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Create a backup Load Balancing Virtual Server using Citrix NetScaler

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Citrix NetScaler is very powerful in Load Balancing. In fact Citrix is one of the market leaders in providing flexible and very robust Load Balancing features using NetScaler. To load balance your resources, you have to configure Load Balancing and then create load balancing virtual servers. So that will protect you against a single backend server failure.

But what if you don’t want to balance the load between several backend server, but you only want a certain backend server go active for your end users as a backup in case the primary goes down? And because we have a small setup, we only have one NetScaler running. So no clustering, of high availability whatsoever.

In this post I will show you how you can configure a backup virtual load balancing server for existing load balancing virtual server.

Requirements for the configuration:

  • Citrix NetScaler 11.1 (www.citrix.com).
  • Primary resource (in my case a website).
  • Backup resource (in my case a website).
  • Ip addresses for the virtual servers.

My homelab setup
I am running this whole setup from my Microsoft Hyper-V 2016 server. Also I have deployed two Linux webservers, all very basic.

So let’s start.

The screenshots below show the actual IP address of webservers running a simple .html page. One is the primary webserver, and the other one I want to become active when the primary goes down.

 

Set up the Primary Load Balancing Virtual Server

So each website will have it’s own load balancing virtual server. In this way I can define the backup virtual server. I already added both webservers as a Server object.

I also created the HTTP service I want to load balance.

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Load Balancing -> Virtual Servers and click on Add.

Enter the setting for your primary load balancing virtual server. This is the load balancing virtual server where everyone will connect too. This is the one we will configure with the backup load balancing virtual server later on. Enter the required information and click on OK.

Now add your backend resources to this load balancing virtual server. Remember that is load balancing virtual server is primary, so your primary backend servers will have to be added here. Click on No Load Balancing Virtual Server Service Binding.

Click on the Select Service option to select the service we want to bind. Then click on Bind.

Click on Continue.

Click on Done.

Check the status of the load balancing virtual server. It should say UP.

Now it is time to test. When we browse to the IP address of this load balancing virtual server (192.168.1.33), we should see the webserver I want to be primary.

Set up the Secondary Load Balancing Virtual Server

This second load balancing virtual server will be the backup of the primary one. We will set this one up to connect to my secondary webserver.

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Load Balancing -> Virtual Servers and click on Add to create a new load balancing virtual server. Then enter the correct settings and click on OK.

Click on No Load Balancing to add the second webserver as a resource for this load balancing virtual server.

Make sure you select your backup resources here. I selected my secondary web server / website. Then click on Bind.

Click on Continue.

Click then on Done.

So now you should have two load balancing virtual server with status UP.

Check the secondary load balancing virtual server for connectivity to the second web server.

Set the backup Load Balancing Virtual Server

We have to edit the properties of the primary load balancing virtual server. Using the Protection option we are going to tell it to redirect traffic to the secondary load balancing virtual server, in case it’s own back end server goes down.

Open the properties of the primary load balancing virtual server and click on Protection.

Select the load balancing virtual server you want to use as a backup. In my case I select the load balance virtual server which is redirecting me to my second web server. Then click on OK.

Check if everything is set up correctly and then click on Done.

Do some testing

It’s time to test if the setup works like we want it. I am turning of the primary web server now.

And when I browse to my primary load balancing virtual server now, I am presented with the second web server! A job well-done.

We can see in the log of the NetScaler that it detected the primary web server is down.

This concludes this tutorial. Feel free to contact me of you have any questions or comments.

You can also follow me on twitter or add the rss feed from the blog and you will be notified when I add new posts.

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Load Balancing Microsoft Exchange 2016 with Citrix NetScaler

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

Citrix NetScaler is a very powerful and versatile platform for application delivery. Load balancing is one of the key features of Citrix NetScaler. Many organisations are using Microsoft Exchange 2016 to provide email, calendar, tasks and other enterprise collaboration solutions to their employees and customers. Deploying Citrix NetScaler in front of Microsoft Exchange 2016 ensures security, reliability and performance for end-users and IT-engineers. This method is also known as “reverse-proxy” for Microsoft Exchange.

