ANNOUNCE: libvirt-glib release 4.0.0

Posted: February 15th, 2021 | Filed under: Fedora, libvirt, Virt Tools | Tags: | No Comments »

I am pleased to announce that a new release of the libvirt-glib package, version 4.0.0, is now available from

https://libvirt.org/sources/glib/

The packages are GPG signed with

Key fingerprint: DAF3 A6FD B26B 6291 2D0E 8E3F BE86 EBB4 1510 4FDF (4096R)

Changes in this release:

  • Replace autotools build system with meson
  • Mandate libvirt >= 1.2.8
  • Mandate libxml2 >= 2.9.1
  • Mandate glib >= 2.48.0
  • Mandate gobject-introspection >= 1.46.0
  • Fix docs incompatibility with gtk-doc >= 1.30
  • Updated translations
  • Misc API docs fixes
  • Add constants related to NVRAM during domain delete
  • Add domain config API for controller ports attribute
  • Fix compat with newer glib by avoid volatile for enum types

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this new release.

Announce: Entangle “Potassium“ release 3.0 – an app for tethered camera control & capture

Posted: June 14th, 2020 | Filed under: Entangle, Fedora, Photography | Tags: , , , | No Comments »
I am pleased to announce a new release 3.0 of Entangle is available for download from the usual location:
  https://entangle-photo.org/download/
This release has a mixture of new features and bug fixes, as well as improved translations
  • Ensure picture directory is an absolute path
  • Add ability to flip image during preview
  • Fix warnings about string length
  • Convert appdata file to metainfo and add missing info
  • Another attempt to fix build deps on enum headers
  • Display remaining shot count & ETA in repeat shooter plugin
  • Remove use of deprecated GObject macros
  • Remove use of deprecated GLib APIs
  • Ensure glib min version checks at build time
  • Convert to use GObject macros for declaring boilerplate
  • Bulk reformat code using clang-format rules
  • Force a default filename pattern if setting is invalid
  • Validate filename pattern when updating preferences
  • Rename desktop file and icon file to match application ID
  • Add ability to render text messages over image
  • Add a countdown timer for photobox plugin capture
  • Disable context menu in image browser when photobox plugin is active
  • Run live view when counting down to capturein photobox plugin
  • Fix crash releasing popup windows
  • Add context menu option for opening popup image window
  • Drop drag support for opening popup image window
  • Display greeting when opening popup image window
  • Display greeting when entering photobox plugin
  • Disable view finder after capturing image in preview mode
Thanks are due to all who have contributed to this new release whether through bug reports, feature requests, translations or code patches.

ANNOUNCE: virt-viewer version 9.0 released

Posted: May 1st, 2020 | Filed under: Fedora, libvirt, Virt Tools | Tags: | 2 Comments »

I am happy to announce a new bugfix release of virt-viewer 9.0 (gpg), including experimental Windows installers for Win x86 MSI (gpg) and Win x64 MSI (gpg).

Signatures are created with key DAF3 A6FD B26B 6291 2D0E 8E3F BE86 EBB4 1510 4FDF (4096R)

With this release the project has moved over to use GitLab for its hosting needs instead of Pagure. Instead of sending patches to the old mailing list, we have adopted modern best practices and now welcome contributions as merge requests, from where they undergo automated CI testing of the build. Bug reports directed towards upstream maintainers, should also be filed at the GitLab project now instead of the Red Hat Bugzilla

All historical releases are available from:

http://virt-manager.org/download/

Changes in this release include:

  • Project moved to https://gitlab.com/virt-viewer/virt-viewer
  • Allow toggling shared clipboard in remote-viewer
  • Fix handling when initial spice connection fails
  • Fix check for govirt library
  • Add bash completion of cli args
  • Improve errors in file transfer dialog
  • Fix ovirt foreign menu storage domains query
  • Prefer TLS certs from oVirt instead of CLI
  • Improve USB device cleanup when Ctrl-C is used
  • Remember monitor mappings across restarts
  • Add a default file extension to screenshots
  • Updated translations
  • Fix misc memory leaks

libvirt: an “embedded” QEMU driver mode for isolated usage

Posted: February 5th, 2020 | Filed under: Coding Tips, Fedora, libvirt, Virt Tools | Tags: | No Comments »

Since the project’s creation about 14 years ago, libvirt has grown enormously. In that time there has been a lot of code refactoring, but these were always fairly evolutionary changes; there has been little revolutionary change of the overall system architecture or some core technical decisions made early on. This blog post is one of a series examining recent technical decisions that can be considered more revolutionary to libvirt. This was the topic of a talk given at KVM Forum 2019 in Lyon.

