Virtualization with Linux Containers (LXC)

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP3

Publication Date 10 Jun 2013

SUSE Documentation Team

Contents

1. Terminology
2. Overview
3. Setting up an LXC Host
4. Setting up LXC Containers with YaST
5. Setting up LXC Containers Manually
6. Starting Containers at Boot Time
7. For More Information
8. Legal Notice

Abstract

LXC is a lightweight virtualization method to run multiple virtual units (containers, akin to chroot) simultaneously on a single control host. Containers are isolated with Kernel Control Groups (cgroups) and Kernel Namespaces.

LXC provides an operating system-level virtualization where the Kernel controls the isolated containers. With other full virtualization solutions like Xen, KVM, or libvirt the processor simulates a complete hardware environment and controls its virtual machines.

1. Terminology

chroot

A change root (chroot, or change root jail) is a section in the file system which is isolated from the rest of the file system. For this purpose, the chroot command is used to change the root of the file system. A program which is executed in such a chroot jail cannot access files outside the designated directory tree.

cgroups

Kernel Control Groups (commonly referred to as just cgroups) are a Kernel feature that allows aggregating or partitioning tasks (processes) and all their children into hierarchical organized groups to isolate resources.

Container

A virtual machine on the host server that can run any Linux system, for example openSUSE, SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop, or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Container Name

A name that refers to a container. The name is used by the lxc commands.

Kernel Namespaces

A Kernel feature to isolate some resources like network, users, and others for a group of processes.

LXC Host Server

The system that contains the LXC system and provides the containers and management control capabilities through cgroups.

2. Overview

Conceptually, LXC can be seen as an improved chroot technique. The difference is that a chroot environment separates only the file system, whereas LXC goes further and provides resource management and control via cgroups.

Benefits of LXC

  • Isolating applications and operating systems through containers.

  • Providing nearly native performance as LXC manages allocation of resources in real-time.

  • Controlling network interfaces and applying resources inside containers through cgroups.

Limitations of LXC

  • All LXC containers are running inside the host system's Kernel and not with a different Kernel.

  • Only allows Linux guest operating systems.

  • LXC is not a full virtualization stack like Xen, KVM, or libvirt.

  • Security depends on the host system. LXC is not secure. If you need a secure system, use KVM.

3. Setting up an LXC Host

The LXC host provides the cgroups and controls all containers.

Procedure 1. Preparing an LXC Host

  1. Install the following packages:

    • lxc

    • bridge-utils

  2. Check if everything is prepared for LXC:

    lxc-checkconfig

    You should see the words enabled on each checked item.

  3. If you want to access the virtual container's ethernet interface, create a network bridge. A network bridge allows to share the network link on the physical interface of the host (eth0):

    1. Open YaST and go to Network Device+Network Settings.

    2. Click Add.

    3. Select Bridge as device type. Proceed with Next.

    4. Activate Dynamic Address and select DHCP.

    5. Choose your bridged device(s), usually eth0. Proceed with Next. Optionally check your devices with the ifconfig command. Close the Network Settings module.

  4. If you have created a network bridge, assign its interface zone:

    1. Start YaST and go to Security & Users+Firewall.

    2. Open the Interfaces tab.

    3. Select your bridge device (usually br0).

    4. Click Change... and select External Zone. Proceed with Ok.

    5. Finish with Next.

LXC starts the cgroup service automatically. The LXC host is now prepared for setting up containers.

4. Setting up LXC Containers with YaST

A container is a virtual machine that can be started, stopped, connected, or disconnected in YaST. The two last actions are only available in the GUI version, not when YaST running in text mode. If you use YaST in a text console, use the lxc-console command as described in Procedure 5, “Starting, Accessing, and Stopping Your Container Manually”.

To set up an LXC container with YaST, proceed as follows:

Procedure 2. Creating a Container with YaST

  1. Open YaST and go to the LXC module.

  2. Click Create.

  3. Enter a name of your container in the Name field.

  4. Select a Linux distribution (only SLES is supported) from the Template pop-up menu.

  5. Enter the bridge for your LXC container. If you do not have a bridge, click Configure Network... to configure a bridge.

  6. If needed, enter a password to log in to a LXC container. If you leave the password field empty, the standard password root is used for this container.

