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Citrix XenServer (Citrix Hypervisor): An Overview

Citrix XenServer (Citrix Hypervisor): An Overview

If you are planning to expand your server, virtualization or thinking to shift your server workloads to the cloud, Citrix XenServer (now known as Citrix Hypervisor) could be an option for you. In today’s discussion will take you through the fundamentals and the advantages you can expect from it and also the drawbacks.

XenServer, developed by Citrix Systems, is an open-source hypervisor (a computer software, firmware or hardware for creating and running virtual machines-VMs) platform. It is built over Xen hypervisor for creating and managing desktop, server and cloud virtualization infrastructure. It helps to deploy, host and manage VMs and distribute hardware resources like CPU, memory, storage and networking to the VMs.

The role of a hypervisor in virtualization

Virtualization to the core is the method of running multiple VMs on a single physical PC and the software executed on these VMs remain separated from the underlying hardware resources thereby utilizing the entire physical resources available to the latest powerful servers. This helps to reduce the total cost of ownership of server deployments.

The key outputs of Citrix XenServer

  • Consolidates multiple VMs into a physical server.
  • Reduces the management of the number of separate disk images.
  • Simplifies integration with existing networking and storage infrastructures.
  • Allows zero downtime maintenance (through the live migration of VMs between Citrix hypervisor hosts).
  • Assures fast availability of the VMs on another server in case one fails.
  • Increases the portability of the VM images (a single VM image works on several deployment infrastructures).

The feature-packed advantages of Citrix XenServer / Citrix Hypervisor

Easy virtualization of workload

 The fast-running VMs allow the installation and running of software in minutes without the need to configure a complex management infrastructure or involving a dedicated storage network. Virtualization of your workload can start immediately after installing the XenServer. You also have the option of converting the server workloads and turning them into VMs. The Citrix XenMotion migration tool allows moving the VMs across a resource pool without any loss of resources.

Robust server management

Citrix XenServer is designed to create and manage any kind of virtual infrastructure, automate and integrate management processes to turn complex IT environments into simpler ones.

Powerful XenCenter Console

It is a Windows-native graphical user interface (GUI) for managing XenServer. With its help, the admins can closely monitor, administer and manage several VMs coming from a centralized management console. Additionally, a user with just a few clicks can control the VMs (such as create, start, stop, migrate, copy or backup).

XenConvert

XenConvert is a physical-to-virtual (P2V) adaptation tool for converting Windows OS, data and applications from a physical machine to XenServer compatible VMs thus making the transition smooth.

Security

The admins can create policies to automatically collect the snapshots of the regularly scheduled VMs and organize in an archive. This also ensures that in case of an outage a VM could be quickly recovered to its original version.

XenServer Enterprise Version comes with Direct Inspect (APIs) to give protection against malware, viruses and rootkits, and allows the third-party vendors to secure the OS. The Measured Boot feature safeguards the hypervisor ensuring that the VMs run only on authorized hardware.

Server outage protection

In case of a server outage, the protected VMs can be automatically restarted from another server with minimum downtime.

Improved Application Performance

The dynamic memory feature of XenServer helps to share the unused server memory between the VMs thus optimizing the number of VMs involved with improved app performance.

Workload balancing and distributed virtual switching

The workload balancing eliminates any possibility of performance bottlenecks during the migration of the VMs to a new location (within a resource pool) while the distributed virtual switching help to create a network of network fabric for handling multi-tenancy.

Citrix XenServer licensing

Citrix XenServer offers Standard and Enterprise versions. The Standard version is for the users who want a solid, high performing platform for virtualization yet do not need the premium features that come with the Enterprise version. The Enterprise version is a premium edition optimized for server, desktop and cloud workloads. Any customer who has purchased Citrix Virtual XenDesktop or Citrix Virtual Apps is entitled to XenServer.

Having discussed the uses of XenServer let’s now turn to the flip side of it.

The downside of XenServer

The XenServer might not be as established as its major competitors. Because it is an open-source hypervisor (and without the same level of integration or available certifications), it is more suitable for experienced service providers. Its lack of automation capabilities will compel you to use PowerShell scripts if you wish to automate tasks.

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