XenServer Review

The ability to move a VM while it is still running and continue doing maintenance work is a big advantage


What is our primary use case?

Our primary use case for this product is that it serves as the main computing platform for our enterprise software. Our ERP system and our SQL Servers run on top of that and all the applications that we deploy are essentially virtualized.

How has it helped my organization?

Server consolidation has saved us a lot of money over the years. Being a non-profit that is a very big consideration for us.

What is most valuable?

The feature that is most valuable to us is the XenMotion (live migration) feature. It is critical for us, especially when doing maintenance work. That is a must-have feature. Also Storage XenMotion. The ability to move a VM while it is still running and continue doing maintenance on that is a big advantage.

What needs improvement?

The third-party integration is not very advanced. I don't know if it's a lack of interest by developers. Compared with VMware, Xenserver doesn't have a lot of third-party add-ons. Maybe in some way that can be improved.

The number one feature that would make it a more robust product is a backup solution. Right now we have to buy Xen Orchestra as a separate solution to manage the tasks a little bit better. If it was integrated within the product, that would be good. Maybe Citrix should just buy Xen Orchestra and improve on it. It is a very good product. It does everything we want to do, but it's a separate product which means we have to pay another license in addition to the ones for XenServer. So I really would want to see improvements in the backup arena and a more robust clean-up job after some tasks such as snapshots fail to complete.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using the product since 2011, so I have been using it eight years or more.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

As far as stability, we have never had any problems that we've not been able to overcome. The only thing we have experienced is that sometimes when you are doing your backups or you are creating a snapshot, you get orphaned images or other unnecessary files that the system fails to auto clean. But this is not really any failure of the system as far as stability. 

We have 16 licenses at the moment and we run it on four Dell R910 machines with four CPUs in each, and each is eight-core. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It is easy to scale up. You can grow as you wish.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is quite quick and responsive. Whenever we have a problem, they are able to log in and check on the issue for us. Technical support has been good for us. We do pay for annual tech support. They are quite good.

How was the initial setup?

Initially, I would say the setup was straightforward. When we consulted with Citrix about our plan for implementation we created our design diagrams, then we sent them the diagrams so they could check whether the design was going to work or not. When they looked at our diagram, they confirmed that it was a good design in terms of fail-over at both hardware level (host pools and storage) as well as physical network design. So we just deployed the product the way we had planned and it was straight forward after the plan was confirmed.

What other advice do I have?

I think the biggest issue that I've seen that scares off a lot of potential customers is that they think it is complicated to set up. There are not many people who have deployed the product compared to other products. I think new clients should start small and gain confidence. There is no harm in having a mixed environment where they can at least try it out. If they like it they can continue to roll out the deployment. 

For us, the attraction has been that the licensing is straight forward. You don't have to think about what it will cost for add on features. It's really straightforward in that you pay for the number of CPU cores you have and that is if you want Technical Support. It is very easy for us to predict our costs. With other products, it is really difficult to know how much it's going to cost from year-to-year. With this product, we are able to say for sure what the cost will be.

On a scale from one to ten, with one being the worst and ten being the best, I would rate this product as a nine. It is not a ten only because I don't have an easy way to do replication and backup. We had to learn to use the command line just to do that. But other than that, it's a very stable product. We have never had trouble, in addition, the hypervisor has a very small footprint on the host.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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