Getting Started with Xendesktop 4 (Part 3)

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:


In the previous article I described the installation steps of Citrix XenServer, which we will use to host the virtual desktops. Of course it is possible to install more XenServers if you want, but it is not necessary for the testing of XenDesktop.

This third article in the series will start with the installation of the XenCenter software, which will be used by XenDesktop as shown later in the article. The article will continue with the other preparations and installations, before we can start installing the XenDesktop product.

Installing and configure XenCenter

XenCenter is the management console for XenServer. Within the XenCenter you can maintain and administrator multiple XenServers and also perform tasks like creating Virtual Machines. The console can be installed on your workstation or a management server.

The installation is provided as MSI file. The installation requires .Net Framework 2.0 to be available on the system where you install the software. The installation starts with a dialog box mentioning that the XenCenter installation will start.

Figure 1: The XenCenter Setup introduction

The second dialog box offers you the possibility to install a component so you can administer XenServer 4.0 hosts. While we installed XenServer 5.5 in the previous article this is not necessary. Just continue using the Next button.

Figure 2: Choosing to install XenServer 4.0 support

In the third box you can configure the destination location and if the icon will be published in your personal start menu or the all users menu.

Figure 3: Specify the installation location and icon placement

The last window shows that the necessary information is collected and that the installation will start when pressing the Install button.

Figure 4: The installation will start using the Install button

When the installation is finished the window below will be displayed.

Figure 5: XenCenter installation completed

The next step is to start the XenCenter software from the start menu. The first time you will start the console a message will pop-up if you would like to check for updates. It’s not required, but if you would like to be up-to-date you may check if updates are available.

Figure 6: Start-up of XenCenter asking to check for updates

We need to add our earlier installed XenServer into the management console. This can be achieved via several ways. You could for example use the Add New Server button in the ribbon or right-click on the XenCenter icon in the left pane and choose the option Add.

Figure 7: Adding the XenServer to the console

In the dialogbox you need to enter the hostname (or IP adress) of the XenServer, the username (by default) root and the corresponding password.

Figure 8: Adding a XenServer to The XenCenter Management Console

When the connection is established XenCenter asks if you would like to save the login credentials so the connection will be automatically restored. For additional security you could setup a master password.

Figure 9: Save and Restore Connection State

XenCenter will notice that the server is not activated and will try to start the activation wizard. This is required for all XenServers although the servers are free available. Select the server, followed by the Activate button (You can use the xenserver for 30 days without below mentioned steps).

Figure 10: License Manager actication wizard

You should remember that an Internet connection is required. Also within the XenCenter settings proxy settings can be defined. By default the setting is configured as Don’t use a proxy server. If your infrastructure uses a proxy server you should alter the proxy server settings via Tools – Options.

Figure 11: Changing the proxy settings

Of course you will notice this after you press the activate button and a message is shown that the activation failed. You can go back to the License Manager via Tools – License Manager. When the Internet connection is available a webpage will be shown, where you need to provide your contact information. When the form is send you will receive a file.

Figure 12: Fill the XenServer Activation form

After receiving the license file via e-mail you should apply the license file to the XenServer by selecting the XenServer within the XenCentre console and choose out of the menu Server – Install License Key.

Figure 13: Install License Key

Select the license key and the license file is imported. When the process in finished this will be diplayed on the logs tab of the the XenServer.

Figure 14: License added to the XenServer configuration

The last step is to add storage to the XenServer so it can really host virtual machines. By default XenServer expect that shared storage will be used. XenServer offers several types of available storage like NFS, iSCSI, Fibre Channel, CIFS (Windows File Sharing) and StorageLink technologies. If you would like to use shared storage I prefer the XenServer manuals and/or the instructions provided by the storage manufactuer. Configurring remote storage is out of scope of this article series.

Figure 15: Removable Storage options

You could also use local storage, but this is not possible out of the XenServer console. Adding local storage should be done via the service console for example as described on this website. For testing and evaluating you can also use the remaining disk storage available on the disk you installed XenServer on.

In this article I will use the remaining local storage available on the disk for storing the virtual machines. This is also the next step we are going to perform, creating a virtual machine in which we will be using as the first virtual desktop in our XenDesktop infrastructure.

Again there are several possibilties to create a New VM. You can right-click the XenServer host and choose the New VM. There is also a New VM button available and another option is to choose VM – New from the menu bar.

Figure 16: Creating a new VM

XenDesktop can be used with several workstation operating systems like Windows XP, Windows Vista and/or Windows 7. Currently, most XenDesktop implementations are based on Windows XP or Windows 7. I will use Windows XP for this article so I select that operating system out of the list.

Figure 17: Select the operating system of the virtual machine

In the following dialog box you need to specify a unique name for the virtual machine.

Figure 18: Naming the virtual machine.

In the next Dialog box you need to specify where the ISO is located. The easiest option is to use the physical DVD drive, but when you have more XenServers (or the server is in datacentre) you would like to use ISO files, which are available on the shared storage. 

Figure 19: Specify the location of the installation media

In the following dialog box you need to configure the “hardware“ that will be assinged to the virtual machine. Of course this depends on the available resources in the XenServer, but the advise is not to give too much resources when they are not needed (especially when evaluating).

Figure 20: One of the dialog boxes for the hardware setting of the virtual machine

After specifying the resources the Finish Dialog box is shown. By default the VM will automatically boot and you install the Windows version on the VM. I assume that you have done that before, so I won’t describe that step by step. Don’t forget to add the workstation to the domain, because that is a prerequisite for XenDesktop.

While the first virtual desktop machine is now prepared the last preperation step is to create a Windows 2003 machine to host the so called Desktop Delivery Controller. XenDesktop only support Windows 2003 as a host, so Windows 2008 and Windows 2008R2 are not possible. The Desktop Delivery Controller also has serveral prerequisities like Terminal Services, IIS, .Net Framework 2.5, Visual J# 2 and if you install the console on the same server  also Java Runtime Environment Version 1.5. Update 15 and Microsoft Windows Installer 3.1. Happily the DDC installer will automatically enable or install these software products, but you can pre-install them to speed-up the installation process. For evaluating purposes one DDC is enough, but more DDC servers can be installed for fault tolerance and load balancing. The DDC can be a virtual machine running on your XenServer infrastructure or a physical machine. In large infrastructure with lots of virtual desktop machines, the DDC servers are often physical servers, because of the load they should handle.

For this article a virtual machine is more than enough so we can perform the same steps as described for the Windows XP workstation (logically selecting Windows 2003 as the operating system) and continue with the installation of Windows 2003 (where I assume that you have done that before, so we won´t describe those steps). Also this server should be added to the domain. The DDC stores the information into a database, and this can be done using SQL Express on the DDC or creating a database on an existing SQL database.


In this third article we prepared the environment so we are ready to start installing the XenDesktop software. We installed XenCenter, Configured XenCenter and prepared a Windows XP virtual machine and a Windows 2003 server for hosting the Desktop Delivery Controller. In the next article we will continue with the installation of the DDC and the Virtual Desktop Agent on the virtual machines.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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