Build a Cheap XenServer for your Home Lab

XenServer 55

In the beginning I decided not to have a XenServer at Home, simply because I wanted to totally relax after work. But because of ongoing projects and this blog I found it easier to have one at home as well.

I have chosen these components :

The system are extremely quiet and the total price was less than $450. The XenServer 5.5 installed without any problems and even the RealTek RTL8111/8168B Network Card showed up and worked. In my Lab I also have a FreeNas & WHS box. Right now I have put the ISO library on the WHS server, and will later try to add storage from the FreeNas box, but for now I will be using Local Storage.

5132 other Citrix Community members have already downloaded the eBook. It contains a lot of helpful information for both beginners and experts. Combined with the 7 day eCourse you will have a solid foundation to get certified as a Citrix Administrators. Check out some of these testimonials:

“I’ve used the the Hands On Guide for XenApp 5.0 extensively as a reference in my work. It’s been a great help to me”. John Martz – Illinois, USA

“Your guide was very helpful for me to get started with XenApp 5 and XenServer. I have deployed XenApp 5 using this on production environment and all looks good. Many thanks and keep up the good work!!!”.Manish N. Dwivedi – India

“Your web site has helped me greatly as I have now developed a test Citrix farm using your guide, this proved to be a great reference to follow when setting up a new 2008 environment with XenApp 5.0, not only does it cover installing XenApp but gives an insight into XenServer. Would highly recommend this web site and eBook to anyone from beginner to expert”. Nick Rimmer – Scotland

“I truly appreciate the work and the amount of time you spent in creating this amazing book. I found your book an excellent start to the world of Citrix XenApp. What I truly appreciate the most is the step by step instructions in about every little detail that goes with XenApp installation and settings. I wish I had your book a few years back when I first start learning about Citrix it would saved me a lot of hours and frustrations. Keep up the good work!”. Adam Tigris – Toronto


28 Responses to Build a Cheap XenServer for your Home Lab

  1. This post is really useful. I’ve been looking for a ‘home configuration’ for a bit of time now and have been struggling.

    I was wondering if you could answer a couple of questions please:

    1) Are you using XenServer 5.5

    2) How many sessions have you had running on this configuration succesfully?

    I was looking at maybe running 4 sessions at one time: 1 being Windows 7 & 3 Windows Server 2008.

    Many Thanks

    Mark

    • I’m currently running XenServer 5.5 with 1 w2k3 dc, 1 w2k3 wi/sql, 1 w2k8 wds/pvs, 1 win7 and 2 w2k3 xenapp50fp1 servers all x32 without any problems.

      Eric

  2. Limitation is memory.
    I run 12 machines, 2008, Seven, 2K3, ….
    You need to stay under the 8 Giga limit of memory
    Claude

  3. Excellent parts list – been trying to figure out a way to set up a XenServer at home without breaking the bank.

    My only question is whether or not the motherboard gives you the “hardware virtualization assist” which will let you run 64-bit VMs. If so, the ol’ credit card will be getting a workout this weekend…

    • XenServer only installs on x64 bit systems. You will have to enable Secure Virtual Machine in Bios prior to the XenServer installation. Works perfectly.

      Eric

  4. By following this post, I built a XenServer for home with no problems at all.

    One issue with this motherboard/processor combination is that you can’t fill all four slots with 1066 DDR2 RAM – if you do this, it drops down to 800. So if you want the full 16GB, buy 800.

    (“Due to AMD CPU limitation, DDR2 1066 is supported by AM2+/AM3 CPU for one DIMM per channel only.” : M4A78-EM manual)

  5. hi, i am interested in building a Xenserver test machine for as cheap as possable, it only has to run a few VM’s (lets say 3), i need this for my final year project (degree), i was wondering if the formentioned board (ASUS M4A78-EM)has any problems durin instalation such as non compatible network card and also if an AMD Phenom II X2 545 would work also,

    i do not want to spend a lot on this as it will only be used for my project

    Paul.

