What’s new with XenServer

Announcing the XenServer Technical Preview

Available for a limited time only is a new technical preview with enhanced features and functionality for application, desktop and server virtualization use cases.  In addition to a new XenServer infrastructure health check feature, this tech preview includes the following highlights.

Expanded hardware support for virtualized graphics

  • Representing a new form factor for virtualized graphics, Intel GVT-g enhanced graphics are based on the embedded Intel Iris Pro GPU within the Intel Xeon E3 chipset.  This opens up new hardware opportunities for virtualized application and desktop environments.

Enhanced storage features for lower TCO

  • Thin provisioning for block-based storage arrays allow businesses to grow LUNs on demand based on usage, without compromising on the initial infrastructure design to support future expansion.
  • SMB Storage Repository support is available for customers utilizing Microsoft Windows based storage arrays.
  • Offline storage migration allows migration of a VM’s storage between resource-pooled hosts, across pools or standalone hosts while the VM is in a powered off or paused state.  This provides greater flexibility for infrastructure admins to re-tier VMs or perform host-level maintenance without first having to power the VMs on.
  • FCoE offload for NICs provides infrastructure admins with an alternative, lower cost of entry FCoE capability.

Improved infrastructure scalability and supportability

  • For host scalability, 5TB RAM and 240 CPUs enable larger physical servers to power larger infrastructures, helping lower the cost of ownership with higher consolidation ratios.
  • For VM scalability, 1TB RAM enables larger VMs, opening up the platform to new use cases such as for SAP and in-memory databases.
  • Enhanced support for large scale Microsoft Active Directory infrastructures provides greater performance.

Download the XenServer Tech Preview

New in XenServer 6.5 and SP1

Citrix XenServer 6.5 increases speed, scalability and performance of enterprise-grade desktop, cloud and server virtualization deployments through enhancements to networking, storage, graphics and operational management.

This release brings new levels of virtualized infrastructure workload versatility, performance and scalability to enterprise and service provider customers.  Customers can more cost-effectively deliver high-end 3D graphics applications, take advantage of the latest 64-bit hardware and OS platforms and better support enterprise-grade requirements for high-performance networking, storage and workload management.

Expanded support for GPU virtualization

With architectural improvements, XenServer now supports the latest NVIDIA GRID cards and more physical GPUs per host, increasing vGPU session scalability by 50% (from 64 VMs to 96 VMs). The XenServer hypervisor management platform is able to effectively scale as the hardware grows.

Enhanced support for enterprise server virtualization

XenServer 6.5 re-introduces workload balancing (WLB) and support for workload monitoring and reporting. This gives system administrators deep insight into system performance, allowing infrastructure optimization and dynamically moving workloads based on compute, storage and networking loads.  XenServer can even automatically place workloads based on historic data. The reporting functionality is particularly useful for administrators to understand overall systems health, as well as metrics such as system capacity.

Improvements to networking, storage and availability

The Distributed Virtual Switch Controller (DVSC), which relies on the Open Virtual Switch networking, has had its deprecation notice rescinded and the feature is brought up to date with new security patches.

A number of architectural updates have significantly increased networking performance, by as much as 800% in some cases, now with support for Generic Receive Offload (GRO), the ability to save dom0 kernel CPU resources and improved IPv6 guest performance. Grant Mapping has been increased 100% in aggregate throughput of multiple VMs. Its network performance improvements enable more VMs to run effectively per host. Storage performance has also been increased by over 100%, with support for in-memory read caching and tapdisk3, and reduced IOPS on storage networks.

Full 64-bit next-generation architecture

XenServer has always had a 64-bit heart, being based on the Xen hypervisor (a Linux Foundation project).  It has also long supported both 32-bit and 64-bit guest operating systems, although the control domain (Dom0) was previously 32-bit.  In this release, XenServer v6.5 now ships with a 64-bit control domain, which has a profound impact to the host.

No longer constrained to 32-bit OS limitations, the XenServer control domain is now able to directly access far more memory (RAM) and address more PCIe adapters than before.  Both of these enhancements increase the scalability and performance of the overall system, and enable XenServer to support the latest generation of 64-bit server hardware from OEMs.

Improved management and maintenance

XenServer 6.5 management and maintenance improvements allow administrators to install a set of patches with a minimum number of host reboots. Additionally, device driver versions have been decoupled from kernel build versions where possible to avoid reverting to obsolete device drivers. Where required, future service packs will now include any new device drivers, and the Hotfix notification process has been improved.

The SP1 release introduces Docker container support to extend flexibility in the datacenter with granular visibility into running processes and container configuration, as well as run-time management of containers to start, stop and pause. Also included in SP1 are:

  • Double density – XenServer is tested and supported running up to 1000 VMs per host, given sufficient underlying hardware and appropriately sized VMs.
  • Intel GVT-d support – GPU pass-through on Intel chipsets embedded is a perfect accompaniment to XenApp workloads requiring enhanced graphics.
  • Enhanced nVIDIA GRID GPU support – an update to existing GRID GPU pass-through support enables deployment of Linux workloads with enhanced graphics.