Over the past few years, I’ve become a big fan of Virtualization technologies like VMWare, VirtualBox, XEN, Microsoft Hyper-V, etc. So much so that I moved ALL my hosting operations (20+ clients) to providers like Slicehost, Linode and CrystalTech for Hyper-V.
At home, I tend to use VirtualBox from Sun. It seems to be perform the best for both Windows and Linux, although I lost the ability to Bridge the VM’s NIC after upgrading to Windows 7.
At work, I initially used VMWare Server to setup numerous VMs for software testing and platform integration testing and other fancy stuff like that. I tried for about a year to get our IT staff to start using it, and FINALLY, they decided to go completely virtual running VBox on the Solaris platform. I still use VMWare Player for a couple VMs I have left from the past, but VBox is my favorite.
XEN I did not have so much experience with since I *thought* it was more of a IT Backendish type of Virtualization software and more arcane. Perhaps it was at one time.
But regardless of my misconception, I decided to download XenServer last night and install it on one of my spare boxes. XenServer is full virtualization “OS” that you install and all the guest machines are built inside it.
Won’t go through all the details, but the XenServer was a breeze to install, only asking basic questions and for the IP address of the server. It’s best to put it on a decent machine with lots of hard drive space and plenty of RAM and processor power (Virtualization Extensions on the CPU is a BIG plus and allows you to run Windows VMs).
On older machines, like my old Pentium D (Dual Core) machine, it does not have processor virtualization extensions, so it was not able to run my Windows virtual machines. The Linux (Ubuntu) servers worked just fine.
For Windows ones, I used a newer Quad Core Phenom box and put 4 Windows Server 2003’s on it by using the VMWare to XEN conversion program. Was a little buggy getting it converted, but the Citrix XEN forums helped.
There are some sites out there you can google that have XEN ready images you can upload through the XenCenter software into the server and boot.
Overall, I’ve been extremely happy with the performance of XenServer and don’t think I’ll go back to desktop type virtualization solutions like VirtualBox and VMWare Server which has a crappy, buggy web interface (last time I used it) and requires you to already have an existing OS. XenServer is OS+Virtualization solution all-in-one.