Having spent a week playing with various features of XenServer (with a focus on automation), I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. I have a sense, though, for the power of the system, and what it would take to get it to work at my company. It has all the features that we need to start, some nice-to-have features that we’ll probably use, and then extras beyond that which we probably won’t play with for the foreseeable future.
Creating VMs from scratch in XenServer is a bit of a hassle, but that’s OK because it’s not a frequent task. Typically you’d create one (or a few) base templates, and then make copies whenever you want to spin up a new disk. This process is very simple and straightforward in XenServer, and easily automated.
I’m starting to dive into choosing from a variety of server virtualization options for work in order to determine which solution to roll into our environments. First up is XenServer, with which I’ll stand up a pool of a couple machines and test out provisioning new servers, live migration, network isolation, and other cool features. While these tasks are more straightforward using the GUI (official GUI is Windows-only, but there are alternatives), I’m spiking out tooling that does as much as possible via the API (since we’ll want to automate it).
At my job, we have quite a few servers, all on dedicated hardware. Most of our servers relate directly to storing data on disk, and so physical hardware makes sense. For the scores of random, smallish servers, though, physical hardware is overkill. To help manage this inefficiency, we’re looking at various virtualization options, including XenServer, KVM, and containers/jails/zones.
I picked up a new Mac Mini this Friday to play around with Xen at home. Right now I run a few services off of one server in my apartment, but I’d prefer to have separate VMs for each service, because I find that more manageable.