Requirements for the configuration:

  • Citrix NetScaler 11.1 (www.citrix.com)
  • Microsoft Exchange 2016
  • SSL Certificate

My homelab setup
My homelab setup is not that complex. I am running the Exchange 2016 server and the NetScaler as a Hyper-V virtual machine. For load balancing usually you need more then one back-end resource (Exchange 2016 server), but for testing the load balancing concept it’s fine. Also I am using a self-signed certificate. If you run this similar setup in production, you need a valid certificate singed by a public certificate authority.

So let’s start.

Logon to the NetScaler and go to System-> Basic Configuration and enable the correct featured in the Basic Features panel according to the screenshot below.

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Add Servers (back-end servers)

Let’s add the servers we will be using to load balance. In my case this is my Exchange 2016 Server. When we add the server here, we can later use it in the Service Group as a resource.

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Load Balancing -> Servers and click on Add.

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Enter the required information and click on Create.

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Set up Service Groups

We will need a total of five Service Groups. See the table below. Let’s setup the Service Groups needed to feed the Load Balancing vServer.

Load Balancing Service Group NameExchange featureProtocolPort
lb_svg_exch2016_owaOutlook Web AccessSSL443
lb_svg_exch2016_ewsExchange Web ServiceSSL443
lb_svg_exch2016_activesyncActiveSync Service for mobile mailclientsSSL443
lb_svg_exch2016_rpcOutlook Anywhere or RPC over HTTPSSSL443
lb_svg_exch2016_autodiscoveryAutodiscover ServiceSSL443

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Load Balancing -> Service Groups and click on Add.

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Enter the required information and click on OK. Make sure to choose SSL as Protocol.

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Click then on OK again.

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Now we have to assign Service Group members. These are your Exchange 2016 servers off-course. In my case there is only one as I explained earlier in my post. Click on No Service Group Member.

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Click on Server Based to select the server you added earlier. In my case that is exchange01.vikash.nl. Make sure you use port 443. Click on Create.

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Click on Done.

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You will now be taken to the overview of the Service Groups. Using the steps above create the other needed Service Groups. You can select the lb_svg_exch2016_owa and then click on Add. This is how it should look in the NetScaler interface when you have create all the Service Groups according to the table above.

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Set up Load Balancing Virtual Servers

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Load Balancing -> Virtual Servers and click on Add.

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We will create five Load Balancing Virtual Servers. In the table below I have specified them:

Load Balancing Virtual Server nameLoad Balancing function
lb_exch2016_vsrv_owaOutlook Web Access
lb_exch2016_vsrv_ewsExchange Web Services
lb_exch2016_vsrv_autodiscoveryAutodiscover Service
lb_exch2016_vsrv_activesyncActiveSync Service for mobile mailclients
lb_exch2016_vsrv_rpcOutlook Anywhere or RPC over HTTPS

Enter the required information. Make sure you choose SSL for protocol and make the IP Address Type Non Addressable. We don’t want the Virtual Server to be directly accessible on the network. Instead we will use the Content Switching feature of the Citrix NetScaler to direct traffic to where we want it. Click on OK after setting up everything like the screenshot below.

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Click on No Load Balancing Virtual Server ServiceGroup Binding.

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Select the a Service Group to bind and click on Bind.

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Click on Continue.

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Click on No Server Certificate to bind a certificate.

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Select the appropriate Server Certificate. In my case this is my self-signed certificate, which is fine for testing purposes. In this post I show you how to import a PFX certificate on the NetScaler. After selecting the correct certificate, click on Bind.

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Click on Continue.

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Click on Done.

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Create the other Load Balancing Virtual Servers like I specified in the table above. Just select the Load Balancing Virtual Server we just added, and click on Add and follow the steps as described above.

