XenCenter is our free management and monitoring product available for XenServer. Many XenServer users have very specific and complex systems and requirements and like to choose the tools and products they need for their industry or usage. Owing to our open architecture and vendor neutral policy, we allow customers, partners and other vendors (including competitors) to augment XenCenter functionality and integrate XenServer with their own applications.

XenCenter is a platform and dashboard onto which anyone can add specialist components from vendors of their choice, develop their own bespoke tools or pick up free tools from our active developer community; creating a customised solution with the added benefit of avoiding vendor lock-in.

It’s an approach that can help both large enterprises and SMB customers slash their costs. XenCenter is free and can be used with XenServer Free. Rather than pay expensive hypervisor licensing fees to support a generalised management console with features designed to support the average users that aren’t relevant to many customers. Many of our customers are choosing more bespoke and relevant products from tier 1 specialists, developing their own functionality or using free components from other community developers.

We’ve seen a big increase in customers using XenServer alongside other hypervisors this year. It’s an approach that works well for many customers and can considerably reduce the cost of virtualisation. XenCenter’s open approach is helping these customers because we are increasingly seeing vendors develop products that allow you to use XenCenter to monitor and manage XenServer, XenDesktop, XenApp and Netscaler alongside other hypervisors such as vSphere and Hyper-V. Our latest XenServer MasterClass featured MonitorIT from Goliath, a rather pretty solution where they showed the monitoring and management of XenServer and XenDesktop, alongside vSphere hosts.

What has been surprising is the range of products that have integrated with XenCenter and XenServer, providing very sophisticated functionality beyond that offered by hypervisor vendors. Eaton is a global technology leader in power management solutions, they have years of expertise in that field as it is their core business. Eaton have produced a plug-in that allows you manage and monitor the health and optimisation of the power infrastructure within your deployment using XenCenter. Like many vendors Eaton’s plugin is available to check out on YouTube.

NetApp are a long-term partner of XenServer and a popular and trusted storage choice for the platform. Recently NetApp launched a XenCenter plug-in for configuring storage, the team at NetApp used their internal expert knowledge of their technologies to eliminate complex storage administration, making previously fiddly or time-consuming tasks much simpler. The Virtual Storage Console (VSC) allows XenCenter users to provision, de-duplicate, resize, and destroy storage repositories and do on-storage operations like cloning tens of thousands of VMs almost instantaneously.

Citrix has long partnered with other specialist vendors such as Stratus to provide fault tolerant and high-availability functionality on XenServer and this too can be integrated with a XenCenter plugin. Stratus offer both software and hardware solutions in this area and cross-hypervisor so it really does make sense for such functionality to be delivered by a third party.

There are now XenCenter plugins allowing you to:

  • orchestrate complex de-duplication, backup and recovery
  • capacity plan
  • load balancing and automation

I’d recommend a good google or search on YouTube as there are too many to list!

Some of the plugins now available only came about because end-customers told software vendors that they wanted a XenCenter plug-in. So if you have day-to-day administration tool you can’t do without, it can really pay off to suggest to software vendors that they provide a plug-in, ridding your desktop of yet another unnecessary window!

Apple’s app store has thrived because anyone can have a bright idea and share their app. It’s nice we have so many tier 1 household names creating add-ons for XenCenter but it’s exciting that we have so many individuals and smaller companies making and sharing XenCenter plugins. Lots of system administrators create plugins that automate scripts and tasks and integrate them into the management suite. I was really uplifted to see the creativity and sheer fun some users have.

Martin is a Citrix employee in another group who uses XenServer as an end-user, he’s blogged about his experiences writing a plugin. Martin was accessing his VMs via RDP and XenCenter – now he’s using XenCenter as a single pane of glass, he’s also integrated the popular free PuTTY tool into XenCenter, with step-by-step instructions.

It’s not just Citrites that have been extending XenCenter, out in the community there are others making their own turbo-charged versions of XenCenter. There are users integrating web consoles to monitor Netscaler VPX, Edgesight, Branch Repeater, Access Gateway and many other applications, to make their own single pane management solution.

How to develop your own XenCenter plugin

XenCenter is a fun product to develop against. We’ve setup a community website for plug-in developers on which you can find a step-by-step guide, “Hello World” and code examples to get you started quickly. It also a great way to start developing an application for XenServer without the overhead of designing your own GUI, it is great learning experience for new graduate developers but also as a hands-on lab exercise for university students.

XenCenter and XenServer’s open architectures go a lot deeper, the developers on the products are focused on making all the functionality available to XenCenter accessible to all. All the metrics collected by XenCenter are open and it is developed using our open APIs, so if XenCenter can do it – so can you. If you want to develop your own way of displaying or modify the granularity of the metrics you are free to do so. There’s also a developers’ landing page and forum where you can discuss your development projects on the APIs, which are available in Python, C, C#, Java and Powershell, as well as the xe CLI.