Free high availability: Create a XenServer virtualization cluster

With the free Citrix XenServer virtualization platform, it's easy to create a highly available virtual server cluster; here's how

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Step 1: Install XenServer
The current version of XenServer is available from Citrix. You will want the Product Installer ISO, which will be used to install both XenServer and its central management console, XenCenter. Additionally, if you are going to use virtual machines to run Linux, you will need the Linux Guest Support ISO. These will need to be burned to CD for installation on a bare-metal system.

Installation is very straightforward, following the instructions from the guided setup. Below is a brief excerpt of the installation process. Booting from the CD, you will be met with a Citrix screen. Pressing Enter or waiting on the timeout will proceed to the installation. An abbreviated version of the questions presented is listed in the table below, along with some generic responses.

Select Keymap [qwerty] us
Welcome to XenServer Setup < OK >
EULA < Accept EULA >
Select Installation Source Local Media
Supplemental Packs Yes -- Choose Yes if you intend to run Linux VMs in my environment. If your environment is going to be purely Windows, there is no need for Supplemental Packs.
Verify Installation Source Skip verification -- If you are not confident in the downloaded iso, you can verify, but I have used these disks repeatedly and they are known to be good copies.
Set Password < choose your password >
Networking eth0 (< MAC >) -- This choice can vary depending on your system and the number of NICs you have. It is best practice to plug in the NIC you intend to use for administration, and unplug all others. The unused NIC(s) will indicate "[no link]"
Networking (cont.) Static Configuration:
IP Address: < varies >
Subnet Mask: < varies >
Gateway: < not needed >
Hostname and DNS Configuration Hostname: < what you want >
DNS: < must have at least a dummy IP >
Select Time Zone America
Select Time Zone (cont.) Los Angeles
System Time Manual time entry
Confirm Installation Install XenServer

After the basic installation you will be prompted to install supplemental packs. We installed the Linux Guest Support pack and hit <OK>. A prompt asks if you want to verify the disk, use it, or go back. Choose <Use>. It is possible to install more than one supplemental pack, so you will be prompted again. There are no other supplements that we intend to use, so <Skip>. When finished, you will be prompted to reboot: <OK>.

Naturally, this installation procedure will be repeated on as many physical hosts as you want in your environment. For our purposes, we used three physical servers that we called xennode01, xennode02, and xennode03.

Step 2: Install XenCenter
After reboot, you will see a status display. The most important piece of information here is the IP address that you assigned to XenServer during the installation. From another machine on your network, you'll need to open a browser and navigate to that IP in order to download the installer for XenCenter. XenCenter is the Windows-based central management console for all of your XenServer hosts. The installer is in an MSI format, meaning you will need to be using some version of Windows to execute it.

Optional: As an alternative to the above method, you can simply use the same CD used to install XenServer. It contains the XenCenter MSI as well. We prefer the previous method, as it gives some idea that XenServer was installed properly, and we don't have to shuffle CDs.

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