Nspawn Containers

This Link For Arch Linux Wiki for Nspawn Containers

I like the idea of starting with the easy containers first.

Create a FileSystem

cd /var/lib/machines
# create a directory
mkdir <container>
# use pacstrap to create a file system
pacstrap -i -c -d <container> base --ignore linux

At this point you might want to copy over some configs to save time later.

  • /etc/locale.conf
  • /root/.bashrc
  • /etc/locale.gen

First boot and create root password

systemd-nspawn -b -D <container>
passwd
# assuming you copied over /etc/locale.gen
locale-gen
# set timezone
timedatectl set-timezone <timezone>
# enable network time
timedatectl set-ntp 1
# enable networking
systemctl enable systemd-networkd
systemctl enable systemd-resolved
poweroff
# if you want to nat the container add *-n* flag
systemd-nspawn -b -D <container> -n
# and to bind mount the package cache
systemd-nspawn -b -D <container> -n --bind=/var/cache/pacman/pkg

Networking

Here's a link that skips ahead to Automatically Starting the Container

On Arch, assuming you have systemd-networkd and systemd-resolved set up correctly, networking from the host end of things should just work.
However on Linode it does not. What does work on Linode is to create a bridge interface. Two files for br0 will get the job done.

# /etc/systemd/network/50-br0.netdev
[NetDev]
Name=br0
Kind=bridge
# /etc/systemd/network/50-br0.netdev
[Match]
Name=br0

[Network]
Address=10.0.55.1/24 # arbitrarily pick a subnet range to taste
DHCPServer=yes
IPMasquerade=yes

Notice how the configuration file tells systemd-networkd to offer DHCP service and to perform masquerade. You can modify the systemd-nspawn command to use the bridge interface. Every container attached to this bridge will be on the same subnet and able to talk to each other.

# first restart systemd-networkd to bring up the new bridge interface
systemctl restart systemd-networkd
# and add --network-bridge=br0 to systemd-nspawn command
systemd-nspawn -b -D <container> --network-bridge=br0 --bind=/var/cache/pacman/pkg

Automatically Starting the Container

Here's a link back up to Networking in case you previously skipped ahead.

There are two ways to automate starting the container. You can override [email protected] or create an nspawn file.

First enable machines.target

# to override the [email protected] file
cp /lib/systemd/system/[email protected] /etc/systemd/system/[email protected]<container>.service

Edit /etc/systemd/system/[email protected]<container>.service to add the systemd-nspawn options you want to the ExecStart command.

Or create /etc/systemd/nspawn/<container>.nspawn

# /etc/systemd/nspawn/<container>.nspawn
[Files]
Bind=/var/cache/pacman/pkg

[Network]
Bridge=br0
# /etc/systemd/nspawn/<container>.nspawn
[Files]
Bind=/var/cache/pacman/pkg

[Network]
VirtualEthernet=1 # this seems to be the default sometimes, though
# in either case
systemctl start/enable [email protected]<container>
# to get a shell
machinectl shell <container>
# and then to get an environment
bash

This would be a good time to check for network and name resolution, symlink resolv.conf if need be.

Initial Configuration Inside The Container

# set time zone if you don't want UTC
timedatectl set-timezone <timezone>
# enable ntp, networktime
timedatectl set-ntp 1
# enable networking from inside the container
systemctl enable systemd-networkd
systemctl start systemd-networkd
systemctl enable systemd-resolved
systemctl start systemd-resolved
rm /etc/resolv.conf 
ln -s /run/systemd/resolve/resolv.conf /etc/
# ping google
ping -c 3 google.com

If you want to change the locale

Final Observations

  • You can start/stop nspawn containers with machinectl command.
  • You can start nspawn containers with systemd-nspawn command.
  • You can configure the systemd service for a container with @nspawn.service file override
  • Or you can configure an nspawn container with a dot.nspawn file

But in regards to the above list I have noticed differences in behaviour, in some scenarios, concerning file attributes for bind mounts.

Another curiosity: when you have nspawn containers natted on VirtualEthernet connections, they might be able to ping each other at 10.x.y.z, but not resolve each other. But they might be able to resolve each other if they are all connected to the same bridge interface or nspawn network zone, but will randomly resolve each other in any of the 10.x.y.z, 169.x.y.z, or fe80::....:....:....%host (ipv6 local) spaces, which would complicate configuring the containers to talk to each other. But I intend to look into this some more.