Running XenServer 5.6 on VMware Workstation

With XenServer 5.6 just released, it was time to fire it up inside my virtual lab at home.

VMware Workstation 7.1 makes a great performing platform for a virtual XenServer test lab.

In my case, I have two virtual XenServer 5.6 instances in a pool and a virtual iSCSI SAN appliance (latest 8.5 HP P4000 VSA) running on top of Workstation 7.1 (on Windows 7 x64).

This setup gives me shared storage for my XenServer pool and full live migration of VM’s (XenMotion)

To get this up and running is quite simple:

Your host PC on which you run VMware Workstation needs a bit of grunt – but that comes cheap these days.

A quad core Intel or six core Phenom CPU, 8GB of RAM and one or two cheap 40GB Intel V series SSD would give you enough cores, memory and IOPS for quite a large virtual home lab.

Here we go – kick off the New Virtual Machine wizard in VMware Workstation

Point it at the XenServer install iso you have downloaded from Citrix

As a guest OS, make sure to select Linux and the version as 2.6.x 64-bit

Give it a name and a location for the virtual machine

Give your virtual XenServer one CPU and core (unless you have an insane number of cores at your disposal)

Give the VM at least 1GB of memory – this is the minimum for XenServer to install (you can give more if you have it)

Choose your network type for your VM – I use bridged so the VMs can access the network of my underlying host PC

Leave the SCSI controller as LSI Logic (Default choice)

Leave the disk type as SCSI

Make the disk at least 14GB to successfully install XS 5.6 (the official XenServer docs say 16GB is the minimum disk size)

Then click next through the rest of the wizard and power on the VM and install from the iso file

Booting up after install/config

Two functional XenServer 5.6 VM’s

Add the HP P4000 virtual iSCSI SAN appliance ( for shared storage

If your XenServer and HP VSA VM’s are bridged onto your host PC network, you can then install the XenCenter client as well as the HP CMC (SAN management) on your host OS and access them directly.

XenCenter client managing a pool of two virtual XenServer 5.6 hosts, shared iSCSI storage provided by the HP virtual SAN appliance.

Be aware that this setup will only allow you to run nested Linux VM’s – not Windows, as the Hardware Virtualization assist CPU support is not passed though when XenServer is virtualised on top of VMware Workstation.

BTW, vSphere/ESX(i) runs equally well on this setup.

All-in-all a good setup for a home testing/training/certification lab


One thought on “Running XenServer 5.6 on VMware Workstation

  1. I got similar setup with few ESXi 4.1, StarwindSoftware iSCSI SAN…. Works great for learning.

    Only 32bits nested VMs thought… -:( and no FT.

    Time to take Citrix for a spin… -:)


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