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Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

Jan 19

Written by:
Saturday, January 19, 2008 8:19:37 PM  RssIcon

A few weeks ago I set out to get a test rig running for lab VMs running under Citrix Xen and Server 2008's Hyper-V.  However, my lab (READ: basement) already has 4 rack servers, a Citrix Access Gateway, several routers, a 1.5TB NAS, and a 3000kva UPS.  I was a bit concerned that bringing another rack server that sounds like a jet turbine into the basement might be a bit too much for the boss (READ: wife)

Since I wanted this rig to be used only for lab VM (my prod VMs run on the redundant rack servers), I decided that a simple white box system with a good proc and sufficient RAM should do the trick perfectly.  The biggest concern that I had was I knew that both Citrix Xen and Server 2008 Hyper-V require that you use 64-bit CPUs (not a big deal today) and a BIOS that supports setting Intel-VT or AMD Pacifica to enabled (this is the setting that will often leave you with a whitebox system that won't run Windows virtualization).

So I decided to roll my own whitebox solution that would allow me to experiment with Citrix Xen and 2008 Server Hyper-V for a low cost.  I also wanted to get a system that was small and quiet.  I'm a huge fan of Shuttle XPC systems and I have several of them in my home operating as HTPC systems (yet another "hobby" of mine).  Shuttle systems are very well constructed, they are sleek, small and very quiet.  It seemed like the perfect system to host my new lab VM beastie.  Aside from wanting the system to be small, I also had a few other requirements:

  1. Quad-core proc (while CPU isn't the biggest limitation on a virtualization platform, it certainly doesn't hurt to have extra.  Only the newest models of the Shuttle systems support quad-code procs, so my choices were a little limited.
  2. 4 GB of RAM.  I know from previous experience that many Shuttle's max out at 2 GB of RAM.  So again, I needed to ensure that the system I chose supported 4 GB of RAM.  RAM is the biggest limitation on a VM platform.
  3. SATA/300 with enough disk space for plenty of VMs - SATA/300 is about the fastest IDE disk you can get and you'll need plenty of disk space if you want to run lots of VMs.
  4. 64-bit CPU support and Intel-VT or AMD-Pacific BIOS support.  As I mentioned before, many whitebox systems don't have a setting in the BIOS to enable the hypervisor, without it you won't be able to run Hyper-V and you won't be able to run any Windows VMs under Citrix XenServer.

With these constraints, I settled on the following:

Shuttle SG33G5B Barebones Case and Motherboard - $294.99 from Newegg.com

Intel Core2Quad 6600 2.4Ghz Socket 775 OEM CPU - $260.00 from Newegg.com

Mushkin 4 GB (2GB x 2) DDR2 800Mhz Dual Channel RAM - $122.99 from Newegg.com

Western Digital Caviar 320GB 7200rpm 16MB cache SATA 300 hard drive - $89.99 from Newegg.com

Sony Optiarc Dual Layer DVD Writer SATA - $28.99 from Newegg.com

Total price:  $796.96 US - I realize there will be shipping, but there were also rebates on some products, so you're still under $800US.


I assembled the system in about 10-15 minutes, but I'm pretty good at assembling Shuttles, so perhaps it might take a person new to Shuttle's 30-60 minutes, but they are very easy to work with.  It's basically remove the case, case fan and ICE heatsink, install CPU and a little dab of CPU compound (use sparingly).  Then attach the ICE heatsink and reattach the case fan.  Then install hard disk, DVD, RAM and slap the case back on.

I've installed both 2008 Server RC1 (with Hyper-V Beta) and XenServer 4.1 Beta on the system, however I found out that the Marvell Yukon GB Ethernic NIC onboard on this system is not supported under Citrix Xen.  I happened to have a RealTek 3189 10/100 NIC laying around that I popped in which was detected and supported properly for Xen.  Server 2008 RC1 detected the Marvell GB NIC out of the box without having to load drivers.  Also, for Citrix Xen to see the onbound SATA controller properly you need to set the BIOS to use Legacy mode instead of AHCI.  The legacy mode works fine for both Xen and 2008.  I presume the AHCI mode works for 2008, but I didn't bother testing it since I wanted to use both OSs.  Also, don't forget to ensure the Intel-VT (Virtualization) support is enabled in the BIOS, as it's required for 2008 Hyper-V and Xen (when running Windows VMs)

My ultimate plan for this system would be to configure it as a dual boot configuration with Xen and 2008 Server, but I'm not entirely sure how easy that would be since Xen insists on blowing away all partitions and the MBR on the disk and 2008 Server must be installed into the primary boot partition.  However, I'm going to keep after it to see if there's a way to do it.  Ultimately even if you can't, it's pretty easy to stand up another system exactly like this for $800.  Granted, it's not nearly as redundant or well performing as a rack mount server from Dell or HP, but then again it's a fraction of the price.  For simple lab VMs, it fits the need perfectly.