Historical driver architecture

Historically the local stateful drivers in libvirt have supported one or two modes of access

  • “system mode” – privileged libvirtd running as root, global per host
  • “session mode” – unprivileged libvirtd, isolated to individual non-root users

Within context of each daemon, VM name uniqueness is enforced. Operating via the daemon means that all applications connected to that same libvirtd get the same world view. This single world view is exactly what you want when dealing with server / cloud / desktop virtualization, because it means tools like ‘virt-top‘, ‘virt-viewer’, ‘virsh‘ can see the same VMs as virt-manager / oVirt / OpenStack / GNOME Boxes / etc.

There are other use cases for virtualization, however, where this single world view across applications may be much less desirable. Instead of spawning VMs for the purpose of running a full guest operating system, the VM is used as a building block for an application specific use case. I describe these use cases as “embedded virtualization”, with the libguestfs project being a well known long standing example. This uses a VM as a way to confine execution of its appliance, allowing safe manipulation of disk images. The libvirt-sandbox project is another example which provides a way to take binaries installed on the host OS and directly execute them inside a virtual machine, using 9p filesystem passthrough. More recently the Kata project aims to provide a docker compatible container runtime built using KVM.

In many, but not neccessarily all, of these applications, it is unhelpful for the KVM instances that are launched to become visible to other applications like virt-manager / OpenStack. For example if Nova sees a libguestfs VM running in libvirt it won’t be able to correlate this VM with its own world view. There have been cases where a mgmt app would try to destroy these externally launched VM in order to reconcile its world view.

There are other practicalities to consider when using a shared daemon like libvirtd. Each application has to ensure it creates a sensible unique name for each virtual machine, that won’t clash with names picked by other applications. Then there is the question of cleaning up resources such as log files left over from short lived VMs.

When spawning KVM via a separate daemon, the QEMU process is daemonized, such that it disassociated from both libvirtd and the application which spawned it. It will only be cleaned up by an explicit API call to destroy it, or by the guest application shutting it down. For embedded use cases, it would be helpful if the VM would automatically die when the application which launched it dies. Libvirt introduces a notion of “auto destroy” to associated the lifetime of a VM with the client socket connection. It would be simpler if the VM process were simply in the same process group as the application, allowing normal OS level process tree pruning. The disassociated process context means that the QEMU process also looses the cgroup & namespace placement of the application using it

An initial embedded libvirt driver

A possible answer to all these problems is to introduce the notion of an “embedded mode” for libvirt drivers. When using a libvirt driver in this mode, there is no libvirtd daemon involved, instead the libvirt driver code is loaded into the application process itself. In embedded mode the libvirt driver is operating against a custom directory prefix for reading and writing config / state files. The directory is private to each application which has an instance of the embedded driver open. Since the libvirt driver is directly loaded into the application, there is no RPC service exposed and thus there is no way to use virsh and other tools to access the driver. This is important to remember because it means there is no way to debug problems with embedded VMs using normal libvirt tools. For some applications this is acceptable as the VMs are short-lived & throw away, but for others this restriction might be unacceptable.

At the time of writing this post, support for embedded QEMU driver connections has merged to GIT master, and will be released in 6.1.0. In order to enable use of encrypted disks, there is also support for an embedded secret driver. The embedded driver feature is considered experimental initially, and so contrary to normal libvirt practice we’re not providing a strong upgrade compatibility guarantee. The API and XML formats won’t change, but the behavior of the embedded driver may still change.

