Smoothwall Firewall project

Monday 30 November 2009

Using a Xen virtual appliance to manage your VMware servers

One of the great things about virtualization is the amount of money you can save companies, not just in hardware costs, but also the on going costs of keeping machines in a data centre and a rack, and feeding them with power and air conditioning.

Well, I built several ESXi servers for the current bank balance filling company, and they needed an easy and affordable way to manage them on the cheap. Now, I have always thought that VMware workstation is very affordable, so I built a Vmware virtual appliance to look after the servers with Vmware vSphere client. This however proved too expensive for them and they wanted something at zero cost to the company.

It is obvious that the management virtual appliance has to be on a different virtual infrastructure to that which it is supporting, so I built another virtual appliance , this time on our Xen server. As the virtual appliance has to be built with windows XP as it's base and then security hardened, the Xen server has to have the Intel processor enhancements turned on in the BIOS, otherwise it just won't fly.

The Xen server is based on RedHat Enterprise Linux 5.4, which comes with a lot of enhancements to the virtual machine management program - virt-manager, and it is very straight forward now to configure new virtual machines.

All I had to do to allow remote management of this appliance was to turn on the terminal services process within XP, and now people can use the "remote desktop connection" program to access this VM and control the ESXi servers using vSphere client.

Xen offers great performance, and this solution works really well, and didn't cost a penny.

No comments: