So I'm doing web development, and I'm using Debian Wheezy as my development environment, which doesn't have the same version of software than stable, which is what we usually use as target servers. I used to use chroots for this, but I found them painful to manage, especially when running daemons on the same ports than on the host machine.
People like to use virtualization for this, such as !VirtualBox (esp. with Vagrant) but I didn't want that since it forces you to start a whole virtual machine every time you want to develop. Running a virtual machine is quite a heavy process and they constantly use resources even if they don't do anything. The big plus of using containers is that you nearly don't have any performance hit, and your container doesn't take any resource to run. Only processes that run will use some resources.
The main drawback of using LXC is that you can only run systems that support the same kernel as your host. Basically it means that you won't be able to create a BSD, Solaris or Windows container on your Debian host. But you'll still be able to create any Linux container, whatever distribution you want to install.
I won't go in detail about what LXC is. If you want more information, check out this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LXC.
Cgroups are a kernel feature that's needed for lxc to run properly. Start by
adding the following to your
cgroup /sys/fs/cgroup cgroup defaults 0 0
sudo mount /sys/fs/cgroup
We'll be using lxc to create and manage the containers, and libvirt to manage the network.
sudo apt-get install lxc libvirt-bin dnsmasq-base
Do this for each container you want to create. Let's create our first container:
sudo lxc-create -n myfirstcontainer -t debian
Answer to the different questions (just go with the defaults, except when it asks you for a root password if you want to put a custom password).
Once the container is created (this takes some time because it needs to download
all the base packages and install a base system), chroot in it and create
some TTY devices. I found that the
lxc-console command didn't work if I didn't
create these devices first:
sudo chroot /var/lib/lxc/myfirstcontainer/rootfs mknod -m 666 /dev/tty1 c 4 1 mknod -m 666 /dev/tty2 c 4 2 mknod -m 666 /dev/tty3 c 4 3 mknod -m 666 /dev/tty4 c 4 4 mknod -m 666 /dev/tty5 c 4 5 mknod -m 666 /dev/tty6 c 4 6
Exit the chroot (by pressing Ctrl-D or by typing exit) and try to start it:
sudo lxc-start -n myfirstcontainer
You'll get some warnings and permission errors. You can safely ignore them. Now open a new shell and try to open a console to the container:
sudo lxc-console -n myfirstcontainer
You should be brought to a login prompt. Log in as root using the password you
provided during the container creation phase. At this point you already have a
fully functional container. The next step is to setup an ip address for your
container so you can ssh into it, make http requests, etc. To shut down the
container cleanly, use the
halt command like on your host machine (if it's
stuck and the
halt command doesn't work, use the
sudo lxc-halt -n myfirstcontainer
We'll be using libvirt to manage the network bridge that we'll create for our
containers. Start by enabling the default network configuration that comes with
libvirt (you can skip the
-c option if you don't have any other virtualization
solution installed, such as !VirtualBox):
sudo virsh -c lxc:/// net-define /etc/libvirt/qemu/networks/default.xml sudo virsh -c lxc:/// net-start default sudo virsh -c lxc:/// net-autostart default
The default network libvirt uses is
192.168.122.0/24. If you want to change
virsh -c lxc:/// net-edit default and adapt the settings accordingly.
The last line will allow the interface to be automatically started on boot, so
you don't have to do it manually. Now if you run
ifconfig you'll see you have
a new interface named
Now that our bridge is defined, we need to set the network interface of our
container. To do this, add the following lines to
/var/lib/lxc/myfirstcontainer/config (feel free to replace the ip address to
match your bridge configuration):
lxc.network.type = veth lxc.network.flags = up lxc.network.link = virbr0 lxc.network.ipv4 = 192.168.122.2/24 lxc.network.ipv4.gateway = 192.168.122.1
Start your machine with the
lxc-console into it, run
ifconfig and check that you have an
eth0 interface defined.
I don't know why but the base ssh install seems to have a problem with the keys
generation, making it unusable. To fix it, run
lxc-console to go in your
container and reinstall ssh:
apt-get install --reinstall openssh-server
Now you should be able to ssh to your container from your host:
You'll probably want to mount some of your host directories in your container.
Here's an example to mount the directory
/srv/mountpoint. Add the following lines to
lxc.mount.entry = /home/you/directory_to_mount /var/lib/lxc/myfirstcontainer/rootfs/srv/mountpoint none defaults,bind 0 0
You must also create the mountpoint manually:
sudo mkdir /var/lib/lxc/myfirstcontainer/rootfs/srv/mountpoint
To automatically start your containers at boot, all you have to do is to put
symlinks to your containers config files in the
/etc/lxc/auto/ directory. For
example for your previously created container (it's important that your symlink
has the same name as your container):
sudo ln -s /var/lib/lxc/myfirstcontainer/config /etc/lxc/auto/myfirstcontainer