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Citrix on Zen Server vs VMWARE vs Hyper-V

Posted on 2009-04-27
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We are in the process of upgrading our Citrix environment and our vendors/consultants are really pushing us to go with Zen Server for our virtualization.  They claim that Zen Server is going to take over the virtual world and before long VMWare will be a thing of the past.  I know this is probably a sales pitch and should be taken with a grain of salt.

I realize Zen Server was built to support Citrix and there are probably some hooks in there that make it the most optimized solution for Citrix.  We are a smaller company that has a smaller Citrix implementation and everything else we have running virtualized is on VMWare and it would be nice to keep it that way (or move towards Hyper-V possibly).  We plan to have 2 virtualized presentation servers each running on their own physical host, and then also use those physical hosts for other virtual machines as well.

Two questions.  Is it safe to run Citrix on VMWare and Hyper-V?  Also, are there any real good reasons for a smaller company with a smaller Citrix implementation to stick with Zen Server?
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Question by:jpletcher1
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lkraven earned 200 total points
ID: 24245979
I have been researching XenServer quite extensively in the last couple of days.

First of all, the claim that XenServer is going to eliminate VMWare is bluster.  There is nothing at the moment which suggests that is going to happen.

That being said, XenServer is a very good solution.  It is, however, new to Citrix, having been purchased only a couple of years ago from an open source company.

I do not know the ramifications of running XenApp presentation server on top of VMWare or Hyper-V, but I suspect that they would both run fine.  I also don't doubt that Citrix XenServer is optimized to be the least troublesome on which to run XenApp.

On the bright side, Hyper-V, the latest VMWare ESXi and XenServer, as of weeks ago, are all free applications.  Your vendors and consultants probably want to sell you maintenance, support, and management applications, but if you have time and are so inclined, they are all available free for production or to test.

Of the applications, I would rate them from least flexible to most flexible:

Hyper-V
XenServer
ESXi

On the other hand, that is also how I would rate them in ascending complexity.  You may just want to stick with Hyper-V if it will work-- my main complaint about Hyper-V is the limited support for non Microsoft OSes, but if there was any one product that is likely to make the others "a thing of the past" it would be Microsoft's product.
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by:Carl Webster
Carl Webster earned 500 total points
ID: 24245994
Is it safe to run Citrx on VMware and Hyper-V - YES - absolutely.  Many are doing so with NO issues.

Reason to go with Xen Server?  IT IS FREE and has optimizations for XenApp built into the product.  I don't think it is as easy to use as Hyper-V.  Hyper-V and XenServer share a lot of simulariities in their hypervisor code base.
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by:jpletcher1
ID: 24246021
Thanks for the info.  What you have stated is very much what I was guessing, but it is good to hear it from someone with more experience and reading than I have done on the matter.  I would still like to keep this open to get more opinions.  Thanks again for your insight lkraven.
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by:Carl Webster
Carl Webster earned 500 total points
ID: 24246040
I am switching all my learning series articles from VMware Workstation to Hyper-V in the very near future.

http://www.dabcc.com/Webster
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by:jpletcher1
ID: 24246108
That's quite a website Carl.  I see you have significant experience in this area.  You feel that you are pretty unbiased as far as all the virtual technologies go and Hyper-V is for the most part a good solution that is the easiest to configure and maintain then?  I know that Zen Server offers "VMotion" style capabilities, I think it's called Quick Migration in Hyper-V.  Does Hyper-V offer comparable performance in this area to Zen Server/VMWare?  Does R2 for Hyper-V address this?
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by:Carl Webster
Carl Webster earned 500 total points
ID: 24246136
Citrix also offers their HA stuff for Hyper-V: http://www.citrix.com/English/ps2/products/feature.asp?contentID=1687093

I have been told R2 is a big improvement over the original Hyper-V.

I met a guy from Microsoft who does a lot of blogging and webcasts on Hyper-V.  Check out his blog and videos: http://ts2blogs.com/blogs/rwagg
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by:Carl Webster
ID: 24246163
To lkraven, (this is NOT a snide remark or comment): seriously what % of companies run XenApp on non-Windows platforms?  I bet it is less than 5%.  So we _could_ _probably_ say that 95% of XenApp installs are on some version of Windows.  We could then say then that Hyper-V supports 95% of XenApp installations.
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by:lkraven
ID: 24246202
I agree with you Carl.  I am not suggesting anyone run XenApp on any other platform other than Windows, but if I had to make a decision today for my organization, one of the things that would make me pause about Hyper-V is its weak non-MS support.

Not for XenApp only, mind you, just overall.

Because the VM technologies are complicated enough that throughout your enterprise you'd typically not want to increase training costs and complexity by using multiple platforms, and if you had any use at all for Linux, Centos, or FreeBSD software appliances, you might find that Hyper-V might not be the best solution.

That's all I was saying.

I would agree with you that Hyper-V supports 95% (or more) of XenApp installations.

I was just making a point about future or planned usage of VM technologies and that for me, cutting out most non-Microsoft operating systems is a pretty big negative.
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by:larstr
larstr earned 200 total points
ID: 24248639
For a performance comparison, please have some attention to Project VRC. These guys will have an updated presentation on this subject  in a few days @ the Virtualization Congress.

For a very small implementation it probably doesn't matter much which product you choose. How many users are having?

Lars
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by:vmwarun - Arun
vmwarun - Arun earned 100 total points
ID: 24249052
I would also like to update that if you are having any ideas of using Linux OS as Guest VMs, then I suggest that you either choose Citrix Xen or VMware ESXi, since Microsoft Hyper-V only supports RHEL 5 and SUSE Enterprise 10.
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by:larstr
ID: 24250006
Even if you consider running windows only, you might not find Hyper-V good enough since it's only supporting specific versions of different windows versions. w2k3 is only supported with SP2. w2k is only supported with SP4. This is not normally a huge problem, but some people tend to have weird applications that are not certified for newer SP's.

For simplicity I've also created tables over the supported guest OSes by the 3 hypervisors.

ESX4 (available in ~1 month) will also support other OSes such as Unixware, SCO OSR5, and a few more linux distros in addition to those listed in that link above.

Lars
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Author Comment

by:jpletcher1
ID: 24250696
Thanks everyone.  I think I have what I need now.  Sounds like for the most part if our hosts will be Windows 2003/2008 then all the solutions will work just fine.  I will try to allocate the points the best I can.
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Author Comment

by:jpletcher1
ID: 24252666
BTW - sorry for referring to Zen Server instead of Xen Server.  Thanks guys!
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