  7. Finish with Create and YaST tries to prepare the container. This action takes some time.

  8. After YaST has finished the preparation, click Start to launch the LXC container.

Procedure 3. Starting, Accessing, and Stopping Your Container with YaST

  1. Select the container and click Start

  2. Click the Connect button. A new terminal window opens.

  3. Log in with user root and your password from Step 6 of Procedure 2, “Creating a Container with YaST”. If you did not set a password, use root.

  4. Make your changes in your container.

  5. When you are finished, save all your work and log out.

  6. Click the Disconnect button to close the terminal. It is still possible to reconnect to your container by clicking Connect.

  7. To shutdown the container entirely, click the Stop button.

5. Setting up LXC Containers Manually

A container is a virtual machine that can be started, stopped, frozen, or cloned (to name but a few tasks). To set up an LXC container, proceed as follows:

Procedure 4. Creating a Container Manually

  1. Create a configuration file (name lxc_vps0.conf in this example) with the container name in it and edit it according to the following example:

    lxc.utsname = vps0 1
    lxc.network.type = veth 2
    lxc.network.flags = up 3
    lxc.network.link = br0 4
    lxc.network.hwaddr = 00:30:6E:08:EC:80 5
    lxc.network.ipv4 = 192.168.1.10 6
    lxc.network.name = eth0 7

    1

    Container name, should also be used when naming the configuration file

    2

    Type of network virtualization to be used for the container. The option veth defines a peer network device. It is created with one side assigned to the container and the other side is attached to a bridge by the lxc.network.link option.

    3

    Network actions. The value up in this case activates the network.

    4

    Host network interface to be used for the container.

    5

    Allocated MAC address of the virtual interface. This MAC address needs to be unique in your network and different from the host MAC address.

    6

    IPv4 address assigned to the virtualized interface. Use the address 0.0.0.0 to make use of DHCP. Use lxc.network.ipv6 if you need IPv6 support.

    7

    Dynamically allocated interface name. This option will rename the interface in the container.

    More example files can be found in /usr/share/doc/packages/lxc/examples/. Find details about all options in the lxc.conf man page.

  2. Create a container by using the configuration file from Step 1. A list of available templates is located in /usr/share/lxc/templates/.

    lxc-create -t TEMPLATE -f lxc.conf -n CONTAINER

    CONTAINER needs to be replaced by the value you specified for lxc.utsname in the config file, vps0 in this example. Replace the placeholder TEMPLATE with your preferred template name.

    Downloading and installing the base packages for openSUSE or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server will take some time. The container will be created in /var/lib/lxc/CONTAINER, and their configuration files will be stored under /etc/lxc/.

  3. Finalize the configuration of the container:

    1. Change the root path to the installed LXC container with the chroot command:

      chroot /var/lib/lxc/CONTAINER_NAME/rootfs/
    2. Change the password for user root with passwd root.

    3. Create an operator user without root privileges:

      useradd -m operator
    4. Change the operator's password:

      passwd operator
    5. Leave the chroot environment with exit.

Procedure 5. Starting, Accessing, and Stopping Your Container Manually

  1. Start the container:

    lxc-start -d -n CONTAINER_NAME
  2. Connect to the container and log in:

    lxc-console -n CONTAINER_NAME
  3. Stop and remove your container always with the two steps:

    lxc-stop -n CONTAINER_NAME
    lxc-destroy -n CONTAINER_NAME

6. Starting Containers at Boot Time

LXC containers can be started at boot time. However, you need to follow certain conventions. Every container has a subdirectory with its name in /etc/lxc/, for example, /etc/lxc/my-sles. This directory needs to be created once. There you place your configuration file (named config).

To set up the automatic start of LXC containers, proceed as follows:

  1. Activate the cgroup service with insserv boot.cgroup. This has to be done only once to enable this service at boot time. The command will populate the /sys/fs/cgroup directory.

  2. Create a directory /etc/lxc/CONTAINER.

  3. Copy your configuration file to /etc/lxc/CONTAINER/config.

  4. Run /etc/init.d/boot.cgroup start to set up cgroups properly.

  5. Run /etc/init.d/lxc start to start your containers.

  6. Wait a few seconds and run /etc/init.d/lxc list to print the state of all your containers.

After this procedure, your LXC containers are correctly configured. To start it automatically next time you boot your computer, use insserv lxc.

7. For More Information

8. Legal Notice

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