In case someone is wondering, VMWare ESX 3.5 and 3i doesn't appear to work on this rig.  The first limitation appears to be the NIC (it didn't detect either NICs and I didn't happen to have a supported NIC to try to see if I could get past that, but I presume the SATA storage would be the next issue.  I know that ESX 3.5/3i supports SATA storage, but I think you need specific controllers.  I could be wrong on that.  To be honest, with VMWare you probably want to stick with a system on the HCL as it's pretty picky when it comes to drivers.  Xen is based on CentOS and has more drivers, and Windows 2008, well you can't get many more drivers than that...


14 comment(s) so far...

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

We have been attempting to get Xen 4.1.0 on the identical config and the init locks around the time it is initializing the 4 Cores - though it seems to lock at other points as well - all very random. Then we can also get through a complete install, then the install will lock the same way. We were wondering what version of the bios you were using and if you have seen anything like this on the Shuttle. Thanks in advance!


By Barrett Franklin on   Saturday, April 12, 2008 1:30:49 PM

Re: Issues Resolved

Here is a quick list that we used to get this shuttle to load and launch Xen that might help out other readers:

Install supported PCI NIC (See link to list below)

Would Recommend Download and Installation of Latest Bios

Reset the Bios to Optimal: Load Optimized Defaults-->Yes

Make the following changes to the Bios settings after setting defaults:
Integrated Peripherals-->OnChip IDE Device-->SATA Mode-->IDE
Integrated Peripherals-->OnChip IDE Device-->LEGACY Mode Support-->Enabled
Integrated Peripherals-->USB Device Settings-->USB Operation Mode-->Full/Low Speed

An Additional Note of Caution: Keep away from the front USB ports. We have found that they run off a different controller and are problematic with Xen (and other os's). Run all external USB devices off the USB ports located on the back of the Shuttle. Typical failures that we discovered when running devices included the Xen installation failing to reinitialize devices during kernel initialization that were working at boot - this caused odd fits and failures with keyboards and external CD Roms.

Additionally, I would highly recommend installing an internal CD. Our initial installation attempts using an External USB CD drew out much of the USB problems that we discovered.

The issue with the onboard Marvell 88E8056 NIC is caused by a compatibility issue with Linux CentOS kernel version used by Xen for bare metal installations. Xen lists several other Marvell Nic Drivers on their Driver compatibility list that can be initialized, but not the 88E8056.

Here is the tested Components link that that you can check for a compatible NIC and other peripherals:


Here is the supported Drivers link mentioned above:


Hope this helps out any readers wanting to load Xen on the Shuttle SG33G5 or any other Shuttle Model.


By Barrett on   Friday, April 25, 2008 9:15:22 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US


Thanks for all your feedback. I'm sure it'll be helpful for anyone else going down this path.


By Shawn Bass on   Friday, April 25, 2008 9:33:51 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

Hi ,

I have a Shuttle KPC K45 , i have fitted a DABS PCI NIC Card with the RealTek 3189 chipset
but when booting Xenserver 4.1 it says it cant install because there is no NIC
did your build simply pick up your PCI Nic or did you need to install the driver somehow ?

I also have SATA disk in the device im hoping it will pick this up ok as well.

thanks in advance

David Thomas

By David Thomas on   Wednesday, June 04, 2008 1:47:59 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US


Thanks for your comment. In my case the Realtek 3189 was immediately detected without issue (i.e. no driver load required). Now I was using Xen 4.1 Beta so perhaps they've removed the 3189 support from the RTM 4.1 product. As far as a SATA disk, the only issue you might run into is the AHCI mode issue I mentioned above. To solve that, just set it to legacy IDE mode.


