Alpine Linux as OS-base for hypervisor

AveryFreeman

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Hi everyone,

So obviously Alpine is getting a lot of attention lately since Docker is popular, but it also has a plethora of packages commonly available in larger-footprint distros - namely KVM, libvirt and ZFS. It runs easily from RAM since it's so small, and is also unencumbered by systemd.

Which got me thinking -- what about using Alpine as the base OS for a KVM hypervisor? Has anyone else tried this?

Unfortunately the wiki for KVM is pretty sparse and outdated / incomplete in some places, so I was hoping I could find other people who have tried this and could share their experiences. If you've used Alpine for KVM or ZFS, could you please let me know how it worked out for you?

Thanks,
Avery
 

KioskAdmin

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Jan 20, 2015
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I was considering this a year ago. I ended up back using a larger distro. It's nice to have all those extra packages a yum install away.
 

AveryFreeman

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Well that's cool, I'm glad I'm not the only one.

I am currently benchmarking throughput Alpine+KVM w/ ZFS vs Fedora 26+KVM w/ ZFS and I have to admit, it's really nice to have more packages and documentation. Still think Alpine is pretty cool, but I probably will end up going with Fedora in the end after seeing them both in action. *sigh*
 
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KioskAdmin

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Have you tried Proxmox yet? I learned about it here at sth and it's addicting. It does a lot and is easy to setup. Not as lightweight or technocool as rollin' your own, but its quick and easy.
 
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AveryFreeman

consummate homelabber
Mar 17, 2017
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Near Seattle
averyfreeman.com
Have you tried Proxmox yet? I learned about it here at sth and it's addicting. It does a lot and is easy to setup. Not as lightweight or technocool as rollin' your own, but its quick and easy.
I have tried Proxmox, actually - I think it's a great concept. I love Debian and ZFS so it seems like a natural choice. When I was experimenting with it, though, I had some issues with the integrity of the system when I tried to update it from the community repositories.

I like Alpine, and it got some good throughput numbers during my benchmarking. I think would be good for anyone wanting to run a hypervisor for a specific purpose on a lightweight machine, especially without the bells and whistles. Libvirt and ZFS both worked well on Alpine, but the lack of robustness of the packages and the underlying system left me feeling like I was missing out on certain potential. If I were to use it again, I'd do an all-command-line box and use an SSD or MDADM instead of ZFS to reduce the memory footprint, and just use it for a few specific VMs instead of for experimenting.

But I'm more interested in tinkering right now, so I think I'm going to stick with Fedora, it seems to be working out really well for me, and I like that it's developed by the upstream maintainers of KVM. Plus, and the documentation and community are outstanding.

Besides, I have two ESXi boxes for VMs I need to set and forget, anyway (well, a server and a desktop running VCSA on ESXi nested in Workstation). So the 3rd machine I decided I would use for experimenting, since I was trying to run ESXi with a VM for a ZFS datastore over internal NFS and I realized how abysmal NFS is for write speeds...

Is Proxmox what you use?
 

KioskAdmin

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@AveryFreeman yes. What do you mean "integrity of the system"?

Proxmox's KVM is Debian so I'd put that squarely in the realm of a well supported KVM OS.