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Nov 19 / The Architect

New project – The Citrix community lab

As any teccie knows, you need a decent lab environment to try stuff, break stuff and demo stuff. Most of us end up building something on a laptop, or small home server. Whilst it’s good experience doing this, there’s alot of duplicated effort going on, and noone else can really benefit from our hard work (you don’t want to expose your internal network to the internet after all)

So, I’ve been toying with the idea of building a cloud-based (yes, there’s that word again..) demo/lab environment that other people could make use of.


  • As this is a Citrix lab, it should be running XenServer. This will also allow it to host the variety of appliances such as Netscaler, CAG and Merchandising server.
  • Not bankrupt me, but not be so expensive no one can use it
  • Should be flexible and let people build stuff from scratch. Tear stuff down and put stuff up. Teccie like to know how to do stuff from scratch.
  • Should have a fixed (and locked down?) demo environment for those just wanting to “see stuff working” or play with the admin consoles.

To-do list

  1. Acquire a server
  2. Upgrade it’s RAM and disc space
  3. Find a colocation facility to host the server
  4. Install XenServer
  5. Rack server into colo facility
  6. Obtain some demo/NFR licenses (Citrix are you reading this?)
  7. Create default appliances : Netscaler VPX, License server, Merchandising Server
  8. Create XenApp 6 test lab
  9. Create XenDesktop 5 test lab
  10. Create an online booking and charging system
  11. Look for sponsors to pay/contribute towards hosting costs

So, onto the first task…

Acquire a server

There’s a few options I’ve been looking at.

Rent a server

(or dedicated server as they are known in the trade)

The quickest and easiest way of getting this up and running, there are hundreds of vendors who will rent you a server. The problem is they are primarily targeted at the web hosting industry, so most servers with any kind of sensible price range are only 1 or 2 cpu core with 2Gb of RAM. Nowhere near powerful enough for a virtualisation host. To rent the kind of server you’d need to run multiple VM’s you’re talking about £300+ per month – a cost I doubt many people would want to absorb just to have a ready-built lab environment (and I certainly couldn’t afford to subsidise it!)

Buy a server

Plan B was to buy my own server. This way I’d get to choose the exact hardware specs, and also being a fixed asset the depreciation would be tax deductible  🙂  A bigger initial outlay, but would probably be cheaper overall.

Today I actually made some progress and aquired the first server that will provide most of the compute resource. It’s not new kit (budget’s don’t stretch that far!) but with a memory upgrade it’ll form a pretty decent XenServer host.

Of course, I’ll continue to blog on my progress, but would love to hear if any readers would be interested in utilising this facility when it’s finished. Typical questions I’d like the answers to:

  • Would any be interested in making use of the facility?
  • If there was a small daily charge, what amount would you consider reasonable?
  • Would you want exclusive access to the server at any one time, or are you happy to share
  • Would you want working, pre-built demo environments of XenDesktop, XenApp etc, plain OS builds with the installation ISO’s available so you can install the products yourself, or both?
  • Are there any vendors willing to sponsor the lab (in return for having their products included in it perhaps?)
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