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Chapter 5. Storage Pools

5.1. Overview
5.2. Listing pools
5.3. Pool usage
5.4. Lifecycle control
5.5. Discovering pool sources
5.6. Pool configuration
5.7. Volume overview
5.8. Listing volumes
5.9. Volume information
5.10. Creating and deleting volumes
5.11. Cloning volumes
Libvirt provides storage management on the physical host through storage pools and volumes.
A storage pool is a quantity of storage set aside by an administrator, often a dedicated storage administrator, for use by virtual machines. Storage pools are divided into storage volumes either by the storage administrator or the system administrator, and the volumes are assigned to VMs as block devices.
For example, the storage administrator responsible for an NFS server creates a share to store virtual machines' data. The system administrator defines a pool on the virtualization host with the details of the share (e.g. should be mounted on /vm_data). When the pool is started, libvirt mounts the share on the specified directory, just as if the system administrator logged in and executed 'mount /vmdata'. If the pool is configured to autostart, libvirt ensures that the NFS share is mounted on the directory specified when libvirt is started.
Once the pool is started, the files in the NFS share are reported as volumes, and the storage volumes' paths may be queried using the libvirt APIs. The volumes' paths can then be copied into the section of a VM's XML definition describing the source storage for the VM's block devices. In the case of NFS, an application using the libvirt methods can create and delete volumes in the pool (files in the NFS share) up to the limit of the size of the pool (the storage capacity of the share). Not all pool types support creating and deleting volumes. Stopping the pool (somewhat unfortunately referred to by virsh and the API as "pool-destroy") undoes the start operation, in this case, unmounting the NFS share. The data on the share is not modified by the destroy operation, despite the name. See man virsh for more details.
A second example is an iSCSI pool. A storage administrator provisions an iSCSI target to present a set of LUNs to the host running the VMs. When libvirt is configured to manage that iSCSI target as a pool, libvirt will ensure that the host logs into the iSCSI target and libvirt can then report the available LUNs as storage volumes. The volumes' paths can be queried and used in VM's XML definitions as in the NFS example. In this case, the LUNs are defined on the iSCSI server, and libvirt cannot create and delete volumes.
Storage pools and volumes are not required for the proper operation of VMs. Pools and volumes provide a way for libvirt to ensure that a particular piece of storage will be available for a VM, but some administrators will prefer to manage their own storage and VMs will operate properly without any pools or volumes defined. On systems that do not use pools, system administrators must ensure the availability of the VMs' storage using whatever tools they prefer, for example, adding the NFS share to the host's fstab so that the share is mounted at boot time.
If at this point the value of pools and volumes over traditional system administration tools is unclear, note that one of the features of libvirt is its remote protocol, so it's possible to manage all aspects of a virtual machine's lifecycle as well as the configuration of the resources required by the VM. These operations can be performed on a remote host entirely within the Python libvirt module. In other words, a management application using libvirt can enable a user to perform all the required tasks for configuring the host for a VM: allocating resources, running the VM, shutting it down and deallocating the resources, without requiring shell access or any other control channel.
Libvirt supports the following storage pool types:
The storage pool XML format is specified at

5.1. Overview

Storage pools are the containers for storage volumes. A system may have as many storage pools as needed and each storage pool may contain as many storage volumes as necessary.