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After adding all the Load Balancing Virtual Servers, the list should look like the screenshot below.

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Set up Persistence

Several of the Load Balancing Virtual Server require a different setting for Persistence. In the table below I have specified the settings:

Load Balancing Virtual Server NameExchange FeaturePersistence TypeSetting per type
lb_exch2016_vsrv_owaOutlook Web AccessNONEDefault
lb_exch2016_vsrv_ewsExchange Web ServiceNONEDefault
lb_exch2016_vsrv_activesyncActiveSync Service for mobile mailclientsSRCIPDESTIPDefault
lb_exch2016_vsrv_rpcOutlook Anywhere or RPC over HTTPSRULETimeOut: 240
Expression:
HTTP.REQ.HEADER("Authorization")
lb_exch2016_vsrv_autodiscoveryAutodiscover ServiceSOURCEIPDefault

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Load Balancing -> Virtual Server and select lb_exch2016_vsrv_rpc. Then click on Edit. You will should see the screen below. Click on Persistence in the right column of the page.

Select the setting for this specific virtual server in the drop-down menu. Enter the expression HTTP.REQ.HEADER(“Authorization”) and click on OK.

Click on Done.

Now do the same for the other load balancing virtual servers. Check the table for the specific settings. In the end you should end your Virtual Server should look like the screenshot below.

Set up Content Switching Virtual Servers

The content switching server will redirect the traffic to the appropriate load balancing server. After creating the content switching virtual server we will define the content switching actions and policies, and bind them to the content switching virtual server. Navigate to Traffic Management -> Content Switching -> Content Switching Virtual Servers and click on Add.

Enter the information and make sure you use a new IP address and port 443.

Click on OK.

Now we have to bind the SSL certificate. Click on Certificate in the right column.

Select the certificate (in my case vikash.nl) and click on Bind.

Click on Continue and then on Done.

We can now see that the virtual server is up.

Create Content Switching Actions

Now we have to create the content switching Actions. These actions will send the traffic to the appropriate backend load balancing virtual server.

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Content Switching -> Content Switching Actions and click on Add.

Fill in the name, select Loadbalancing Virtual Server and select one of the Load Balancing Virtual Servers. In my screenshot I start with the load balancing server for Outlook Web Access. Click then on Create.

Now select the content switch action we just created, and then on Add. This will duplicate the switch action, making it easier to adjust settings for the following switch actions.

In the end you should have all the load balancing virtual servers connected to a specific content switch action, and your screen should look something like the my screenshot below.

Create Content Switching Policies

In the content switching policies we will tell Citrix NetScaler where to redirect the requests to. In the table below I have created an overview of the policies.

Policy NameExpressionAction
cs_pol_activesyncHTTP.REQ.URL.CONTAINS("Microsoft")cs_act_activesync
cs_pol_rpcHTTP.REQ.URL.CONTAINS("/rpc")cs_act_rpc
cs_pol_ewsHTTP.REQ.URL.CONTAINS("/ews")cs_act_ews
cs_pol_autodiscoveryHTTP.REQ.URL.CONTAINS("/autodiscover")cs_act_autodiscovery
cs_pol_owaHTTP.REQ.URL.CONTAINS("/owa")cs_act_owa

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Content Switching -> Content Switching Policies and click on Add.

Give a name and select the appropriate action. Fill in the correct expression (see table above) and click on Create.

Now select the content switch policy we just created, and then on Add. This will duplicate the switch policy, making it easier to adjust settings for the following switch policies.

In the end your list of policies should look like my screenshot below.

Bind Content Switching Policies

Now we have to bind the content switching policies to the content switching virtual server. This is the server where all the traffic comes in, and according to the policies the NetScaler redirect the traffic.

Navigate to Traffic Management -> Content Switching -> Content Switching Virtual Server. Select the content switching virtual server and click on Edit.

Click on No Content Switching Policy Bound to bind the policies.

Select the policy and set the priority. Click then on Bind.

