Given XenServer (7 currently) is based on CentOS, does that mean it works just like CentOS in terms of updating, CLI, administration (non-Xen specific like mdadm and boot loaders) etc?

Basically, if I want to use XenServer, then am I committing to using, learning, and working in the CentOS "way"?

We have a new (to us) server on the way and now is the time to switch hypervisors and we are set on using Xen.

Our current setup that I am familiar with and can administer efficiently is a Debian host with a couple VMs using Virtual Box which is less than ideal to say the least. Due to this, I am familiar to working in Debian and have made a conscious choice to use Debian for our servers. I administer only our servers for our small business so I do not have the diversity of other setups and other distributions to work from.

From my understanding, the way Redhat does things is a bit different from Debian based distributions and would require a learning curve of unknown amount; but a learning curve for sure.

So if I use XenServer, am I also committing to the Redhat learning curve?

I am aware that I can install Xen with a Debian based Dom0 but the consensus I have read seems to say XenServer works the best overall. However there will be a bit of configuration I will need to do such as getting our local RAID arrays up and running for the Dom0, Xen, and Network Shares, along with getting boot loaders and grub in order. I can do this configuration rather easily in Debian so I am trying to weigh the cost in time of trying to do the same configuration the CentOS way which I am afraid will add a considerable amount of time to get the new server in to Production given IT by myself for our company slowly happens in the afterhours of business; hence the question.

3 Answers 3


Keep in mind that the OS is stripped even if based on a release, as if the gear is in the HCL, you will mostly never use any OS command.

Most command you will ever use to administer it would be in the xe commandset:

  • xe task-list
  • xe task-cancel
  • xe toolstack-restart
  • etc...

OS update all got installed and detected via the xenserver console too.. thus, most command are the xen command.

Only time I entered general command on the host was to install the dell openmanage package and a monitoring agent.

  • He'll need to drop into the base OS for doing XenServer patches, but that's nothing more than a few cd's and eventually a few rm's to clean things up. Might even need curl or wget (I think one or the other is already installed) to get the patches onto the pool master and sha256sum to verify their integrity. But otherwise, Citrix would prefer you don't meddle with the base os - think of it like an appliance.
    – SnakeDoc
    Dec 29, 2016 at 16:23
  • @SnakeDoc now the console GUI do it all alone for the patch :) like if you have a 3 servers farm, the console put one host in maintenance, restart it, install the patch and remove the host from maintenance and start the process on server 2.
    – yagmoth555
    Dec 29, 2016 at 16:59

Primarily, you are committing to work in the XenServer way. This product is essentially an appliance and most of the things that are different between Debian and CentOS are hidden from you anyway or are better maintained by the tools XenServer offers you.

You can easily test this, setting up a test VM with XenServer is easy (yes, it runs inside a VM).

  • Thank you! Based on the answers I feel comfortable just moving forward setting up Xen on the new server instead of a VM. We will just leave our current production server online in the meantime (obviously) so if it does not work out, no harm other than time lost. I am just hoping to mitigate the "time lost" part of it Good call on the VM idea though!
    – Damon
    Dec 29, 2016 at 17:57

I work with Xenserver almost every day. In a simple server or small pool there would be very little need to interact with the underlying OS ever, which is the point.

But we have 60+ xenservers and we have historically used Salt to push out changes sitewide, like "someone's left, change all the root passwords and all the DRAC passwords" or update DNS servers, or simply append a search domain to resolv.conf or to install dell's opemnamage hardware monitoring, or simple stuff like the latest checkmk agent.

In 6.5 this worked well despite being officially unsupported.

In 7.0 the RPMs are not available and installing the salt RPM simply complains about missing dependencies.

So to answer your question, No, administering xenserver is like administering an appliance as long as you don't do anything weird

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