XCP-ng an open source alternative to XenServer

Disclaimer: This article is published in my personal name — It may not reflect Vates point of view.

The future of XenServer

You may be familiar with Citrix XenServer as one of the most popular hypervisors in the world. Based on the Xen Project hypervisor and bundled with a powerful API (XAPI), XenServer provides a turnkey solution to enterprise and datacenter platforms requiring virtualization.

XenServer is (officially) an open source product with commercial editions available if you need Citrix Support and a turnkey installation. However Citrix doesn’t have a long or successful history with open source solutions and as a matter of fact, XenServer lacks a developer community. They even lack documentation that would make it possible for users to build the project from the sources. When you combine this with the fact many features are locked away with paid licensing, it does not fare well for the open source community.

Even on the development level, most of the latest features added in XenServer rely at one point or another on piece of code that are not open sourced, making it, more than ever, unlikely to use XenServer from the source.

Coup de grace by the end of 2017, Citrix introduced even further limitations to the free version (3 hosts in a pool) and moved many useful features (live storage migration, dynamic memory) from the free version to the paid commercial plan.

That’s definitely how the management team of XenServer looks like

Conclusion — By the end of 2017, XenServer was not usable from the sources and the free version was badly crippled.

At Vates, (our small french startup) we were not very confident in the future of XenServer. Angry bearded users surrounded them from all directions, ready to migrate their infrastructure to VMware or HyperV in response to the games Citrix was playing. And as our product (Xen Orchestra) is used with XenServer, an unsure future for XenServer meant a potentially unsure future for our product. We quickly decided it was time to take action. We launched the XCP-ng project less than a month after the XenServer 7.4 release.

What is Citrix plan?

My first reaction when Citrix announced the change to XenServer was “WTF, why are they shooting themselves in the foot like this?”. With some hindsight, I still don’’t know what the objective of this decision was, and I certainly don’’t have all the clues to answer the question.

Andddd, that’s me (obviously)!

My two cents: The Citrix agenda is not aligned with the Open Source world — and for Citrix the future is in the Cloud, not in “on-premise” infrastructure. Consequently, XenServer is only one small rung of the big Citrix ladder. Only one step and not even a mandatory one — to bring more customers to their larger product, XenDesktop.

So I won’t assume Citrix’s plan regarding XenServer, but I’’m almost sure that Open Source does not play a large role in it.

Citrix Cloud

Who are we?

Our main product is called Xen Orchestra and, what do you know, it’s a web-GUI using the XenServer API to offer a turnkey complete solution for people using any version of XenServer. You can use Xen Orchestra to manage pools, administer VMs, backup your entire infrastructure and so on. Xen Orchestra is designed to be the only tool you will ever need on top of XenServer to manage all of your infrastructure.

We’re proud of it — our web-UI is a completely open source solution. And, we mean, real open source. The documentation to build it is complete and updated often, our community forum is a living place and our Github repository is brimming with community commits and improvement suggestions. And more than 2 years after launching a viable product, we are still making a monthly release, constantly increasing the performance and the possibilities of Xen Orchestra based on the feedback provided by our users.

Our business model is crystal clear, we deliver turnkey updater and professional support for companies that want it. Our pricing is flat, which means that you can have as many VMs, hosts, sockets or whatever you want in your infrastructure, the price will always be the same!

If you can’t afford the Premium edition because you are too small, an NGO or you simply don’t have the budget for it — hey, remember when I said it’s open source? Follow the sources build guide and use it for free!

We believe in the service we provide, not a license number.

So, in the end of 2017, we were pissed off by the new commercial strategy of XenServer. Not only because it could hurt us as a company (less XenServer adoption means less potential customers for us), but also because it was a business decision so far from what we believe in.

XCP-ng —Open source virtualization

Now, we were worried, pissed, and more than ever determined to find a solution for us and the community. And so it was born: XCP-ng — a fork of XenServer, a true open source hypervisor solution!

After a very suscessful Kickstarter campaign that has reinforced us in our determination, we released the first version of XCP-ng on the 31st of March and we are now committed to improve the solution over time.

Initial KS target reach in less than 4 hours

How XCP-ng is different from XenServer

  • XCP-ng is usable from the sources very easily, and we are continuously improving the upgrade/update process to make it even more turnkey (now using yum! No more patch files!)
  • XCP-ng unlocks nearly all of the features from the XenServer commercial edition— for free
  • XCP-ng has gathered a real community of users and developers committed to its success in the long term
  • XCP-ng has a pro support option for production environments. Support is the only thing you will pay for — we only provide support, no license keys. Support is our only business!

How XCP-ng will evolve in the future

As previously mentioned, we have collected enough funds through the Kickstarter and direct donations to create a true alternative to XenServer and continue improving it. But we are talking about your future hypervisor here — After the initial momentum that an awesome community was able to create — you may have legit questions about the future of the project.

How will it grow year after year? How will it be maintained? What about security patches that may occur? What will keep the developer team focused on the project and ready to invest the hard work needed into it?

Pro support

Pro support is the simple answer that will allow XCP-ng to live into the future and grow stronger and stronger.

For homelab and personal utilization — XCP-ng will remain a complete open source solution. It will never be crippled like the free version of XenServer has been, the entire project is open-source and will stay that way. Easily accessible for everyone that wants it.

Now, many companies won’t use a virtualization solution in their production environment without having a support contract associated with it. In these cases, pro support for XCP-ng is a win-win relationship. It gives personal users access to an awesome and complete virtualization solution and provides a guarantee for companies that the project won’’t stop growing anytime soon

You can learn more about the our support for XCP-ng on the official website.

How can XCP-ng compete with VMware or Vsphere?

You are using VMware ESXi are Microsoft VSphere? Give XCP-ng a shot, you won’t regret it.

  1. XCP-ng pro support is much cheaper than these two solutions (no licences fees remember?)
  2. The available features can easily be compared, especially if you are using Xen Orchestra on top of it. You can take a look at this chart to compare VMware vs XCP-ng