converting a virtualbox image to a libvirt

20 may 2011

# motivation

i have a gentoo system inside a virtualbox but i wanted to make some ‘long term tests’ so i decided to migrate it to a libvirt machine which is running ‘fedora core 15 beta’.

problems converting the image

first i tried to migrate the ‘Gentoo 64 (portage).vdi’ directly to a libvirt image, using [2]. but anything i tried: afterwards the image was never bootable so i decided to use ssh to copy all the files instead.

  1. boot both virtual machines using the ‘grml64-mediaum_2010.12.iso’.

  2. assign the ip addresses while i was using on the virtualbox side using: vboxnet0 in a host only networking schema i used a bridge on the other machine which involved lots of manual configuration as: disable networkmanager (on fedora core, remember?), removing the eth0 configuration (which happens to be called em1); adding a new configuration for the bridge br0 (using eth0).

  3. finally i could ping from the virtualbox image to the libvirt guest system

  4. i used ‘rsync -av /mnt/gentoo -e ssh’ Note: both local gentoo systems were mounted into /mnt/gentoo

  5. but libvirt used a ide host controller (which was very slow) therefore i manually removed the ide controller and replaced it by a VirtIO Disk using ‘qcow2’ as storage format and ‘Virtio’ as bus.

  6. after all the copying i installed grub (grub-1.99rc1) but the original system had a grub1 config! the conversion was not simple!

The grub pitfall

virtualbox image using grub1:

cat /boot/grub/menu.lst

default 0
timeout 30

title Gentoo Linux 2.6.24-r7
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/kernel-genkernel-x86_64-2.6.36-gentoo-r5  root=/dev/ram0 real_root=/dev/sda1
initrd /boot/initramfs-genkernel-x86_64-2.6.36-gentoo-r5

in comparison: ‘libvirt guest’ using grub2

cat /boot/grub/grub.cfg

set default=0
set timeout=30

menuentry "Gentoo Linux 2.6.36-gentoo-r5" {
        insmod part_msdos
        insmod ext2
        set root=(hd0,msdos1)
        linux /boot/kernel-genkernel-x86_64-2.6.36-gentoo-r5  root=/dev/ram0 real_root=/dev/vda1
        initrd /boot/initramfs-genkernel-x86_64-2.6.36-gentoo-r5

Note: i marked the differences.

Note: take care of the different filename as well!

anyway: in the grml shell you can install grub into /dev/vda using:

grub-install --root-directory=/mnt/gentoo /dev/vda

the kernel configuration pitfall

a libvirt guest must be aware of /dev/vda (virtIO) but my genkernel was not. also i lacked ext4 support. so it is a good idea to included this into the kernel (i had it included as modules but it did not work well).

cat /etc/kernels/kernel-config-x86_64-2.6.36-gentoo-r5 | grep -i virt | grep -v “^#”


just use ‘genkernel’ to build the new kernel (and don’t forget the ext4 support as i did).

fedora core network problems

i basically used [3] to make it work. the benefit is now that em1 is not used directly but the system uses br0 to access the internet.

PRO: the libvirt guests do get their own ‘mac address’, thus are separated from being able to see each others traffic.

fedora core yum problems

i also tried to install virtualbox and followed the instructions found on but soon i had the problem that the virtualbox kernel modules won’t build and need ‘kernel-devel’ but after installing the kernel-devel package using ‘yum install kernel-devel’ there was a mismatch between ‘used kernel’ and ‘kernel-devel’ headers.


libvirt and the ‘virtual machine manager’ are very nice:

  • i like that it is so easy to start a virtual machine when the host machine boots.
  • i also like the ‘virtual machine manager’ as it shows cpu/disk io/network io nicely (but that is not limited to libvirt virtualizations).
  • fedora core 15 beta was running quite nicely (except that it crashed while i was writing this article) so i can at least say: it ran for straight 6hours without crash ;P
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