    • No problems with XenServer installation on this hardware. The cheaper AMD Phenom II X2 545 will work as well. The number of VM’s depends on the memory, so you would be good with 4 GB, but I would recommend 8GB. After your project is finished this box would be a very good and fast Windows 7 x64 machine.

      Eric

  6. Hi,

    Great post!
    One question: are you using the MB’s raid capabilities or are you using external storage?

    Thanks!
    DenW

    • Hi DenW,

      I have been using local storage without Raid, but I have recently bought the new Synlogoy 410J and will try iSCSI in the near feature.

      Eric

  7. Hello there,

    Whats is the activation – licencing issues with having 2 or more w7 vms running at the same time?
    Can w7_x64 used as vm images with a motherboard that supports Virtualization(Gigabyte GA-MA785G) and AMDx6?

    • Hi,

      I’m not sure if I understand your question correctly. First of all you have to activate the license on XenServer even with the free product, just fill out the form online. Regarding Windows 7 x64 running as VM on XenServer, you will need to activate those machines like you normally need to do on normal computers. Hope this helps. To run Windows machines in a VM on XenServer, the HW needs to support Virtualization and x64.

      Eric

  8. Hi,

    Does this setup support I/O virtualisation?
    I’d like to be able to use my RS232 X10 controller with one of the VM’s.

    Thanks,
    DenW

  9. Very good recommendation, thanks for a nice review. However, both motherboard and CPU links are dead, no wonder, new models are selling now, a year later. Has anyone recently assembled a home brew XEN server with affordable components of 2010 generation hardware (mobo, CPU, memory)? Any “fresher” combination, currently selling? Any recommendation?
    Rgds
    Dusan

    • Hi Dusan,

      No I don’t have any new updates for home brew, but you can get an Dell PowerEdge T110 for $449 with 1Yr Basic Hardware Warranty.

  10. Hi Trond,

    What is the best way to use these virtual machines?

    I’ve used RDP to access some VMs running on XenServer, the latency is OK.. but not perfect. Which product from Citrix is best for creating a better environment for the client?

    Thanks,
    Tob

    • Hi Tob,

      You could try the XenDesktop 4 Express edition. This is free for 10 users and you will get the advantages of the HDX technology instead of RDP.

  11. Tob,

    We have 2 terminal servers running on an IBM x3500 unit, and we had the same latency issues, until we gave it local SSD storage. Now it handles the 2 terminal servers (w2k3_x32), the license server, and 6 other servers, one of which is a file server. No lag. 🙂 I highly recommend sandforce SSDs with virtualization! (but any decent SSD will do of course)

    • Thanks for sharing your results Keiran,
      For Prodution SSD is awesome, but for a Home Lab it’s still a little bit expensive.

  12. I purchased a Dell SC1435 from Ebay for £260.00 with 16gb ram, it’s on the Citrix HCL for Xen Server. It works brilliantly, currently I have 7 2008 VM’s running on it, with capacity to squeeze a couple more.
    I use the internal storage, x2 500gb SATA disks, it came with one and bought the other again from ebay for £20.

    • Awesome Nick, maybe I should browse eBay myself to get some good hardware for my next project. Thanks for sharing.

  13. This is a great website. Trying to install Xenserver 6 with great difficulty on a microserver. The server is an HP Microserver using SATA drive 160 GB and 8 gigs memory.

    I created a USB bootdisk and tried to boot it booted but only sees the USB drive but not the SATA drive.

    Any thoughts please ?

    Thanks,

    Curry

  14. Hi Eirik,

    This website is like a light to a person who is walking in darkness. I am having an assembled PC at my home with 4 gb ram and core 2 duo processor. I am now, trying to upgrade it so that i can install xenserver 6.2 on its hard disk directly and install VMs. Till now I was thinking about this configuration: i7 processor, motherboard, 32 GB ram. As it is for home purpose, I dont want to have 100% performance etc etc, but want the best. What configuration would you suggest me? Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks a ton!!

    Chaitanya.

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