Happy New Year everyone!  As my first blog post of 2012, I’d like to wish everyone a very healthy, prosperous, and productive year ahead.  There are sure to be some exciting technologies coming our way!

In this three-part blog series I’ll run through a basic XenDesktop environment setup/POC at a high level with pointers on how to save time and streamline the installation process.  First, we’ll take a look at the hypervisor setup in this post with XenServer.  Then we’ll look at the XenDesktop Controller install and related components in post two.  Finally, we’ll conclude with application delivery in the last post using XenApp.  So follow along, post some comments, and share your own experiences with desktop virtualization setups!

Why exactly am I calling this series 10 to Xen?  Aside from the title sounding nice, I hope to prove that the setup of a basic XenDesktop environment can be accomplished in chunks that take 10 minutes or less.  At Citrix, we strive to develop products that are both easy to install and configure and yet provide IT professionals with the level of control that they need to efficiently integrate with their environment.  It’s a continuous effort to find the ideal balance with every new feature and configuration option.

 

So let’s get started!  I’ll be using the following hardware and software

 

Hardware:

HP ProLiant BL460C Blade Server
2x Dual-Core Xeon CPUs @ 3.33ghz
16GB RAM
500GB Local Storage
1 Gbit LAN

 

Software:

XenServer 5.6 SP2
XenDesktop 5.5
XenApp 6.5
Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 VMs

 

To begin I need to install XenServer 5.6 SP2.  I’m going with this version because it is the one recommended for XenDesktop 5.5 and Machine Creation Services.  XenServer can essentially be installed in one of three ways: from CD/DVD media, from USB flash drive, or from the network via PXE booting.  I will install XenServer here from a 1GB USB flash drive using the steps below.

 

  1. Download the XenServer 5.6 SP2 ISO image
  2. Download and run PendriveLinux from http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal-usb-installer-easy-as-1-2-3/ to assist with the creation of the boot sector on the flash drive and writing the image
  3. Select “Try Unlisted Linux ISO (Old Syslinux)” from the distribution drop-down list (use “Try Unlisted Linux ISO (New Syslinux)” if installing XenServer 6.0)
  4. Browse for the XenServer ISO image and then let PendriveLinux write to the flash drive

 

Note: I chose to install manually from a flash drive because it is a quick and efficient method.  Installing XenServer from a CD/DVD can take twice as long and a network installation is not practical for me with one server.  If you have a standard set of XenServer installation options and/or many servers, however, it might make sense for you to install XenServer in an automated fashion over the network by PXE booting.  Take a look at the following links:

 

http://blog.vhowto.info/2010/09/26/installation-of-xenserver-5-6/

http://blog.vhowto.info/2010/10/02/xenserver-5-6-unattended-installation/

 

 

Ok, so with my bootable flash drive in hand I can now proceed through the XenServer install.  Most of the installation options are trivial (EULA, media check, password, networking, time zone, etc.); however, it is important to note the option of enabling thin provisioning.  This should be enabled, which is not by default, to configure the local storage repository as EXT3 as opposed to LVM and conserve local storage space.  It is also a requirement if we later decide to use the IntelliCache feature of XenDesktop Machine Creation Services with shared storage to cache the VM data locally on the XenServer and improve virtual machine performance while reducing network utilization.  Refer to pages 21 and 22 of the XenServer 5.6 SP2 Installation Guide at http://support.citrix.com/servlet/KbServlet/download/27193-102-661207/installation.pdf for additional details on XenServer and IntelliCache.

 

The installation time took approximately five minutes for me – well under ten!  Afterwards, I connected to the server with iLO to check the status and obtain the IP address.  Next I connected to the XenServer with XenCenter to begin importing my standard OS templates.  My templates are stored on shared storage and include the latest Windows Updates, XenServer Tools, and the SysPrep application.  More information on creating Windows VM templates is available on page 28 of the XenServer 5.6 SP2 Virtual Machine Installation Guide at http://support.citrix.com/servlet/KbServlet/download/27189-102-661206/guest.pdf.

 

In the next segment, I’ll look at installing the XenDesktop components on a base Windows Server 2008 R2 VM.  Until then…