It hasn’t been long since I was last blogging about XenServer–for the v6.5 SP1 release–and while that was for the second XenServer release of 2015, it hasn’t stopped our development and PM teams from preparing a raft of new product features and platform enhancements we want customers to try out.
That’s right, we’ve got another release for you, this time a XenServer technical preview!
So, what has the development team been up to and what is this preview about? Some of these product features have been in the works for a while and we feel, now, that they’re in a ready state for customers to put through their paces, thus this technical preview.
Before I jump into the release specifics, I should mention that this is a technical preview release, hence features covered here may or may not make it into the final release and, if they do, they might not necessarily look and feel like the do here. Some of that will come down to how popular the features are and if customers deploy and use them, so your feedback is very much valued (and needed!) at this point.
With that small disclaimer out of the way, what are the key features? I’ve broken them down into three key areas:
Expanded hardware support for virtualized graphics
Extending XenServer’s impressive leadership in this space, we have been working with Intel on integrating their GVT-g. This is not the GVT-d GPU pass-through we release in SP1, but virtualized graphics, so multiple VMs using the same GPU.
The notable thing with GVT-g is that it is embedded on the CPU chipset, so no extra GPU cards to purchase or install. The embedded nature also means that there are new server types that can be used for application & desktop virtualisation projects where enhanced graphics is a requirement, server blades being a good example. Citrix recently demoed this at IDF’15 in conjunction with SuperMicro and one of their blade chassis.
Enhanced storage features for lower TCO
The XenServer product group continues to optimise the platform for multiple use cases, and in particular, application and desktop virtualisation ones. In this preview release, we have some enhancements to play to multiple scenarios:
Thin provisioning for block based storage consumes less storage during the initial Storage Repository creation, hence allows businesses to grow their LUNs on demand and based on usage, but without having to compromise on the initial infrastructure design to support future expansion.
SMB support enables customers to utilize Microsoft Windows-based storage arrays for hosting VMs.
Storage Migration has been enhanced to include an offline capability. Customers are now able to migrate a VM’s storage between standalone or pooled hosts, while the VM is in a powered off or paused state. Particularly useful for storage re-tiering, this eases the management burden when handling powered off VMs and can help to reduce infrastructure OPEX.
Infrastructure scalability and supportability
Big host support! XenServer host scale has been increased to support up to 5TB RAM and 240 physical CPUs. Larger hosts mean higher consolidation ratios, with a better TCO offering.
VM RAM has been upped to 1TB, opening up new virtualisation use cases such as in-memory databases (think SAP HANA).
A new health check provides customers with a pro-active resource pool & host health check. Also helping to reduce infrastructure OPEX, this can identify potential issues within your XenServer infrastructure before they become more serious.
Preview release program
The above details are not an exhaustive list of the preview’s features. For that you will need to go to http://www.citrix.com/products/xenserver/whats-new.html, check out the download and associated release notes. You will also find details via this link on how to submit bugs.
The preview release is available only to existing XenServer, XenApp & XenDesktop customers from the 22nd September, and we hope to refresh it with updates to the binaries late October. Don’t forget to submit feedback, as your input is valued!
We are excited by the features, the value they bring to server, desktop and cloud use cases. Bearing in mind that XenApp & XenDesktop customers are already entitled to use XenServer for their app/desktop infrastructures, features discussed here add further value for many of our customers. I hope that you find value in them also.