A brief introduction to xen-tools
Posted by Steve on Sat 16 Jun 2007 at 13:20
It is no secret that I'm a big fan of the open source Xen virtual machine hypervisor, and I've written several tools to make using it under Debian GNU/Linux more straightforward. Here we'll take a quick look at using xen-tools to easily create new Xen guest domains.
Overview of xen & xen-tools
The Xen system consists of an open-source hypervisor which allows a single host machine to execute multiple virtual machines at the same time. These virtual machines, or "guest domains" in Xen-speak, look and feel identical to real machines, complete with networking etc.
In order to get started with Xen you must first install it, but once it is up and running the next job becomes that of installing new virtual machine(s) upon your host. This is the problem that the xen-tools package was created to solve.
The xen-tools package
Getting Started with Xen
The xen-tools package consists of a collection of small perl-scripts. The ones used most frequently are:
This script allows you to easily create a new Xen guest domain. The new guest will be configured with networking, along with an installation of openssh.
This script allows you to see which guests you have installed, along with their networking details (if the guests are not configured using DHCP).
This script allows you to delete a guest domain which you've previously created.
Each of these scripts comes complete with an extensive man-page, and each tool reads the same file, /etc/xen-tools/xen-tools.conf, for configuration directives.
To get started using xen-tools you'll first of all need to have a working Xen installation upon your machine. We've had several articles about installing Xen upon Debian GNU/Linux in the past which should help you there.
Once you've got a Xen host running you'll find that you have a new command xm which allows you to interface with your Xen system. The xm command is the one you'll use to start, stop, list, and connect to your running Xen guests (once you have them installed!)
The first command you'll probably want to learn is "xm list". This lists the running domains; both the guests we'll install shortly and the host system (domain0 in xen-speak).
On a plain system running Xen with no guests you'd expect to see something like this:mine:~# xm list Name ID Mem(MiB) VCPUs State Time(s) Domain-0 0 675 2 r----- 53925.5
This will only show Domain-0, the host system, since we have no guests installed or running. The output also includes details such as the amount of memory this domain has, the amount of time it has been running, & etc.
Once you've created and started a couple of domains you'll see output similar to this:mine:~# xm list Name ID Mem(MiB) VCPUs State Time(s) Domain-0 0 675 2 r----- 53930.3 cfmaster.my.flat 6 64 1 -b---- 251.8 etch-builder.my.flat 8 128 1 -b---- 387.5 sarge-builder.my.flat 9 128 1 -b---- 199.0
Here you see that we have three guest domains running cfmaster.my.flat, etch-builder.my.flat, and sarge-builder.my.flat.
It's worth noticing that every single Xen guest has a name and ID associated with it. By convention your Xen guest domains will be named after the hostname of the guests - but this is not mandatory.
Shutting Down Domains
To shutdown, or reboot, a running guest you'd run either "xm shutdown [name]" or "xm reboot [name]" respectively.
So, for example, to shutdown the guest sarge-builder.my.flat we'd execute:mine:~# xm shutdown sarge-builder.my.flat
A short while later you could run "xm list" again and see that the domain has gone from our listing.
Note: here we're shutting down the guest from the host system - if you wanted you could ssh into the running system and run the standard "/sbin/shutdown .." command.
Serial Console Access
When you have a guest installed it will be available for access over a virtual serial console - regardless of its network setup.
To connect to this serial console you need to run "xm console [name]". This will allow you to interact with your system. Exit the console by pressing "^]" - the same character you'd use to escape from a running telnet session.
Booting A Guest Domain
The last command we'll introduce is the most important - the command to start an existing guest running.
The name of this command is unfortunately a little bit misleading, rather than "bootup", or similar, the command is "xm create [filename] [-c]".
The creation command will read the name of the file which is specified from the directory /etc/xen and create the new guest domain with the machine running within it.
Usually each machine would have a file /etc/xen/hostname.domain.cfg to contain the configuration settings for it. So to start the machine cfmaster.my.flat I'd run:root:~# xm create cfmaster.my.flat.cfg
This will load the details from /etc/xen/cfmaster.my.flat.cfg and start the machine booting. Add the -c flag to the create call if you'd like to immediately connect to the serial console and see the bootup messages.