Do the same for all the policies. Your screen should look like my screenshot below.

You should have 5 content switching policies bound to the switching virtual server.

Testing

Now you can test! You should be able to connect to the ip address of the content switching server and it should redirect you to the appropriate resource on the backend.

This concludes this tutorial. Feel free to contact me of you have any questions or comments.

You can also follow me on twitter or add the rss feed from the blog and you will be notified when I add new posts.

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Import pfx SSL Certificate on Citrix NetScaler

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Import pfx SSL certificate on Citrix NetScaler is something you will do when using Citrix NetScaler. This proces is easy, so just a quick blogpost about that. Just make sure that your pfx file contains the certificate and the private key. Also make sure that it is password protected and keep it in a safe place. You don’t want this falling into the wrong hands.

Requirements for the upgrade:

  • SSL certificate with private key in .pfx format
  • Citrix NetScaler 11.1

So let’s start.

Importing SSL certificate

Browse to the NetScaler GUI using a webbrowser and login. In my case I use the nsroot account.

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Go to Traffic Management -> SSL -> Certificates -> Server Certificates and click on Install.

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Enter a name and browse to your .pfx file using the Local option (click on the arrow after the word Choose File). Then enter the password for the .pfx file and click on Install.

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You should see now that your certificate is available to use on the NetScaler.

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So that’s it.

This concludes this tutorial. Feel free to contact me of you have any questions or comments. You can also follow me on twitter or add the rss feed from the blog and you will be notified when I add new posts.

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Upgrade Citrix Licensing Server 11.13.1.2 to version 11.14.0.1

Reading Time: 2 minutes

With the release of Citrix XenDesktop 7.11 a new version of Citrix Licensing Server is released. This new version is also the minimum required License Server version for Citrix XenDesktop 7.11. I already have version 11.13.1.2 running, so let me show you how to upgrade to version 11.14.0.1.

The steps are easy and the upgrade should be without any hiccup. Just to be sure, make a backup of you existing License Server before starting the upgrade proces.

My environment for the installation:

  • downloaded the Citrix Licensing Server 11.14.0.1 for Windows (www.citrix.com)
  • Windows 2012 R2
  • domain name: VIKASH (vikash.nl)
  • account for setup: Administrator (VIKASH\Administrator)

Upgrading Citrix Licensing Server

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Check the current version of the License Server.

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Unpack the zip file and start the installer.

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Because I am using demo licenses I choose to check Subscription Advantage (SA) manually. You can set it to check SA status automatically or even update it. Click on Next.

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The installation wizard will detect the installed version of Citrix License Server and prompt you with the upgrade option. Click on Upgrade.

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After the upgrade has finished, you can choose to participate in Citrix Customer Experience Improvement Program. I choose not to participate. Click on Finish.

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Login to Citrix License Administration Console and check the version. It should report 11.14.0 build 17005.

So that’s it. Thanks for reading.

This concludes this tutorial. Feel free to contact me of you have any questions or comments. You can also follow me on twitter or add the rss feed from the blog and you will be notified when I add new posts.

 

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How to upgrade XenServer

How to upgrade XenServer 6.5 to 7.0 using Rolling Pool Upgrade

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A while ago I did an XenServer 6.5 Upgrade to 7.0. Check it out here. I thought now let’s create a Citrix XenServer 6.5 pool, and do the automated upgrade using Rolling Pool Upgrade in Citrix XenCenter.

What’s new in Citrix XenServer 7.0:

  • Intel Iris Pro Graphics GPU support
  • NVIDIA GRID vGPU support for Linux Applications
  • Up to 128 vm’s per host with the NVIDIA vGPU M6/M60 graphics card
  • Windows Update integration for XenTools

These are a few things I like. There are far more new features, take a look at the Citrix XenServer site here.

