I’m so pleased about the new XenServer “Tech Preview” that was posted this week.  You can learn more details about it from Tim’s excellent post here.  Please go download it and check it out!

I previously posted about my history with the Xen project (going back almost 10 years now) and how excited I am to be part of the team now.  My enthusiasm was only heightened by my visit with the team in Cambridge last month.  This team is so smart, and so passionate about their technology.  We had a great barbecue picnic out on the green and drank some fabulous beer in local pubs.  But, beyond that I got to geek out on the latest developments in Project Creedence (our internal codename for the next big XenServer release).  There’s so much cool stuff in here!

Chris Shepherd, David Cottingham, Andrew Halley and James Bulpin from the Cambridge engineering team

The team’s appeared pretty quiet to the outside world for most of 2014.  So quiet that someone even asked me if they’re still there!  The fact is that the team has been really heads down on the biggest platform refresh on XenServer in years.  Creedence is the culmination of years of work and it’s taking much of 2014 to really bring it all together and productize it.

XenServer isn’t “just a hypervisor” — it’s a lot more than that.  Sure, the Xen Project hypervisor is at the core, but you need way more than that to create a full project.  Obviously, there’s Citrix-fuelled differentiation in the management plane with XAPI and XenCenter, but beyond that you need to remember that XenServer is really a full Linux distribution with everything that implies!  Probably the single biggest change, and it’s a big one, coming in Creedence is the move to a 64-bit control domain.  This required updates to the hypervisor, but also drove us to do major updates to our Linux components — forcing us to rationalize (in some cases) years of divergence between various branches of code across open source projects.  This is serious, heavy lifting.

So, what are we going to get out of this in the end?  Well, we should get the fastest, highest quality release of XenServer we’ve ever had.  By way of example, one of the key things we’re driving at Citrix is to ensure that XenServer as a product is heavily optimized to work with other Citrix products like XenDesktop — after all we have a huge number of customers running XenServer under XenDesktop.  To that end, we’ve been putting in a number of targeted optimizations.  One of these is “read caching.”  This allows us to deal far better with “boot storms” that occur when a large number of desktops all try to start up at once (for example, after a maintenance window or power failure).  Here’s a chart showing the performance we’re seeing so far.  The red line shows the boot time of VMs getting exponentially worse as we boot more and more in parallel.  However, the green line shows the performance is almost perfectly flat with the new read cache! Pretty awesome, eh?

All-in-all, my enthusiasm for XenServer grows week to week.  This is an awesome product to work on, with a great team, that is strategic to the core business at Citrix.  Watch this space for more.  Now, go download that XenServer tech preview and send us some feedback.  Operators are standing by!