With more than 150,000 organizations running XenServer virtualization in a production environment, it is easily one of the most popular platforms available for virtual machine (VM) management. Since its inception as a research project of the University of Cambridge in 2001, the core Xen Project hypervisor has consistently pushed the boundaries of data center computing. The XenServer technology was acquired from XenSource in 2007 by Citrix, and the technology has evolved to support high-density virtualization for both cloud and desktop workloads.

XenServer furthered its leadership role when, in 2013, Citrix partnered with NVIDIA to deliver true hardware graphics virtualization using NVIDIA GRID and XenServer to define a new class of virtual workload: the high-performance graphics workstation. Even more recently, this new type of virtual workload has been expanded to leverage both Intel and AMD video cards for Windows- and Linux-based Guest VMs.

This is the environment XenServer administrators are increasingly being called upon to optimize and manage. This book seeks to provide practical guidance for how to plan, deploy, operate, and troubleshoot a modern XenServer environment. Our goal is that regardless of whether you manage a modest installation of a few blades or multiple global enterprise data centers, if you’ve found XenServer to be a critical component of your organization, then there will be valuable content for the successful operation of your XenServer deployment.

How This Book Is Organized

To easily fulfill the goals of this book, namely providing administrators with the information they need to be successful with XenServer, we’ve organized the content into two parts.

Part 1 covers the content most valuable during the design phase of a deployment. This is where you’ll find information on the architecture of XenServer, installation guidelines, best practices, and deployment blueprints. Some of the information in this portion of the book includes:

  • Exactly what a “XenServer” is
  • The critical components that make up a XenServer environment
  • Installation of XenServer hosts
  • Storage, network, and management paradigms

Part 2 covers day-to-day management information. Everything from log management through backup strategies are presented. The majority of the content in this section is provided in simple problem statements with easy resolutions. It’s important to note that when resolutions are provided, the answer may include either XenCenter or command-line instructions. Most solutions will include the simplest path to resolution over presenting multiple solutions and going into detailed analysis of root causes.

Who This Book Is Written For

From seasoned “compile-it-from-scratch” Xen experts to college students maintaining a virtualized infrastructure in their spare time, this book was written with the specific purpose of making any XenServer administrator, experience aside, successful from installation to system-based lifecycle management.

No one person has ever climbed out of bed, headed into the office, and become a spontaneous XenServer administrator. Even we continue to learn from our colleagues and the Xen community; and we keep our own skills sharpened. It is this constant type of learning and problem solving that keeps us enthusiastic, driven, and energetic about XenServer’s power to create an infrastructure. It is all this and more that, in turn, we have presented within these pages: something new or something familiar to ensure you have a successful XenServer deployment story to share with others.

Future Release Information

This book was specifically written to cover XenServer 6.5. At the time of its writing, XenServer Dundee was under development, and pre-release installers were publicly available. Some functionality is expected to be changing in Dundee, but there is no guarantee the pre-release changes won’t be changed prior to final release. Where changes are known to exist in a preview form, we’ll let you know.

About Us

At heart, we are absolute tech geeks. We both enjoy working with the latest technology while solving some pretty cool problems. When working with customers or users, we’re both trying to find ways to quickly resolve whatever issue caused the customer or user to reach out for help. It is this passion for technology, coupled with an understanding for what it means to run software in production, that drove us to write this book. Put simply, we want every XenServer admin to be successful with XenServer, and this is one way to accomplish that goal.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Indicates new terms, URLs, email addresses, filenames, and file extensions.

Constant width

Used for program listings, as well as within paragraphs to refer to program elements such as variable or function names, databases, data types, environment variables, statements, and keywords.

Constant width bold

Shows commands or other text that should be typed literally by the user.

Constant width italic

Shows text that should be replaced with user-supplied values or by values determined by context.


This element signifies a tip or suggestion.


This element signifies a general note.


This element indicates a warning or caution.

Using Code Examples

This book is here to help you get your job done. In general, if example code is offered with this book, you may use it in your programs and documentation. You do not need to contact us for permission unless you’re reproducing a significant portion of the code. For example, writing a program that uses several chunks of code from this book does not require permission. Selling or distributing a CD-ROM of examples from O’Reilly books does require permission. Answering a question by citing this book and quoting example code does not require permission. Incorporating a significant amount of example code from this book into your product’s documentation does require permission.

We appreciate, but do not require, attribution. An attribution usually includes the title, author, publisher, and ISBN. For example: “XenServer Administration Handbook by Tim Mackey and J.K. Benedict (O’Reilly). Copyright 2016 Tim Mackey and Jesse Benedict, 978-1-4919-3543-9.”

If you feel your use of code examples falls outside fair use or the permission given above, feel free to contact us at .

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From Jesse

“What have I become, my Swedish friend?”

Trolle Selander, you brave man! I bow to both your impressive encouragement for chaotic (yet productive) scrums and courage in remaining my mentor, idol, and moral compass in wielding Hypervisor-specific code!

Mr. Mackey: XenServer Evangelist, Awesome Guy Extreme, and another brave mentor to myself. To think all of this could have changed if it hadn’t been for our wonderful comrade and colleague Rachel Berry. I only recall that during my recovery from a long, long life of what the kids are mashing up as #DevOps and just trying to blend in, but NO! She was all too kind to pull me up and above the radar to introduce me to yourself and one Tobias Kreidl. In all seriousness (for once), I say to you, Bud: thank you for all you have done to encourage, push, collaborate, and challenge me as my evangelical mentor. I’ve seen less patience from pavement, Tim, and per my convenient tally, I believe I still owe you at least a pint?

Look, Dad, I made it to print, and as such, I further give my gratitude, respect, admiration, sarcastic disdain, and silent disagreements in EBCDIC format to Bill Aycock, Stead Halstead, Nick Kieffer, Tobias Kreidl, Ronald Lofton, Tim & John Martin, Sam McLeod, Todd Pigram, Varun & Deepika Sharma, Stephen Turner, and everyone from the “XenArchy Pod” to my colleagues around the world.

Lastly, I must express the gratitude I have for three special people whom—like my wife, Melissa—redefine what it means to be a teacher. They taught us so we would look beyond just the night’s homework. They challenged us as so we would think outside of the classroom. They inspired us so we would find self-confidence and internal motivation. I thank you, Ellen Batchelder, Stephanie Pond-Lawler, and Elizabeth Ward (the self-proclaimed goddess of knowledge) for those lessons the three of you imprinted on us is—to this very day—still working its magic!

From Tim

The reality for me is that this book wouldn’t be possible without the loyalty and endorsement XenServer has received from the user community at large. This loyalty to a product that I’ve come to be very closely associated with inspires me daily. I hope that I’ve been able to return that favor with some little nugget of goodness in here.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to work on XenServer with a team of quite passionate people, the vast majority of whom have worked solidly behind the scenes. But I want to call attention to three key players: Tobias Kreidl, who is always willing to lend a hand to a fellow admin in need and is the most prolific support forum contributor; Steve Benton, who brought unwavering energy to the XenServer Masterclass; and Lee Bushen, who worked tirelessly preparing demo after demo for not only the XenServer Masterclass, but for the Masterclass Extra. If you were lucky enough to be a participant in one of those Masterclass events, you’ll remember how we “don’t stop until you drop”—a reference to the Masterclass continuing so long as attendees were asking questions, even if it were hours after the scheduled end of the event.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who either reviewed the content for this book or contributed ideas for it. Without you, there wouldn’t be a book, and your efforts do not go unnoticed.

Oh, and Jesse, I’ll collect on that pint someday and probably buy a few myself. 

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