Of course before you can boot an existing machine you must first create it - and this is where xen-tools come into play.
Getting Started with xen-tools
Your First Guest
Upon a Debian GNU/Linux machine, running etch or higher, the only thing that you should need to do is run:mine:~# apt-get install xen-tools xen-shell
Once installed each of the named scripts we introduced earlier should be installed.
To get started you'll need to configure the software by editing the configuration file /etc/xen-tools/xen-tools.conf.
The file should be commented fairly well, and you'll only need to make three changes to the default:
- Storage Options
Xen can run domains from loopback files, physical partitions, or LVM. If you're using LVM already it is recommended you use that. If you are uncomment the line:lvm = vain-vol
(Here "vain-vol" is the name of my volume group.)
If you're not using LVM then the next option to try is using plain loopback files, simply specify a directory to locate them in with:dir = /home/xen
Each new guest will have two files created for it disk.img for the disk, and swap.img for swap usage.
- Networking Options
We want the xen guests we create to be networked, so we'll setup the following values in xen-tools.conf:gateway = 192.168.1.1 netmask = 255.255.255.0 broadcast = 192.168.1.255
The actual address of each guest we'll supply upon the command-line, but here we configure the rest of the details such that the new guests will be reachable upon our internal 192.168.1.0/24 network.
- Mirror Options
The creation command will allow you to specify several different installation methods. The most common is to install guests via debootstrap. To configure this you'll need to add:install-method = debootstrap mirror = http://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/
(Obviously pick a location close to you!)
Using the Debian version of debootstrap you'll be able to install new guests of Sarge, Etch, Lenny, or Unstable. If you install the Ubuntu version of debootstrap you'll also be able to install Dapper, Edgy, Feisty, etc. (Or you could use a patched version of debootstrap for Debian.)
With these main options configured you should now be ready to proceed with the creation of your first guest. There are more options you can specify, such as whether new machines should boot automatically post-creation, or whether you should be prompted for a new root password, but you can discover those yourself.
To create a guest you'll need to specify three pieces of information:
- The distribution to install: Etch, Sarge, Edgy, etc.
- The name of the new machine.
- The IP address of the new machine.
As an example here I'll create a new machine called "test.my.flat" running Etch and with an IP address of 192.168.1.100:root@vain:~# xen-create-image --hostname test.my.flat \ --ip 192.168.1.202 \ --dist etch
This will produce output showing the creation progress, as well as a complete log located at /var/log/xen-tools/test.my.flat.log:General Information -------------------- Hostname : test.my.flat Distribution : etch Fileystem Type : ext3 Size Information ---------------- Image size : 4Gb Swap size : 128Mb Image type : full Memory size : 128Mb Kernel path : /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-xen Initrd path : /boot/initrd.img-2.6.18-xen Networking Information ---------------------- IP Address 1 : 192.168.1.202 Netmask : 255.255.255.0 Broadcast : 192.168.1.255 Gateway : 192.168.1.1 Creating ext3 filesystem on /dev/vain-vol/test.my.flat-disk Done Installation method: debootstrap ... ...
Rather than specifying the IP address of each new guest manually you can use a simple incrementing scheme. The system will start with a specified IP address and increment it once for each creation.
For example to start each future xen guest from the 192.168.1.200 and move upwards add the following to xen-tools.conf:ip = 192.168.1
Now add the last octet to the file /etc/xen-tools/ips:echo 200 > /etc/xen-tools/ips
Now the next time you create an instance the IP address of 192.168.1.200 will be used, and afterwards the 200 will be incremented in the ips file.
As an example of a simpler creation we can now run:root@vain:~# xen-create-image --hostname=foo.my.flat --dist=sarge
Further information on the software can be found on the xen-tools homepage.
Since I wrote the software I've been a little reluctant to post this here, but having seen some very poor guides I felt it would be useful. I tried to ensure no bias, but feel free to complain if you believe any is present. After all my code is perfect ... ;)