Requirements for the upgrade:

  • Citrix XenServer 6.5 with SP1 and all the latest hotfixes
  • Citrix XenServer 7.0 ISO (www.citrix.com)
  • FTP Server with extracted Citrix XenServer 7 ISO
  • Citrix XenCenter 7.0

My homelab setup

Since I don’t have additional hardware to run XenServer, I installed it as a virtual machine on Hyper-V 2012 R2. This is fine for testing purposes. Just make sure you create the virtual machine als a Generation 1 vm and add the Legacy Network Adapter.

Caution

During the upgrade process you will have the choice to upgrade the partition scheme of the Local Storage Repository (Local SR). The new partition scheme in Citrix XenServer 7.0 is beter for especially log files. But altering the partitions means that you have to move all the virtual machines to a safe place. The upgrade process will delete everything on the Local SR when re-partitioning during the upgrade process!

So let’s start.

Prepare the Local SR for re-partitioning

Before we start the upgrade using the Rolling Pool Upgrade method in XenCenter, we have tell the upgrade process that it is safe to re-partition the Local SR. This has to be done from the command line. I have tried to upgrade without entering this command, and sometimes re-partitioning failed on one of my XenServer hosts. This behaviour was random.

So just to make sure everything goes smooth, enter the following command in the the console of every XenServer host:

touch /var/preserve/safe2upgrade

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Let’s start.

Upgrade XenServer

Make sure you have patched your XenServer 6.5 hosts completely.

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Check that the hosts in your XenServer pool are version 6.5.

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Go to Tools and select Rolling Pool Upgrade.

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Click on Next.

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Select the pool. You can click on the plus (+) sign to see all the hosts in the pool and the version number of XenServer. Click on Next.

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Now I want XenCenter to do all the heavy lifting so I choose Automatic Mode. If you go for the manual mode you will have to mount the Citrix XenServer 7.0 ISO manually and do the upgrade steps by hand in the upgrade console. Click on Run Prechecks.

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When starting the upgrade, I made sure that my XenServer 6.5. hosts were fully patched and updated. But as you can see above I was still missing a critical hotfix according to the upgrade wizard. Click on Apply hotfix for all the hosts listed in your pool.

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After the missing hotfix is applied to all the XenServer hosts in the pool, the precheck will run again. We should be good to go now. Click on Next.

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The wizard will prompt you to enter the path for the installation files for XenServer 7.0. I downloaded the ISO and extracted it beforehand and made it available to XenCenter using FTP. Make sure you click in Test after entering the information for your setup. If everything is ok you should see the green checkmark next to the Test button. Click on Start Upgrade.

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Now it is time to sit back and relax. It can take a while for all the hosts to upgrade and reboot. The wizard will start with the pool master. Just keep an eye on the Overal progress.

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After the pool master is finished, it continues to the next host in the pool.

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When all is done, click on Finish.

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Check in XenCenter that everything is ok and the XenServer version is 7.0. Now that the upgrade is done, let’s do some updating. Always good to have that covered.

Update Citrix XenServer 7.0 using XenCenter

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After the actual upgrade to XenServer 7.0, XenCenter will display one update. Select Download and install from the drop-down menu.

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Select your XenServer pool. Click on Next.

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It will show you when the update is uploaded to all the XenServer hosts. Click on Next.

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Click on Next to start updating.

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Leave here at default. Again, let’s let XenCenter do the heavy lifting. Click on Install update.

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After XenCenter has updated all the hosts, click on Finish.

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Now there will be more updates for Citrix XenServer 7.0. This is normal. Just apply them using the same method I just described.

So that’s it.

This concludes this tutorial. Feel free to contact me of you have any questions or comments. You can also follow me on twitter or add the rss feed from the blog and you will be notified when I add new posts.

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How to upgrade XenServer 6.5 to XenServer 7.0

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In this blogpost I will show you how to upgrade XenServer 6.5 to XenServer 7.0. Recently Citrix released XenServer 7. As you can see on my blog, I am a big fan of Citrix solutions :). So now I was wondering: how can I upgrade my Citrix XenServer 6.5 setup without losing the configuration. First of all, let’s take a look at some new features in Citrix XenServer 7.

