Virtual machine lock manager, virtlockd plugin

This page describes use of the virtlockd service as a lock driver plugin for virtual machine disk mutual exclusion.

virtlockd background

The virtlockd daemon is a single purpose binary which focuses exclusively on the task of acquiring and holding locks on behalf of running virtual machines. It is designed to offer a low overhead, portable locking scheme can be used out of the box on virtualization hosts with minimal configuration overheads. It makes use of the POSIX fcntl advisory locking capability to hold locks, which is supported by the majority of commonly used filesystems.

virtlockd daemon setup

In most OS, the virtlockd daemon itself will not require any upfront configuration work. It is installed by default when libvirtd is present, and a systemd socket unit is registered such that the daemon will be automatically started when first required. With OS that predate systemd though, it will be necessary to start it at boot time, prior to libvirtd being started. On RHEL/Fedora distros, this can be achieved as follows

# chkconfig virtlockd on
# service virtlockd start

The above instructions apply to the instance of virtlockd that runs privileged, and is used by the libvirtd daemon that runs privileged. If running libvirtd as an unprivileged user, it will always automatically spawn an instance of the virtlockd daemon unprivileged too. This requires no setup at all.

libvirt lockd plugin configuration

Once the virtlockd daemon is running, or setup to autostart, the next step is to configure the libvirt lockd plugin. There is a separate configuration file for each libvirt driver that is using virtlockd. For QEMU, we will edit /etc/libvirt/qemu-lockd.conf

The default behaviour of the lockd plugin is to acquire locks directly on the virtual disk images associated with the guest <disk> elements. This ensures it can run out of the box with no configuration, providing locking for disk images on shared filesystems such as NFS. It does not provide any cross host protection for storage that is backed by block devices, since locks acquired on device nodes in /dev only apply within the host. It may also be the case that the filesystem holding the disk images is not capable of supporting fcntl locks.

To address these problems it is possible to tell lockd to acquire locks on an indirect file. Essentially lockd will calculate the SHA256 checksum of the fully qualified path, and create a zero length file in a given directory whose filename is the checksum. It will then acquire a lock on that file. Assuming the block devices assigned to the guest are using stable paths (eg /dev/disk/by-path/XXXXXXX) then this will allow for locks to apply across hosts. This feature can be enabled by setting a configuration setting that specifies the directory in which to create the lock files. The directory referred to should of course be placed on a shared filesystem (eg NFS) that is accessible to all hosts which can see the shared block devices.

$ su - root
# augtool -s set \
  /files/etc/libvirt/qemu-lockd.conf/file_lockspace_dir \

If the guests are using either LVM and SCSI block devices for their virtual disks, there is a unique identifier associated with each device. It is possible to tell lockd to use this UUID as the basis for acquiring locks, rather than the SHA256 sum of the filename. The benefit of this is that the locking protection will work even if the file paths to the given block device are different on each host.

$ su - root
# augtool -s set \
  /files/etc/libvirt/qemu-lockd.conf/scsi_lockspace_dir \
# augtool -s set \
  /files/etc/libvirt/qemu-lockd.conf/lvm_lockspace_dir \

It is important to remember that the changes made to the /etc/libvirt/qemu-lockd.conf file must be propagated to all hosts before any virtual machines are launched on them. This ensures that all hosts are using the same locking mechanism

QEMU/KVM driver configuration

The QEMU driver is capable of using the virtlockd plugin since the release 1.0.2. The out of the box configuration, however, currently uses the nop lock manager plugin. To get protection for disks, it is thus necessary to reconfigure QEMU to activate the lockd driver. This is achieved by editing the QEMU driver configuration file (/etc/libvirt/qemu.conf) and changing the lock_manager configuration tunable.

$ su - root
# augtool -s  set /files/etc/libvirt/qemu.conf/lock_manager lockd
# service libvirtd restart

Every time you start a guest, the virtlockd daemon will acquire locks on the disk files directly, or in one of the configured lookaside directories based on SHA256 sum. To check that locks are being acquired as expected, the lslocks tool can be run.