By Shawn Bass on   Wednesday, June 04, 2008 10:02:12 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

Thanks Shawn,

So you did not need to disable the shuttles onboard NIC or anything ? I looked in BIOS for an option to do this but cant find anything. I will now attempt to put Hyper-V on the box to ensure the NIC is actually working and not DOA.


By David Thomas on   Thursday, June 05, 2008 3:58:30 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US


You are correct. I did not need to disable the onboard NIC. Just installing the supported NIC was all I needed to do.


By Shawn Bass on   Thursday, June 05, 2008 9:18:24 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

Hi shawn,

Ok, Im sorted , got XenServer up and running on my Shuttle KPC K45. My problem was the Realtek nic was DOA. I replaced it with a D-Link DGE-530T NIC and it came to life. I also put Windows 2008 Hyper-V on this unit and that worked fine as well.

Heres my final Spec of the Shuttle Im using

Shuttle KPC K45
Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 2.33GHz processor
2 gig DDR2 800Mhz PC2 6400
Seagate Barracuda 320GB SATA

This system came in at under £300 ($600) and is a nice quiet lower power consumption unit,
and should be ideal for my home test lab. It could have faster CPU's and more memory if required.

I converted VMWARE VHD images to Xen using the utility provided. This worked ok except the util is a bit fussy. Stick to the guideline below.

Keep the converters EXE in same place extracted
Ensure no snapshots in VMware directory
Remove VMWare tools from the VMware image
Ensure Output directory exists

I do have 1 VMware image that will not un-install the VMWare tools, it keeps prompting for path to VMWARE tool.MSI , im still trying to troubleshoot this.

Thanks for the great post on here Shawn, it inspired me for my build.

By David Thomas on   Monday, June 09, 2008 1:58:24 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US


I'm so happy to hear you got your issue sorted. Sounds like you've made some nice progress getting your VMs converted. Thanks for the posting the tips on your VM migration process. I'm sure it'll help others who go down the same path.



By Shawn Bass on   Monday, June 09, 2008 1:06:52 PM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US


This configuration did not work for me when trying to setup the Hyper-V Server Role in Windows Server 2008 Enterprise:
Shuttle KPC K45
Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 2.33GHz processor

I am using the latest BIOS (SK45U10I), which does have an option for NX-bit, but no option for Intel-VT.

I may try Citrix XenServer at a later time, but I'm disappointed that this suggested hardware did not work out for me.

By Andre G on   Wednesday, January 07, 2009 9:58:41 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

Andre G,

Whilst the rest of the config does support Hyper-V, the Core 2 Duo E series of processors do not support Intel VT. This could be resolved relatively inexpensively by replacing this chip with an Intel processor which *does* support Intel VT. A compatible list can be found by using the Intel Processor Specification finder tool: processorfinder.intel.com/

By Rob on   Saturday, March 14, 2009 5:40:02 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

Hi Andre,

Im sorry my hardware did not seem to run Hyper-V for you. The install of Hyper-V was only a quick test to see if i had a dead NIC.

The E6550 chip supports Intel VT see link below processorfinder.intel.com/details.aspx?sSpec=SLA9X

cant remember the exact way or version o f Hyper-V that i installed , it would have been early Beta release i think. I see your post is Jan 09 so guess your using the full blown version by now which should support most hardware.

Did you ever get this working ?

By David Thomas on   Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:56:25 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

Just an update that ive upgraded my little Shuttle XenServer to newer hardware and XenServer v5.5

new Spec

Shuttle SG31G2 v2
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.66Ghz
4GB DDR2 800 RAM
Seagate 750gb SATA 16MB Cache
D-Link DGE-530T NIC PCI (taken from my old Shuttle)

I installed XenServer 5.5 Update 2 and she works like a dream.

I imported all the my XenServer v4 Virtual machines and they all imported fine.

By David Thomas on   Tuesday, May 11, 2010 8:28:51 AM

Re: Rocking Citrix Xen and Microsoft Hyper-V for $800US

I have rebuilt my XenServer shuttle recently. I wanted a quad core server and more RAM.

See the full details on my build on my blog thinworldblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/xenserver-55-on-shuttle-xpc.html

its basically based on a Shuttle SG31G2 v2


By David Thomas on   Friday, June 25, 2010 9:28:03 AM

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