What’s new in Citrix XenServer 7:

  • Intel Iris Pro Graphics GPU support
  • NVIDIA GRID vGPU support for Linux Applications
  • Up to 128 vm’s per host with the NVIDIA vGPU M6/M60 graphics card
  • Windows Update integration for XenTools

These are a few things I like. There are far more new features, take a look at the Citrix XenServer site here.

Requirements for the upgrade:

  • Citrix XenServer 6.5 with SP1 and all the latest hotfixes
  • Citrix XenServer 7 ISO (www.citrix.com)

My homelab setup

Since I don’t have additional hardware to run XenServer, I installed it as a virtual machine on Hyper-V 2012 R2. This is fine for testing purposes. Just make sure you create the virtual machine als a Generation 1 vm and add the Legacy Network Adapter. Also make sure that you don’t have anything else running on the disk where XenServer is installed. The partition scheme on that disk will be altered during the upgrade process.

Let’s start.

Upgrade XenServer 6.5

Check the version of XenServer using the console.

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Check the version of XenServer using Citrix XenCenter. Note that I am still using XenCenter 6.5. When I’m done updating the XenServer host to version 7, I will install XenCenter 7. Keep reading for that.

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So everything is looking great. Let’s mount the Citrix XenServer 7 ISO using the properties of the virtual machine.

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We can now reboot the host. Make sure it boots from the XenServer 7 ISO, so set it to boot from CD.

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Click on Yes to reboot the server.

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The host will now boot from the Citrix XenServer 7 ISO. Press Enter to start the upgrade proces.

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Choose your keyboard layout. Then choose OK.

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You will be prompted to load additional drivers. I don’t have any so I choose OK.

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Accept the EULA.

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If you run XenServer as a virtual machine, you will get a warning that Hardware Virtualization Assist is not available. This is correct since it is a virtual machine and cannot provide virtualization support for vm’s on it. Choose OK.

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The installer will now detect your Citrix XenServer 6.5 installation, and will provide you with the upgrade option. How great is that! Choose Upgrade XenServer and then OK.

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The installer will need to create a backup. Choose OK to continue.

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Select the installation source. Because I am using a ISO I choose Local media. Choose OK to continue.

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I will not be installing any supplemental packs. Choose NO to continue.

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I choose not to verify the media, because I am sure it is ok since I just downloaded it successfully from the Citrix website. Choose OK to continue.

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The installer has collected all the required information now to perform the upgrade. Choose Install XenServer to continue.

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The installation will now start.

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It will run trough a couple of screens, and then present you with the screen where it says Installation complete. At this point you can unmount the ISO from the virtual cd, and choose Enter to reboot.

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After reboot you will be presented with the GRUB bootloader. Select the first option and press Enter. If you do not press a key during the GRUB bootloader, it will automatically choose the first option and start XenServer.

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Wait for XenServer to load.

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After it has booted completely you will be presented with the xsconsole. As we can see the upgrade went great and XenServer is running happily in my vm.

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Setup XenCenter 7

To manage your new XenServer host you have to install XenCenter 7. Download the installer from Citrix (www.citrix.com) and start the setup. Click on Next.

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The defaults work fine for me. Check that you set them according to your needs. Click Next to continue.

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Click on Install to start the installation.

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After the installation has finished, click on Finish.

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Now it is time to start XenCenter.

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As you can see it has detected my connection to my XenServer 6.5 host. Right-click that and click Connect.

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You can then choose to enrol Health Check. I did not, so I just clicked on Close.

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And we can see the XenServer host version information using XenCenter now.

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So that’s it, the upgrade went great.

This concludes this tutorial. Feel free to contact me of you have any questions or comments. You can also follow me on twitter or add the rss feed from the blog and you will be notified when I add new posts.

How to upgrade XenServer 6.5 to XenServer 7.0 Read More