Smoothwall Firewall project

Friday 24 April 2009

Centos 5 is an excellent Xen virtualization enterprise distribution

I had need to set up a Xen virtual server recently , and wanted to use the Redhat Enterprise 5 series to do some testing. Unfortunately these days, you only get 30 days update trial support so I decide to use a binary compatible distro instead and I picked on Centos. There are a few, but I have always had the best success with Centos, so why change a winning combination.

This has been around for a while now, and has been working hard to stay with the Redhat releases, and are only a month or two behind them when released. This is really a none issue for business users, as being at the cutting edge is exactly where they don't want to be.

I installed it on an AMD dual core X2 powered server, with 6GB of RAM and 5TB of disk space, which acts as my virtual testing server. As a virtual server it is not that large these days, but it allows me to run several virtual machines with ease.

The anaconda install process detected everything, and the for those people who are used to Fedora or Redhat , the process is identical (not surprising), with just a change of art work. It is a real credit here to Redhat for being a real community player and putting their source code out there for other projects to do this, and the Centos team for taking the time and effort to implement it. Just make sure you select the virtualize section when picking which applications to install on the server.
The new tools for managing both para-virtualized and full virtualized machines with Centos, using libvirt, worked without a single hitch, and I had an Ubuntu test virtual server up and running in literally minutes. The new GUI virtualization management tool works well. It is most definitely not a VMware virtual center or the Citrix Xen Enterprise management tools, but then it is free and for a simple virtual setup works well.

The performance was very good on this test server, and the Xen implementation - 3.0.3 - in the 5.2 release worked flawlessly.

If you are looking to build a virtual server for home or the office, then this distribution should be on your short list as it offers full functionality without the costs. You of course don't get the great technical support that Redhat offers, but the Centos community forums I looked at were full of quality answers, and anyone with a good background in IT infrastructure should not have any issues, unless you are a paper MCSE of course ;-)

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