Service consolidation with Xen 3.0.2 on Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe

Original version: 2006 Sep 07
Update: 2007 May 10

Author: Johannes Ranke

I have been looking for a way to replace my old Windows NT machine that I mainly use to run MS Word, Reference Manager and to connect to my Linux desktop via XWin32. I figured if I get one of the new AM2 dual core CPUs from AMD with low energy consumption (35 Watt TDP specified) I could also save a lot of electrical energy, when replacing an old (Pentium 266 MHz) Windows NT machine and a Linux server (Duron 950 MHz) just by this one box!

So this is what I have now:

Could be more RAM and a second disk for RAID 1, but I can do this at a later stage.

Installing Xen 3.0.2

Installing a recent Linux distribution is no problem on this motherboard. I tried

  1. Kubuntu Dapper Drake 6.06.1
  2. Debian Etch beta 3 installer netinstall
  3. Debian Sarge 3.1 netinstall
The sarge installer failed because a) the (old) forcedeth driver did not work with the onboard LAN devices and b) because the SATA disk controller was not recognized. Kubuntu would install beautifully, using the noapic boot parameter. Debian Etch beta 3 did not need the noapic parameter, it only hangs two times for quite a while, but this is a known issue, and you only need patience.

I installed Xen 3.0.2 on kubuntu from binaries according to this howto. I even installed two VMs with sarge and sid, and everything went well (using noapic and acpi=off both on the hypervisor and the kernel command line) until I wanted to install Windows XP - the hvmloader was missing in the installation!

In order to avoid installing Xen from sources, and being a Debian addict, I thought I'd just install etch, upgrade to sid and use the packages from the main repository. I was able to get this to work. Only with all the boot parameters from above, and using the 2.6.17-2-xen kernel and the unstable xen-tools etc. Only to find that the network bridge would not come up, because the shell script network-bridge obviously was not executed...

I then tried to use the debian xen-ioemu-3.0 package (installing with --force-depends) on the kubuntu setup, for getting the hvmloader. Trying to create the winxp domU broke my kubuntu installation by crashing the root file system. I don't know what happened, maybe it was an incompatibility of the sdl library needed by hvmloader.

Finally I bootstrapped sarge into a fresh partition and installed the Xen packages from backports according to this howto. I only had one problem, concerning udev. I had to create the directory /dev/pts with mkdir, so the udev package from backports would install. Everything else went beautifully, including the bridge and the presence of hvmloader. So I installed Windows XP home using SDL:

Then I discovered that the remote desktop functionality is not part of Windows XP Home, so now I am waiting for XP Professional, in order I have a more responsive desktop than with SDL.

Update May 2007: I am now using XP Professional on this system since more than half a year, and I am very happy with the setup. I am using rdesktop 1.4, since version 1.5 does not copy from the X clipboard to Windows. rdesktop 1.4. sometimes uses a lot of resources, but as long as this is not fixed, I can't really upgrade to 1.5.

On another note, I also consolidated the two Linux servers and, which now run on one hardware as domU and dom0. This also works nicely, I described the (cheap) hardware of the chem server before. The only problem there is the clock, which is ridiculously slow. I had this problem from the beginning, and the drift seems to be too high for ntpd to compensate.