4 releases (2 breaking)

0.4.1 Apr 1, 2021
0.3.0 Mar 23, 2021
0.2.1 Mar 14, 2021
0.2.0 Mar 13, 2021

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vmadm README

vmadm is a tool to create and destroy virtual machines running under a local libvirt. Virtual machines are described in specification files, using YAML:

  cpus: 4
  memory_mib: 4096
  image_size_gib: 100

  cpus: 1
  memory_mib: 512
  image_size_gib: 1

All the machines in a specification file are created or destroyed at once.


Given a specification file machines.yaml, to create virtual machines run:

$ vmadm new machines.yaml

To delete them:

$ vmadm delete machines.yaml

Creating a VM creates a disk image of qcow2 format, based on a base image, also of qcow2 format. Deleting the VM deletes the image file as well. Image files are named after the VM and put into the configured image directory, unless the specification file names an image file explicitly.

To get built-in command line help:

$ vmadm help
$ vmadm --help

A base image is an image with some operating system already installed. It should use [cloud-init][] on first boot to configure hostname and SSH keys, or at least not mind that there is an extra ISO disk with cloud-init configuration attached to the VM. It should open an SSH port when it has booted. Other than that, vmadm doesn't care what it is. For Debian, the pre-made OpenStack cloud-image at https://cloud.debian.org/ works well. You need to download the base image yourself, vmadm doesn't do that for you.


The default configuration file is vmadm/config.yaml under the XDG configuration directory; by default, this is ~/.config/vmadm/config.yaml. The configuration file may specify the following fields:

  • default_base_image – path to the base image to use by default
  • default_image_gib – default size of new image for a VM, in GiB
  • default_memory_mib – default amount of memory for a VM, in MiB
  • default_cpus – default number of CPUs for a VM
  • default_generate_host_certificate – should SSH host certificates be generated by default?
  • image_directory – directory where VM image files are put
  • authorized_keys – list of filenames to SSH public keys, to be put into the default user's authorized_keys file in the VM
  • ca_key – path name to default CA private key

Specification fields

The specification file is YAML and may specify the following fields, all of which override some default from the configuration.

  • ssh_key_files – overrides authorized_keys
  • image_size_gib – overrides default_image_giv
  • memory_mib – overrides default_memory_mib
  • cpus – overrides default_cpus
  • base – overrides default_base_image
  • image – overrides default image file name; must include
  • image – overrides default image file name; must include path name, is not put into the image directory by default
  • generate_host_certificate – override host certification setting
  • ca_key – overrides default CA key
  • rsa_host_key – RSA host key to install on host
  • rsa_host_cert – RSA host certificate to install on host
  • dsa_host_key – DSA host key to install on host
  • dsa_host_cert – DSA host certificate to install on host
  • ecdsa_host_key – ECDSA host key to install on host
  • ecdsa_host_cert – ECDSA host certificate to install on host
  • ed25519_host_key – Ed25519 host key to install on host
  • ed25519_host_cert – Ed25519 host certificate to install on host

The various host_key and host_cert fields specify private host keys and certificates to be installed in the new VM. The public key is computed from the private key, so there's no need to specify it explicitly. The fields should contain the text of the key or certificate, not its filename.

If any host key is specified, no host certificate is generated: the generate_host_certificate setting is ignored. If no host keys is specified, an Ed25519 key is generated and signed with the specified CA certificate. The generated key and certificate are installed in the new VM.

In other words, if you specify any host keys, you get to do everything by hand. If you want to keep things easy, don't specify any host keys and let vmadm generate a host key and host certificate for a VM.


To turn on logging, set the environment variable VMADM_LOG:

$ VMADM_LOG=vmadm::libvirt vmadm list
 DEBUG vmadm::libvirt > connecting to libvirtd qemu:///system
 DEBUG vmadm::libvirt > listing all domains

vmadm uses the env_logger Rust library for logging, which is documented at https://docs.rs/env_logger. The environment variable can enable by log level, or by code module, or both. Setting it to trace gives the most detailed logging.

Using host certificates

Host certificates allow you to access a newly created VM without having to accept its host key. This is especially useful the VM gets recreated and the host key changes. You need to configure your SSH client to trust certificates made with a given SSH CA key, but that is a one-time operation.

You need to create an SSH key used as a CA key for host certification. Run this command:

$ mkdir -m 0700 ~/.ssh/ca
$ ssh-keygen -f ~/.ssh/ca/vmadm_ca -t ed25519 -N ''

This creates a key without a passphrase, because vmadm does not currently support CA keys with passphrases.

Keep the CA key secure. Don't use it for anything else.

Add the following to the known_hosts file your SSH client uses, all on one one:

@cert-authority * XXXX

where XXX is the public key part of the CA key, as stored in ~/.ssh/ca/vmadm_ca.pub in the example above. This tells your client that the CA key on the line should be accepted for all hosts (*). You can restrict it to only some hosts if you prefer.

Setup of host

The host where vmadm is run needs to have libvirt running and you must have access to the qemu:///system connection. The Debian wiki has some useful documentation:

I set up my own libvirt hosts using an Ansible role: http://git.liw.fi/ansibleness/tree/ansible/roles/vmhost. It works on Debian. The short version:

  • install
    • libvirt (Debian packages libvirt-daemon-system, libvirt-daemon, libvirt-daemon)
    • virt-install (Debian package virtinst)
    • qemu-img (Debian package qemu-uttils)
    • NSS lookups for VMs (Debian package libnss-libvirt)
    • SSH client (Debian package openssh-client)
  • make sure you are in the libvirt group
  • edit /etc/nsswitch.conf to have libvirt libvirt_guest in the hosts line


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