Developer plots server virtualization comeback for XenServer

Plans open source revival of XCP, to go places Citrix won’t

Moves are afoot to revive Xen Cloud Platform (XCP), the open source version of XenServer that existed independently of Citrix before the company released its code to the Xen Project and made its own efforts open source.

In 2017’s dying days developer Olivier Lambert posted news of his plan to revive XCP as “XCP-ng”. Lambert worked on XCP and his company offers Xen Server development and consultancy.

The Register’s virtualization desk learned of the effort this week so asked Lambert why he thinks it’s necessary.

Lambert explained that once Citrix let go of XenServer, XCP wasn’t needed. But version 7.3 of XenServer removed some features that Lambert and others appreciated, such as Xen storage motion, dynamic memory control and GPU passthrough.

Lambert thinks a new open source project is the way to get those features back and to innovate without dependence on a vendor.

“Citrix is big company, with their own agenda (we can't blame them for that!), which is mainly ‘virtual desktop’ and even more ‘cloud oriented’ recently,” Lambert told The Register. “It means they have less interest in server virtualization.”

“XCP-ng is needed for multiple reasons,” he added, saying that the best way to make XenServer a server platform for all types of workload again is to get a community behind it.

Lambert’s vision is therefore for a new project that will “allow all XenServer features, even those restricted usually in Free edition. This will drive innovation for product sitting on top of it. Think about VM introspection (security), easy vGPU migration/management (AI computation) and many more. You can see XCP-ng as an innovation enabler: from your small lab to bigger infrastructures, you'll have the turnkey solution without any restrictions! I think this is still needed today.”

“The initial goal would be to keep things pretty close to the original product,” Lambert explained. “So, technically it's a fork of some components inside XenServer. Then, we'll iterate, maybe the fork will grow bigger or maybe our patches will be merged. This is hard to predict, but remember that the objective is to get something that ‘just works’, without any limits on the way you use it.”

“Most of the work will be XAPI related. Ideally, the XAPI ‘mainline’ repository should be agnostic (not affiliated to any company, no license check etc.), and then companies should be able to add their own sauce to make the commercial thing. Like the Linux kernel for example. But we know it's not an easy job, and we aren't asking anything to Citrix.”

Lambert will launch a crowdfunding effort next week to fund initial development, which he estimates will cost €6,000 for an “initial prototype” delivered in Q1, 2018 and €12,000 to €24,000 for a “RPM repo and meta package” in the year’s second quarter.

“Our first goal is to federate other companies and individuals into the project (we just started and it goes well!). Because we want this project to be 100% community oriented, diversity is inherently welcome,” he wrote.

The project’s GitHub page is here. Lambert’s posted his email Q&A with The Register here. ®

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