A couple years ago we attempted to use XenServer to offset the costs of VMware. We received the usual sales presentations but what was interesting was the main pitch seemed to be we were foolish to use VMware. Not exactly a great tactic but we were mandated to give it a go.  Xenserver had is quirks and it’s possibilities but ultimately it failed.

Citrix had promised 10 gig Ethernet support. They kind of stretched the definition as yes the NIC would work but the speeds were terrible. At best we saw 3 gig. This was due to their drivers being 32 bit and they wouldn’t give any idea of when this would be addressed.

Support was abysmal. Basically; they received their initial order which as only a small amount of licenses and basically disappeared. There was no after sales support to make sure things worked. It’s almost like they thought we weren’t going to blast VMware out of the company right away so why bother?

Training was terrible. A coworker and I went to a week course on Xen Administration. The Citrix training materials were awful! There was no editorial review at all. Paragraphs out of order. Labs would have 10 steps and even though they were numbered right the steps were really 1,2,5,6,3,8,4,7,9,10. My coworker stopped going but I tried to tough it out. The teacher tried his best to correct everything but much time was wasted. Citrix never responded to my complaints over the student material.

There were other issues but ultimately I was the only one left with a small cluster. It had to be abandoned when the company refused to re-up the licenses.

Fast forward a couple years.

We are going to redesign our XenApp farms. It needs an uplift and we are going to redesign our access. One issue is the old Sun terminal servers. Citrix stopped supporting this product awhile ago but we kept using it as the Linux alternative at the time was terrible. Now, we have Linux with VDI which means the use of XenServer.

The demo farm was pretty easy to setup as it is small and only meant to reintroduce ourselves and see what the new products will yield in our environment.

Xenserver hasn’t changed much.  It’s version 6.5 and so far it looks like it added missing features from 5.x and strengthened other areas. The 10 gig drivers should yield proper speeds as they are now 64 bit.

The Linux side for guests is still lacking. Citrix was mainly Windows for many years but seriously; shouldn’t you be able to setup a guest and install the OS via pxeboot? We cheated and allocated a 2012 shell with it looking to the network. When the guest booted, it looked to the network and our Kickstart server installed the OS. Mind you this is not a clean way to handle this. The virtual stuff in the background will treat the guest as a windows box. For our demo purposes; the work load will not be that heavy.  We won’t use this approach when we start setting up the production farm.

Thinking back to the class; the sad thing is I have learned more with 3 hours of the sales engineers time then I did with the class.

Overall, we are still in the setup phase but it’s looking good so far.