Recently we got our hands on some aarch64 (aka ARMv8 / 64Bits) nodes running in a remote DC. On my (already too long) TODO/TOTEST list I had the idea of testing armhfp VM on top of aarch64. Reason is that when I need to test our packages, using my own Cubietruck or RaspberryPi3 is time consuming : removing the sdcard, reflashing with the correct CentOS 7 image and booting/testing the pkg/update/etc ...

So is that possible to just automate this through available aarch64 node as hypervisor ? Sure ! and it's just pretty straightforward if you have already played with libvirt. Let's so start with a CentOS 7 aarch64 minimal setup and then :

yum install qemu-kvm-tools qemu-kvm virt-install libvirt libvirt-python libguestfs-tools-c
systemctl enable libvirtd --now

That's pretty basic but for armhfp we'll have to do some extra steps : qemu normally tries to simulate a bios/uefi boot, which armhfp doesn't support, and qemu doesn't emulate the mandatory uboot to just chainload to the RootFS from the guest VM.

So here is just what we need :

  • Import the RootFS from an existing image
curl|unxz >/var/lib/libvirt/images/CentOS-Userland-7-armv7hl-Minimal-1708-CubieTruck.img
  • Convert image to qcow2 (that will give us more flexibility) and extend it a little bit
qemu-img convert -f raw -O qcow2 /var/lib/libvirt/images/CentOS-Userland-7-armv7hl-Minimal-1708-CubieTruck.img /var/lib/libvirt/images/CentOS-Userland-7-armv7hl-Minimal-1708-guest.qcow2
qemu-img resize /var/lib/libvirt/images/CentOS-Userland-7-armv7hl-Minimal-1708-guest.qcow2 +15G
  • Extract kernel+initrd as libvirt will boot that directly for the VM
mkdir /var/lib/libvirt/armhfp-boot
virt-copy-out -a /var/lib/libvirt/images/CentOS-Userland-7-armv7hl-Minimal-1708-guest.qcow2 /boot/ /var/lib/libvirt/armhfp-boot/

So now that we have a RootFS, and also kernel/initrd, we can just use virt-install to create the VM (pointing to existing backend qcow2) :

virt-install \
 --name centos7_armhfp \
 --memory 4096 \
 --boot kernel=/var/lib/libvirt/armhfp-boot/boot/vmlinuz-4.9.40-203.el7.armv7hl,initrd=/var/lib/libvirt/armhfp-boot/boot/initramfs-4.9.40-203.el7.armv7hl.img,kernel_args="console=ttyAMA0 rw root=/dev/sda3" \
 --disk /var/lib/libvirt/images/CentOS-Userland-7-armv7hl-Minimal-1708-guest.qcow2 \
 --import \
 --arch armv7l \
 --machine virt \

And here we go : we have a armhfp VM that boots really fast (compared to a armhfp board using a microsd card of course)

At this stage, you can configure the node, etc.. The only thing you have to remember is that of course kernel will be provided from outside the VM, so just extract it from an updated VM to boot on that kernel. Let's show how to do that, as in the above example, we configured the VM to run with 4Gb of ram, but only 3 are really seen inside (remember the 32bits mode and so the need for PAE on i386 ?)

So let's use this example to show how to switch kernel : From the armhfp VM :

# Let extend first as we have bigger disk
growpart /dev/sda 3
resize2fs /dev/sda3
yum update -y
yum install kernel-lpae
systemctl poweroff # we'll modify libvirt conf file for new kernel

Back to the hypervisor we can again extract needed files :

virt-copy-out -a /var/lib/libvirt/images/CentOS-Userland-7-armv7hl-Minimal-1708-guest.qcow2 /boot/vmlinuz-4.9.50-203.el7.armv7hl+lpae /var/lib/libvirt/armhfp-boot/boot/
virt-copy-out -a /var/lib/libvirt/images/CentOS-Userland-7-armv7hl-Minimal-1708-guest.qcow2 /boot/initramfs-4.9.50-203.el7.armv7hl+lpae.img /var/lib/libvirt/armhfp-boot/boot/

And just virsh edit centos7_armhfp so that kernel and armhfp are pointing to correct location:


Now that we have a "gold" image, we can even use exiting tools to provision quickly other nodes on that hypervisor ! :

time virt-clone --original centos7_armhfp --name armhfp_guest1 --file /var/lib/libvirt/images/armhfp_guest1.qcow2
Allocating 'armhfp_guest1.qcow2'                                               |  18 GB  00:00:02     

Clone 'armhfp_guest1' created successfully.

real    0m2.809s
user    0m0.473s
sys 0m0.062s

time virt-sysprep --add /var/lib/libvirt/images/armhfp_guest1.qcow2 --operations defaults,net-hwaddr,machine-id,net-hostname,ssh-hostkeys,udev-persistent-net --hostname guest1

virsh start armhfp_guest1

As simple as that. Of course, in the previous example we were just using the default network from libvirt, and not any bridge, but you get the idea : all the rest with well-known concept for libvirt on linux.