Along with the embedded driver mode, is a new command line tool called virt-qemu-run. This is a simple tool using the embedded QEMU driver to run a single QEMU virtual machine, automatically exiting when QEMU exits, or tearing down QEMU if the tool exits abnormally. This can be used directly by users for self contained virtual machines, but it also serves as an example of how to use the embedded driver and has been important for measuring startup performance. This tool is also considered experimental and so its CLI syntax is subject to change in future.

In general the embedded mode drivers should offer the same range of functionality as the main system or session modes in libvirtd. To learn more about their usage and configuration, consult the three pages linked in the above paragraphs.

Further development work

During development of the embedded driver one of the problems that quickly became apparently was the time required to launch a virtual machine. When libvirtd starts up one of the things it does is to probe all installed QEMU binaries to determine what features they support. This can take 300-500 milliseconds per binary which doesn’t sound like much, but if you have all 30 QEMU binaries installed this is 10-15 seconds. The results of this probing are cached, avoiding repeated performance hits until something changes which would invalidate the information. The caching doesn’t help the embedded driver case though, because it is using a private directory tree for state and thus doesn’t see the cache from the system / session mode drivers. To deal with this problem the QEMU driver startup process was significantly refactored such that probing of QEMU binaries is delayed until the data is actually needed. This massively helps both the new embedded mode and existing system/session modes.

Unfortunately it is fairly common for applications to query the libvirt host capabilities and the returned data is required to report on all QEMU binaries, thus triggering the slow probing operation. There is a new API which allows probing of a single QEMU binary which applications are increasingly using, but there are still valid use cases for the general host capabilities information. To address the inherent design limitations of the current API, one or more replacements are required to allow more targetted information reporting to avoid the mass QEMU probe.

Attention will then need to switch to optimizing the startup procedure for spawning QEMU. There is one key point where libvirt uses QMP to ask the just launched QEMU what CPU features it has exposed to the guest OS. This results in a huge number of QMP calls, one for each CPU feature. This needs to be optimized, ideally down to 1 single QMP call, which might require QEMU enhancements to enable libvirt to get the required information more efficiently.

One of the goals of the embedded driver is to have the QEMU process inherit the application’s process context (cgroups, namespaces, CPU affinity, etc) by default and keep QEMU as a child of the application process. This does not currently happen as the embedded driver is re-using the existing startup code which moves QEMU into dedicated cgroups and explicitly resets CPU affinity, as well as daemonizing QEMU. The need to address these problems is one of the reasons the embedded mode is marked experimental with behaviour subject to change.

libvirt: split of the monolithic libvirtd daemon

Posted: February 4th, 2020 | Filed under: Coding Tips, Fedora, libvirt, Virt Tools | Tags: | No Comments »

Since the project’s creation about 14 years ago, libvirt has grown enormously. In that time there has been a lot of code refactoring, but these were always fairly evolutionary changes; there has been little revolutionary change of the overall system architecture or some core technical decisions made early on. This blog post is one of a series examining recent technical decisions that can be considered more revolutionary to libvirt. This was the topic of a talk given at KVM Forum 2019 in Lyon.

Monolithic daemon

Anyone who has used libvirt should be familiar with the libvirtd daemon which runs most of the virtualization and secondary drivers that libvirt distributes. Only a few libvirt drivers are stateless and run purely in the library. Internally libvirt has always tried to maintain a fairly modular architecture, with each hypervisor driver being a separated from other drivers. There are also secondary drivers providing storage, network, firewall functionality which are notionally separate from all the virtualization drivers. Over time the separation has broken down with hypervisor drivers directly invoking internal methods from the secondary drivers, but last year there was a major effort to reverse this and re-gain full separation between every driver.

There are various problems with having a monolithic daemon like libvirtd. From a security POV, it is hard to provide any meaningful protections to libvirtd. The range of functionality it exposes, provides an access level that is more or less equivalent to having a root shell. So although libvirtd runs with a “virtd_t” SELinux context, this should be considered little better than running “unconfined_t“. As well as providing direct local access to the APIs, the libvirtd daemon also has the job of exposing remote access over TCP, most commonly needed when doing live migration. Exposing the drivers directly over TCP is somewhat undesirable given the size of the attack surface they have.

