Best Hypervisor for HomeLab

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Based on my experience I am writing this post about Hypervisor. When you want to build a home server at cheap cost, you obviously need a Hypervisor for free or at low cost. I tried using Hyper-V, esx and xenserver. My requirement is to build a xendesktop environment.

I am not going to post any free/license details about the Hypervisors I refer to, because as I already mentioned that this is about a home server and we need it at as cheap as possible. Hyper-V 2012 R2 is free. Esx and Xenserver are also free, but you get additional features when you purchase a license.

Note: I am not trying to promote or recommend any one particular Hypervisor. This post is completely based on my experience with some Hypervisors.

My Infrastructure:

AMD FX 8350 Processor 16 GB RAM 1 TB HD Dlink Router

My Observations:

Hyper-V is very fast out of all these 3 Hypervisors but for xendesktop environment, I think it has some obstacles with Gen1 and Gen2 mode of virtual machines. In my environment, Gen2 vms didn’t boot over network. I had an MDT server and my Gen2 vms didn’t work with PXE boot. I also have seen some posts in Hyper-v forums but none of them worked. I also have posted thread, but no clear answer yet.. 😦 Even though you use Hyper-V you need to create an other vm to install scvmm. Otherwise xendesktop doesnt work. So, out of all your ram, you need to use atleast 1 or 2 gig for this scvmm machine.

I can use Gen1 and use Hyper-V Hypervisor but Gen2 has got more features than Gen1. If you need the features of Gen2, check the article by John Howard here. Because of these two problems, I avoided Hyper-V.

Vmware ESX also has same problem as Hyper-V, Here you need vCenter Server, otherwise your xendesktop wont work again. I also have installed a vm with vCenter but xendesktop needs a certificate to be installed and while I am trying to create that certificate, I got problems with openssl. When I checked the vwmare kb site, it says for vsphere version 5.5 and above, a hotfix needs to be installed which is almost 333 MB. I need to download that hotfix, install in esx, use openssl, generate certificates, install it, then use it in xendesktop as

HUFF!!! lot of side work again..

Finally I came to xenserver.

While using xenserver, xendesktop doesn’t need any other software or server(like scvmm server or vcenter server). Xendesktop directly works for xenserver hosts(single or pool in xenserver). However, it is a bit slower when compared to Hyper-V and Esx. (When I used MDT network boot over these 3 Hypervisors, vm in Hyper-V got OS in 10 mins, and vm in Esx got OS in 22 mins, and XenServer vm in 45 mins.) So, you can save almost 2 GB if you are using xenserver Hypervisor.

One more important benefit we get is, if we are using any other Hypervisors other than xenserver, you need to maintain the appropriate version for every xendesktop product you use. For example, if you are using Hyperv 2012, you need to use SCVMM 2012. I used XenDesktop 5.6 and installed SCVMM 2012 and configured Hyper-V 2012 in it. While configuring XenDesktop 5.6, it said Hyper-V version is not supported. Meaning, I should install Hyper-V 2008. When you use XenServer, 6.2 version is supported by XenDesktop 5.6 and XenDesktop 7, 7.5 and 7.6. I don’t have to do any changes at all.

When building a home server or home lab or a test environment or if your ram is limited, I recommend to go with XenServer Hypervisor. No additional vms are needed. Hence, no additional effort, saves time.

Everybody has their own observations depending on their own requirements. I have seen people moving from XenServer/Esx to Hyper-V because of its speed. But I feel Xenserver is good for a home lab. Finally, Now I am using XenServer 6.5.

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