GNOME-3 desktop virtualization support from GNOME Boxes (and the future for virt-manager)

Posted: November 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Fedora, libvirt, Virt Tools | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

For many years now, the virt-manager application has been the primary open source tool for managing virtual machines under libvirt for Fedora/Linux hosts, attempting to satisfy both server and desktop users alike, with the result that often neither userbase were really too happy. The decision to use libvirt as the foundation of OpenStack, OpenNebula and various other cloud projects has been a great validation of libvirt’s capabilities. More recently, the open sourcing of the RHEV-M product to create the oVirt community project, has seen another step forward for open source data center virtualization management based upon libvirt. Finally, with today’s very first release of GNOME Boxes, the same step forward is also happening for Linux desktop virtualization. No longer will desktop virtualization (or remote desktop access) feel like an afterthought, but rather it will be a seamless part of the GNOME-3 desktop experience. This is coming to a Fedora release near you soon….the target is Fedora 17.

What does this mean for virt-manager you might wonder ? Well first of all let me reassure people that virt-manager isn’t going away anytime in the forseeable future. There will always be people who prefer straightforward, directly controllable applications which do not try to impose clever policies on their usage. virt-manager, virsh, virt-install, etc all fill this gap and we don’t want to take that control away from people. With the growth in usage of OpenStack for cloud, oVirt for data center management, and GNOME Boxes for desktop virtualization, I think it is clear though, that virt-manager will have a diminished role / userbase in the future. I don’t consider this to be bad thing, on the contrary, it shows just how strong & diverse the open source virtualization community has become. Where once there was only virt-manager, today we have a wide choice of applications providing highly effective virtualization solutions targeted towards the needs of their respective userbases.

Introducing the libvirt-glib, a mapping of the libvirt API and XML to GLib/GObject

Posted: November 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Fedora, libvirt, Virt Tools | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

The historical philosophy of libvirt is for all our core libraries to be written in C and then create bindings to other programming languages or mappings to alternative object models. Thus far we have bindings to Python, Perl, Ruby, OCaml, Php, C#, Java and mappings to the QMF (Matahari), CIM and SNMP object models. The virt-install and virt-manager applications use the python binding to libvirt, but even very early in development of virt-manager it was clear that the libvirt python API is not a natural fit for an application using GTK, since it does not integrate with GObject and in particular GObject signals. Thus virt-manager wraps the libvirt python objects to create real GObjects it then works with. This has been quite successful, but because all the virt-manager code is in python other applications have not been able to take advantage of the higher level libvirt API virt-manager has evolved. In addition the virt-install code (which is called internally by virt-manager) contains a set of Python objects which represent the various libvirt XML schemas as plain old objects with properties and setters/getters. If you’ve developed applications against libvirt, you’ll likely appreciate just how useful such an API would be. Again though, because the API is in Python and (technically) internal to the virt-install codebase, it is not accessible to many other applications

There was clearly space for an independent library mapping the libvirt API and XML schemas to GObject, which could then be used by any application. The task of creating a libvirt GObject library API is large enough, without considering the task of also ensuring it is accessible from all the non-C programming languages. Fortunately, with the release of GNOME-3,  GObject introspection has now matured to the point where it can really be used in anger for real application development. The upshot is that it is now feasible to attempt development of a proper libvirt GObject API.

The libvirt-glib package is the result, and it actually contains three related libraries

  • libvirt-gib – non-object based glue code between GLib and libvirt. In particular this has APIs to convert libvirt virErrorPtr instances into GError instances, and provides an implementation of the libvirt event loop contract, using the GLib GMain APIs.
  • libvirt-gconfig – object based APIs which map libvirt XML documents/schemas into GObject classes. This library explicitly has no direct link to the libvirt API, solely concerning itself with XML management. This is to allow use of libvirt-gconfig from applications which are using one of the object mappings like QMF/CIM/SNMP, instead of the direct libvirt API. This where the current virt-install XML handling objects will be replicated
  • libvirt-gobject – object based APIs which map libvirt types and APIs into GObject classes. This library depends on libirt-glib and libvirt-gconfig, and is where the current virt-manager object mapping APIs will be replicated. This library is also adopting the GIO paradigm for allowing asynchronous API invocation & completion, for long running applications. This eliminates much of the need for applications to explicitly use threads (thread usage is hidden behind the async API impl).

From day 1, all the APIs are being developed with GObject introspection in mind., so all methods are fully annotated, and we are generating the glue layer for Vala bindings as standard in order to support the GNOME Boxes application. It is still very early days for development and very little of the libvirt API has been mapped into GObject thus far and work is only just starting on the XML object mappings. The overall target, however, is to develop the library to the state where it can support the aforementioned GNOME Boxes application in Fedora 17, as well as an application sandbox framework I am developing for Fedora 17 (more on that in a later blog post).

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