Explore Xen virtualization with Xen Live CD


Updated: July 28, 2011

Say, you liked my Xen introduction article and you are now looking to test its functionality. But you may be afraid of the long and complex configuration setup, which in the end, might not yield desirable results. Well, that's a justified concern. Luckily, there's a very simple solution.

You can download and run Xen from a live CD! Based on Debian 5, it's a demonstration tool that allows users to roadtest Xen in a volatile live session before deciding whether they want or need Xen. Sounds fantastic. So let's see what this thing can do.

Teaser

Live CD tour

Quoting from the official site, the Xen Live CD brings together several features and attempts to show many different situations, as far as possible, in a clear and functional way. For example, different architectures of the Hypervisor, pre-configured virtual machines with different kernels of dom0, virtual framebuffer enabled for virtual work stations, extra examples with SDL console enabled, demonstration of conversion between machines HVM and PVM, several methods of how to make a virtual hard disk, among many other examples of what can be done with Xen.

The GRUB menu clearly tells you it's a Debian system. In fact, if you're not into running Xen, then you have a classic Linux live CD at your disposal, for whatever it's worth.

Boot menu

After a while, the classic Debian desktop will boot, with the Virtual Machine Manager started, and a total of four virtual machines included, two of them running. This means you should expect some handsome IO activity, and you'd better have enough RAM for testing the functionality.

Main view

Here's an Ubuntu 8.10 machine, with GUI:

Ubuntu example

Here's Ubuntu server, without GUI:

Server example

Working with configurations:

Working

Extras

In fact, you can go so wild with this, that you can create a recursive virtualization loop. For example, you can boot Xen live CD on top of another virtualization product, like ESXi, then run your virtual machines inside this double encapsulation container. Wicked.

ESXi example

Conclusion

Well, no grand punchline, except the fact you can explore Xen without having to compile or install packages, change your boot menu, fiddle with configurations, and other things. In this regard, Xen live CD is a perfect test tool. Very few other virtualization technologies offer the same level of comfort. Another candidate is VirtualBox, which is sometimes included with various Linux distributions.

Well, I hope you liked this. Stay tuned for more good stuff.

Cheers.

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