The biggest problems users have seen are around reliability of the daemon. A bug in any single driver in libvirt can impact on the functionality of all other drivers. As an example, if something goes wrong in the libvirt storage mgmt APIs, this can harm management of any QEMU VMs. Problems can be things like crashes of the daemon due to memory corruption, or more subtle things like main event loop starvation due to long running file handle event callbacks, or accidental resource cleanup such as closing a file descriptor belonging to another thread.

Libvirt drivers are shipped as loadable modules, and an installation of libvirt does not have to include all drivers. Thus a minimal installation of libvirt is a lot smaller than users typically imagine it is. The existance of the monolithic libvirtd daemon, however, and the fact the many apps pull in broader RPM dependencies than they truly need, results in a perception that libvirt is bloated / heavyweight.

Modular daemons

With all this in mind, libvirt has started a move over to a new modular daemon model. In this new world, each driver in libvirt (both hypervisor drivers & secondary drivers) will be serviced by its own dedicated daemon. So there will be a “virtqemud“, “virtxend“, “virtstoraged“, “virtnwfilterd“, etc. Each of these daemons will only support access via a dedicated local UNIX domain socket, /run/libvirt/$DAEMONNAME, eg /run/libvirt/virtqemud. The libvirt client library will be able to connect to either the old monolithic daemon socket path /run/libvirt/libvirt-sock, or the new per-daemon socket. The hypervisor daemons will be able to open connections to the secondary daemons when required by requested functionality, eg to config a firewall for a QEMU guest NIC.

Remote off-host access to libvirt functionality will be handled via a new virtproxyd daemon which listens for TCP connections and forwards API calls over a local UNIX socket to whichever modular daemon needs to service it. This proxy daemon will also be responsible for handling the monolithic daemon UNIX domain socket path that old libvirt clients will be expecting to use.

Overall from an application developer POV, the change to monolithic daemons will be transparent at the API level. The main impact will be on deployment tools like Puppet / Ansible seeking to automate deployment of libvirt, which will need to be aware of these new daemons and their config files. The resulting architecture should be more reliable in operation and enable development of more restrictive security policies.

Both the existing libvirtd and the new modular daemons have been configured to make use of systemd socket activation and auto-shutdown after a timeout, so the daemons should only be launched when they actually need to do some work. Several daemons will still need to startup at boot to activate various resources (create the libvirt virb0 bridge device, or auto-start VMs), but should stop quickly once this is done.

Migration timeframe

At the time of writing the modular daemons exist in libvirt releases and are built and installed by default. The libvirt client library, however, still defaults to connecting to the monolithic libvirtd UNIX socket. To best of my knowledge, all distros with systemd use presets which favour the monolithic daemon too. IOW, thus far, nothing has changed from most user’s POV. In the near future, however, we intend to flip the switch in the build system such that the libvirt client library favours connections to the modular daemons, and encourage distros to change their systemd presets to match.

The libvirtd daemon will remain around, but deprecated, for some period of time before it is finally deleted entirely. When this deletion will happen is still TBD, but it is not less than 1 year away, and possibly as much as 2 years. The decision will be made based on how easily & quickly applications find adaptation to the new modular daemon world.

Future benefits

The modular daemon model opens up a number of interesting possibilities for addressing long standing problems with libvirt. For example, the QEMU driver in libvirt can operate in “system mode” where it is running as root and can expose all features of QEMU. There is also the “session mode” where it runs as an unprivileged user but with features dramatically reduced. For example, no firewall integration, drastically reduced network connectivity options, no PCI device assignment and so on. With the modular daemon model, a new hybrid approach is possible. A “session mode” QEMU driver can be enhanced to know how to talk to a “system mode” host device driver to do PCI device assignment (with suitable authentication prompts of course), likewise for network connectivity. This will make the unprivileged “session mode” QEMU driver a much more compelling choice for applications such as virt-manager or GNOME Boxes which prefer to run fully unprivileged.