That’s right – XenServer v6.5 SP1 has just been released, featuring enhanced graphics support with Intel GVT-d GPU pass-through for Windows, nVIDIA GPU pass-through for Linux and Docker container run-time management!

Citrix Synergy 2015 is in full swing here in Orlando, Florida, and the XenServer product group has been eagerly looking forward to this year’s event for numerous reasons.

It might feel like only last week that Citrix released XenServer v6.5; however, four months ago this very significant version was released to market and it has since been receiving some great praise by customers, partners and analysts alike. As a quick recap on its key features and enhancements:

  • New 64-bit control domain (dom0), providing greater performance and scalability of addressable memory & PCI adapters
  • nVIDIA vGPU scalability improvement, now at 96 vGPU sessions per host!
  • A new in-memory read-cache, helping to reduce desktop virtualization storage costs
  • Workload Balancing (WLB) for infrastructure monitoring and workload automation
  • Significant networking and storage performance improvements

v6.5 was an important release for many reasons; with the 64-bit control domain not now being bound by limitations of 32-bit operating systems, it opened up new possibilities in scalability and performance. Dom0 can directly access far more memory than was previously possible, laying the foundations to create features such as the in-memory read-cache, the type of integration many customers have come to rely on Citrix innovating.

With greater performance and scalability, architects can use budgets more wisely and where it is really required, potentially reducing numbers of hosts by scaling the number of workloads higher per host. The In-Memory Read-Cache can reduce the need to expensive high-end arrays, further reducing the project deployment costs for customers. Of course end users benefit too, with a faster more responsive desktop, which is able to be started-up and connected to much more quickly, as well as being able to transfer large files seamlessly.

For further information, please see the v6.5 announcement blog here.

With all of the above in mind, it is exceptionally pleasing to announce that the XenServer engineering & PM teams have been busily working on a service pack update, which is being made generally available today, Tuesday 12th May.

XenServer v6.5 SP1

As a downloadable hotfix for XenServer infrastructures, SP1 includes some new key features:

  • Double VM density – now supporting up to 1000 VMs/host
  • Intel GVT-d GPU pass-through for Windows machines
  • nVIDIA GPU pass-through for Linux machines
  • Docker container support: run containers in VMs and use XenCenter for lifecycle management operations
  • New guest OS support & updates: Windows 10 template enablement (official support to come once Microsoft officially releases the OS), plus CoreOS
  • XenCenter improvements: per-VM visibility of in-memory read-cache usage

XenServer & Graphics

Working with GPU/vGPU graphics vendor partners, Citrix has created and led the market for support of graphics intensive virtual workloads, with XenServer being the first hypervisor to market, by over a year, with (nVIDIA GRID) vGPU support.

Intel’s GVT-d support marks an important step in GPU usage within virtual infrastructures. It means customers now have the capability to deploy GPU pass-through [to virtual machines] using the natively embedded GPU on the server, without the need for additional hardware. Being able to deploy virtualized desktop infrastructures with GPU pass-through at no extra cost will have a profound effect for architects seeking a cost effective solution, yet with the necessary high-end graphics capabilities.

For the end user, it means being able to use all manner of graphically intensive applications, including some that you might not even necessarily associate with this use case. Take Adobe Reader for example. We all read PDFs; however, there are also the kind of PDFs that allow for 3D graphical models to be rotated & zoomed. These application types can make great use of GPUs, enriching the user experience and removing load from the CPU, which in turn might free up resources for other users.

Additionally, use of standard Intel GPU drivers within the guest VMs reduces image management overhead of deploying and maintaining these virtualized application and desktop infrastructures.

With the recent announcement of XenDesktop supporting a Linux VDA and XenServer’s new support for Linux GPU pass-through, Citrix is paving the way for customers to deploy and manage graphics intensive Linux applications and desktops.

SP1 also now enables admins to use the XenCenter UI for installation of the nVIDIA vGPU drivers – no more CLI!

XenServer & Containers: Why should VMs have all the fun?

There is more to our customers’ infrastructures than just VMs, with the new big area of interest being around Docker containers. This release introduces XenServer support for them with UI integration for run-time management. Yes that’s right, infrastructure admins can continue to monitor and manage their virtual infrastructure; however, now they have granular visibility and control at the container level.

As you can see from the screen shot, it is possible to mine down into a VM and see what containers are running, what the [configuration] details are and what processes are running with associated utilization:

This is not a situation of having to choose one or the other; Docker containers offer something targeted at a different set of use cases and can complement virtual infrastructures. Whatever your choose, Citrix XenServer can support both!

Obviously being a service pack, you would expect this to contain a rollup of any existing hot-fixes, of which there are only a few; a great testament to the excellent v6.5 release and stability of XenServer!

Please see the following link for the necessary XenServer SP1 update and XenCenter downloads:

Are you at Synergy 2015 in Orlando? Check out this other blog for further information on the XenServer presentations and demos being given at the conference: /blogs/2015/05/06/xenserver-at-citrix-synergy-2015. You will find me at Citrix demo pod #19 within the Synergy expo hall, so please come by for a chat!

Stay connected for all things Citrix Synergy – follow @Citrix and @XenServer on Twitter, or my personal Twitter handle of @mtrouardriolle and join the conversation using #CitrixSynergy.