Back to basics: Citrix XenServer 6.1 (Part 1) – Installation

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In early October 2012, Citrix released version 6.1 of their XenServer product. This is the company’s latest product release and it includes a number of new features.

New features

Citrix XenServer 6.1 includes the following new features:

  • Shared nothing storage migration. Citrix is the latest company to the game to feature storage migration technology that doesn’t require an expensive SAN to operate. Microsoft (Microsoft!) was actually the first company to demonstrate this ability in Hyper-V 2012 and vSphere included it in vSphere 5.1 This capability means that organizations can be seamlessly leverage commodity storage in their environments.
  • XenServer Conversion Manager. This tool enables batch migration of virtual machines from vSphere to XenServer.
  • Cloud integration. Every hypervisor on the planet today features robust integration with cloud services and cloud management tools. XenServer 6.1Direct integration with Apache CloudStack and Citrix CloudPlatform.


I am installing Citrix XenServer 6.1 to a virtual machine running under VMware Fusion 5 on my Mac. In order to work, I need to make sure that hypervisor applications are allowed to run inside the virtual machine. This enables VT-x/EPT support inside the virtual machine. To do so, once you create your virtual machine (if you’re following along at home), open the properties for the virtual machine and select the checkbox next to Enable hypervisor applications in this virtual machine (Figure 1).

Figure 1:
Make sure that the XenServer hypervisor can run in this virtual machine

If you’re installing to a physical server, you just need to make sure that hardware virtualization extensions are enabled in the server’s BIOS.

To get started, insert the XenServer 6.1 installation disc into the server’s optical drive. In my case, I just mounted the ISO image that I downloaded from the Citrix web site. After that, start up the server. You’ll be greeted with the boot window that you see in Figure 2.

Figure 2:
The main boot screen

You don’t have to do anything here. Within a few seconds, the installation process will kick off by itself.

When that happens, you’ll be presented with the screen you see in Figure 3. Here, you need to select the kind of keyboard you’re using.

Figure 3:
Choose your keyboard type

Not every server will have devices that are out-of-the-box compatible with XenServer. There may be times when you need to load Linux drivers for, say, a specialized graphics adapter or a RAID card. If this is the case in your environment, press the F9 key and load your driver. The installation routine will install the driver to the system for you.

In my case, I don’t need any specialized drivers, so I just press OK to continue.

Figure 4:
Welcome to XenServer

Every product carries with it a license agreement and XenServer is no exception. If desired, review the terms of the license agreement and, when ready, choose the Accept EULA option to continue with the installation.

Figure 5:
Review the EULA, if you like

Next up, you need to decide the storage location you’d like to use for virtual machines. Further, you need to decide whether or not to enable thin provisioning for that storage.

In Figure 6 below, note that I’ve selected the only storage space on my server as the location to store virtual machines and I’ve enabled thin provisioning.

Thin provisioning is a method by which the hypervisor can virtually allocate all of the storage assigned to a virtual machine while only physically allocating the space that is actually required by the virtual machine. This can save tremendous amounts of space.

For example, support an administrator creates a server with a 400 GB C: drive, but that server only ever stores 30 GB on that disk. Without thin provisioning, 370 GB of expensive hard drive space would be lost. With thin provisioning, no space is lost because the “spare” 370 GB is able to be used for other purposes.

Figure 6:
Make decisions for how you want to manage storage

There are many locations from which XenServer itself can be installed. You can use the local media that you downloaded or you can choose to use a remote location accessible via HTTP, FTP or NFS.

I’ve downloaded the media, so I’ll use the local media option.

Figure 7:
You can install XenServer from a variety of locatons

Supplemental Packs can be used to extend the capabilities of the XenServer product. If you have any of these extensions, choose the Yes option shown in Figure 8, Although I do not have any Supplemental Packs, I’ve chosen the Yes option to show you where this installation actually occurs.

Figure 8:
Do you have any Supplemental Packs you’d like to install?

If you’re using downloaded of physical media, you can test that media for errors before proceeding so that you can save yourself some time if the installer is bad.

Figure 9:
Decide whether or not to verify your installation media

Like any server, the default account—in this case, root—needs to be secured with a password. In Figure 10, you can see that I have established a password for the root user. I will need this if I want to manage the server or connect it to XenCenter.

Figure 10:
Provide a password for the root account

In a production environment, I would not leave virtual host settings at the DHCP option, but would instead configure static IP settings. For my lab environment, however, I’ll specify a host name, but won’t worry about much else.

Figure 11:
Configure network settings

Now it’s time to choose the time zone in which this server operates. First, choose the high level location. In my case this is America.

Figure 12:
Select your time zone – part 1

And in the second part of the time zone selection, I’m choosing Chicago since that’s the city that’s closest to me of the ones in the list.

Figure 13:
Select your time zone – part 2

Time synchronization between servers and between servers and clients in an organization is absolutely critical. When time goes out of sync, some time-sensitive operations can fail and errors can be introduced into the organization.

As such, I almost never recommend that organizations try to synchronize time manually. Rather, I recommend that they use a Network Time Protocol (NTP) server, as shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14:
Should time be an automatic or manual affair?

The beauty of using NTP is that there are public NTP servers available that anyone can use for time synchronization purposes. I use, which, at the time of this writing, has 3516 time servers in it.

Figure 15: is an open pool of time servers

You’ve now made all of the selections necessary for installation. Choose the Install XenServer option to proceed with the installation (Figure 16).

Figure 16:
It’s time to perform the installation

In Figure 17, note that you’re kept informed regarding the progress of the installation.

Figure 17:
The installation proceeds

You nay recall that I informed the installer that I had Supplemental Packs to install. In reality, I don’t, but if I did, I’d handle them at this stage of the process.

Figure 18:
If you have a Supplemental Pack, that’s installed here

Installation has officially completed. Now, the server will reboot.

Figure 19:
The installation process was completed successfully

Once the server reboots, you’re brought to the screen you see in Figure 20. From here, you can make configuration changes to the server.

Figure 20:
The XenServer system is fully operational


And that’s an installation! In the next part of this series, we’ll go over additional configurations items and connect this server with a XenCenter installation.

If you would like to be notified when Scott Lowe releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our Real-Time Article Update newsletter.

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