correct time (or see to it that everything’s alright) and then click OK.
When you get to the Installation Complete screen, click OK to complete the process.
You’ll then go through one final reboot, immediately after which your XenServer should be up and ready to go. Just be sure to eject the optical media that contained your installer.
What you’ve gone through so far covered the basic configuration of your server. It already included an IP address assignment, so you can connect to that server immediately after. Take note of that IP address because you’re going to need that in a short while.
So now let me take you through the installation process for XenCenter where I can show you how to connect it to your newly configured server.
Download the installation file for XenCenter to a remote Windows environment.
Once it’s ready, launch the installer. It’s just a simple installation, so basically you just need to keep on clicking Next until you get to the screen with the Install button. Click that.
And then click Finish.
Tour of XenCenter
Before we wrap things up, let me give you a brief tour of XenCenter. Launch the program from the Start menu.
The first thing it’s going to ask you is whether you want it to periodically check the Internet for updates. I suggest you click Yes.
Here’s how XenCenter looks like (see screenshot below) before any hosts, resource pools, and so on, are added to it.
To connect to the XenServer host you configured earlier, click Add a server.
Enter the IP address I asked you to take note of earlier. Also enter the password you assigned for your root account. Click Add.
One of the first things you want to make sure as you’re adding a new XenServer to XenCenter is to save and restore the server connection state on startup. Check the box that will do just that.
Once you do that, you will be allowed to configure a master password for all the XenServers you’ll be associating with this XenCenter. Click the Require a master password checkbox if that’s what you want to do, and then enter your desired master password in the fields provided.
After you click OK, you’ll be brought back to the main screen, where you’ll see your XenServer already added to XenCenter.
And now, you can configure all of the settings of XenServer from a GUI. That’s all there is to it!