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Choose the best Linux distribution for your enterprise Xen environment

Ubuntu, Red Hat, SUSE and Oracle provide some level of enterprise support, but you should review these options carefully to determine the best fit.

Only a few Linux distributions offer enterprise-level support for a Xen environment, and even among those distributions,...

there are important distinctions. Determine the level of support you need, and then thoroughly review these options.

Ubuntu

Xen is included in the Ubuntu repositories, and as such, it's supported if you decide to get a contract from Canonical. It's not easy to get the software up and running though, as there's a lack of easy-to-use utilities. If, however, you're not afraid of setting up a Xen environment manually by yourself, you can get it to work on Ubuntu Server 16.04 Long Term Support edition. The default platform on Ubuntu, however, is KVM, so the focus within Canonical isn't on Xen. It's also hard to find any information on the Xen support status by Canonical, which clearly confirms that there's no focus on this platform, so you might be better off using another distribution.

Red Hat

Red Hat's stance on Xen became pretty clear when the company dropped Xen from Red Hat repositories with the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.0 in 2010. Unfortunately, there's no supported way to run Xen on top of Red Hat. The best thing you can do if you have a strong preference for Red Hat is to install CentOS. In CentOS, you can configure a repository that lets you install Xen, and it works smoothly. There's just one issue with it: There's no vendor-provided, enterprise-level support for Xen on CentOS.

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SUSE

Almost a decade ago, when Novell owned SUSE, Novell focused on integrating Xen with SUSE Enterprise Linux. In that period, Novell also acquired PlateSpin, a company that developed utilities to manage virtualized environments. History has taught us that Novell/SUSE never became a leader in virtualization, but SUSE did inherit a strong focus on virtualization -- and on Xen in particular.

SUSE currently has a two-product policy regarding virtualization, supporting both Xen and KVM.

SUSE currently has a two-product policy regarding virtualization, supporting both Xen and KVM. Major companies around the globe that developed their virtualization platforms using Xen on SUSE are still running it, and as such, there are people who know a lot about Xen in SUSE support. This makes SUSE's current version -- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 -- a solid virtualization platform for an enterprise Xen environment.

Oracle

As is the case with SUSE, Oracle has a two-product policy, offering support for Xen, as well as KVM. Oracle also offers Oracle VM, a virtualization platform based on Xen. The company developed Oracle VM as an alternative to VMware vSphere, and it allows companies to create and manage a virtualization environment from a GUI. This makes Oracle an excellent choice for running Xen VMs.

Of all the available Linux distributions, only two really qualify as enterprise-level virtualization platforms: SUSE and Oracle. While SUSE provides everything you need to deploy Xen VMs, it lacks the well-integrated management platform offered by Oracle VM. That doesn't take away the fact that several major companies are running SUSE Xen, but if you're looking for a product to develop your Xen environment, you're probably better off using Oracle VM.

Next Steps

Understand the current state of Xen

Use a Linux file system journal

Prevent a scriptless Linux exploit

This was last published in July 2017

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