Xen Project in peril as colo provider housing test platform closes

The Xen Project, creator and manager of the open-source Xen hypervisor and associated tools, has warned its community of potential problems flowing from the imminent closure of the colocation facility it uses.

"We regret to inform you that the Xen Project is currently experiencing unexpected changes due to the sudden shutdown of our colocated data center facility by Synoptek," opens a Wednesday post penned by community manager Kelly Choi.

"This incident is beyond our control and will impact the continuity of OSSTest (the gating Xen Project CI loop), which we heavily rely on as a project," Choi added, before bemoaning the "inconvenience this may cause to our users and stakeholders" and assuring them "we are working diligently to consider different solutions as swiftly as possible."

But probably not swiftly enough to avoid problems, as Choi warned the instance of the OSSTest facility housed at Synoptek "will likely be disrupted with an anticipated shutdown date of October 31st, 2024."

"The potential consequence of this shutdown may mean availability of OSSTest will be impacted, therefore affecting the number of bugs being caught," Choi added. "Contributors may experience quality issues with code, or face slower response times as our technical community spends more time resolving issues."

Given that the Xen Project's main effort is a hypervisor, and VMs running on top of hypervisors is a technique often used to make applications portable and resilient, this situation suggests the Project has not eaten its own dogfood.

Choi's post explains the Project is considering the following options:

None of those options appear palatable, as Choi writes the Project is not sure its hardware would survive a move. Nor is the org confident it could acquire new hardware and replicate OSStest, its custom automated testing tech.

"As a last resort, abandoning OSSTest has been discussed," Choi revealed. "The project has no replacement for test coverage similar to what OSSTest provides. Even if Gitlab CI expanded test coverage similar to what OSSTest currently covers, some features are unlikely to be replicated: automatic bisections on regressions and testing of external projects (Linux kernel, QEMU, OVMF...).

"We apologize for the inconvenience caused by this unexpected announcement and appreciate your understanding and patience as we navigate this challenging situation," Choi wrote, before concluding "Your trust and continued support are invaluable to us, and we remain committed to developing a powerful and reliable open-source hypervisor."

Suffice to say this situation is very bad news for the Xen Project, as Choi's post points to a lack of human and financial resources at a time the Project's influence has waned as hyperscalers chose other hypervisors and Citrix - once Xen's champion - largely dropped the ball on its own products using the tech. While the likes of CXP-NG have given the platform new impetus, in these cloudy times hypervisors are less visible and/or less important.

The Xen Project has tried to keep itself relevant by prioritizing embedded platforms in industries like automotive, and a port to the RISC-V architecture.

We've asked Synoptek, an IT service provider that offers colo services, for comment - if only because in the current climate it's unusual for a datacenter to close. We'll update this story if we receive substantial information. ®

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