API evolution

All APIs evolve as bugs are fixed, new features added and features are removed

  • the XenAPI is no exception. This document lists policies describing how the XenAPI evolves over time.

The goals of XenAPI evolution are:

  • to allow bugs to be fixed efficiently;
  • to allow new, innovative features to be added easily;
  • to keep old, unmodified clients working as much as possible; and
  • where backwards-incompatible changes are to be made, publish this information early to enable affected parties to give timely feedback.


In this document, the term XenAPI refers to the XMLRPC-derived wire protocol used by xapi. The XenAPI has objects which each have fields and messages. The XenAPI is described in detail elsewhere.

XenAPI Lifecycle

API lifecycle states

Each element of the XenAPI (objects, messages and fields) follows the lifecycle diagram above (inspired by symbian ). When an element is newly created and being still in development, it is in the Prototype state. Elements in this state may be stubs: the interface is there and can be used by clients for prototyping their new features, but the actual implementation is not yet ready.

When the element subsequently becomes ready for use (the stub is replaced by a real implementation), it transitions to the Published state. This is the only state in which the object, message or field should be used. From this point onwards, the element needs to have clearly defined semantics that are available for reference in the XenAPI documentation.

If the XenAPI element becomes Deprecated, it will still function as it did before, but its use is discouraged. The final stage of the lifecycle is the Removed state, in which the element is not available anymore.

The numbered state changes in the diagram have the following meaning:

  1. Publish: declare that the XenAPI element is ready for people to use.
  2. Extend: a backwards-compatible extension of the XenAPI, for example an additional parameter in a message with an appropriate default value. If the API is used as before, it still has the same effect.
  3. Change: a backwards-incompatible change. That is, the message now behaves differently, or the field has different semantics. Such changes are discouraged and should only be considered in special cases (always consider whether deprecation is a better solution). The use of a message can for example be restricted for security or efficiency reasons, or the behaviour can be changed simply to fix a bug.
  4. Deprecate: declare that the use of this XenAPI element should be avoided from now on. Reasons for doing this include: the element is redundant (it duplicates functionality elsewhere), it is inconsistent with other parts of the XenAPI, it is insecure or inefficient (for examples of deprecation policies of other projects, see symbian eclipse oval.
  5. Remove: the element is taken out of the public API and can no longer be used.

Each lifecycle transition must be accompanied by an explanation describing the change and the reason for the change. This message should be enough to understand the semantics of the XenAPI element after the change, and in the case of backwards-incompatible changes or deprecation, it should give directions about how to modify a client to deal with the change (for example, how to avoid using the deprecated field or message).


Every release must be accompanied by release notes listing all objects, fields and messages that are newly prototyped, published, extended, changed, deprecated or removed in the release. Each item should have an explanation as implied above, documenting the new or changed XenAPI element. The release notes for every release shall be prominently displayed in the XenAPI HTML documentation.


The XenAPI documentation will contain its complete lifecycle history for each XenAPI element. Only the elements described in the documentation are “official” and supported.

Each object, message and field in datamodel.ml will have lifecycle metadata attached to it, which is a list of transitions (transition type * release * explanation string) as described above. Release notes are automatically generated from this data.