Import AWS AMIs as KubeVirt Golden Images

Breaking Out

There comes a point where an operations team has invested so heavily in a Iaas platform that they are effectively locked into that platform. For example, here’s one scenario outlining how this can happen. An operations team has created automation around building VM images and keeping images up-to-date. In AWS that automation likely involves starting an EC2 instance, injecting some application logic into that instance, sealing the instance’s boot source as an AMI, and finally copying that AMI around to all the AWS regions the team deploys in.

If the team was interested in evaluating KubeVirt as an alternative Iaas platform to AWS’s EC2, given the team’s existing tooling there’s not a clear path for doing this. It’s that scenario where the tooling in the kubevirt-cloud-import project comes into play.

Kubevirt Cloud Import

The KubeVirt Cloud Import project explores the practicality of transitioning VMs from various cloud providers into KubeVirt. As of writing this, automation for exporting AMIs from EC2 into KubeVirt works, and it’s really not all that complicated.

This blog post will explore the fundamentals of how AMIs are exported, and how the KubeVirt Cloud Import project leverages these techniques to build automation pipelines.

Nuts and Bolts of Importing AMIs

Official AWS AMI Export Support

AWS supports an api for exporting AMIs as a file to an s3 bucket. This support works quite well, however there’s a long list of limitations that impact what AMIs are eligible for export. The most limiting of those items is the one that prevents any image built from an AMI on the marketplace from being eligible for the official export support.

Unofficial AWS export Support

Regardless of what AWS officially supports or not, there’s absolutely nothing preventing someone from exporting an AMI’s contents themselves. The technique just involves creating an EC2 instance, attaching an EBS volume (containing the AMI contents) as a block device, then streaming that block devices contents where ever you want.

Theoretically, the steps roughly look like this.

  • Convert AMI to a volume by finding the underlying AMI’s snapshot and converting it to an EBS volume.
  • Create an EC2 instance with the EBS volume containing the AMI contents as a secondary data device.
  • Within the EC2 guest, copy the EBS device’s contents as a disk img dd if=/dev/xvda of=/tmp/disk/disk.img
  • Then upload the disk image to an object store like s3. aws s3 cp /tmp/disk/disk.img s3://my-b1-bucket/ upload: ../tmp/disk/disk.img to s3://my-b1-bucket/disk.img

Basics of Importing Data into KubeVirt

Once a disk image is in s3, a KubeVirt companion project called the Containerized Data Importer (or CDI for short) can be used to import the disk from s3 into a PVC within the KubeVirt cluster. This import flow can be expressed as a CDI DataVolume custom resource.

Below is an example yaml for importing s3 contents into a PVC using a DataVolume

kind: DataVolume
  name: "example-import-dv"
         url: ""
         secretRef: "my-s3-credentials"
      - ReadWriteOnce
        storage: "6Gi"

Once the AMI file content is stored in a PVC, CDI can be used further to clone that AMI’s PVC on a per VM basis. This effectively recreates the AMI to EC2 relationship that exists in AWS. You can find more information about CDI here

Automating AMI import

Using the technique of exporting an AMI to an s3 bucket and importing the AMI from s3 into a KubeVirt cluster using CDI, the Kubevirt Cloud Import project provides the glue necessary for tying all of these pieces together in the form of the import-ami cli command and a Tekton task.

Automation using the import-ami CLI command

The import-ami takes a set of arguments related to the AMI you wish to import into KubeVirt and the name of the PVC you’d like the AMI to be imported into. Upon execution, import-ami will call all the appropriate AWS and KubeVirt APIs to make this work. The result is a PVC with the AMI contents that is capable of being launched by a KubeVirt VM.

In the example below, A publicly shared fedora34 AMI is imported into the KubeVirt cluster as a PVC called fedora34-golden-image

export S3_BUCKET=my-bucket
export S3_SECRET=s3-readonly-cred
export AWS_REGION=us-west-2
export AMI_ID=ami-00a4fdd3db8bb2851
export PVC_STORAGECLASS=rook-ceph-block
export PVC_NAME=fedora34-golden-image

import-ami --s3-bucket $S3_BUCKET --region $AWS_REGION --ami-id $AMI_ID --pvc-storageclass $PVC_STORAGECLASS --s3-secret $S3_SECRET --pvc-name $PVC_NAME

Automation using the import-ami Tekton Task

In addition to the import-ami cli command, the KubeVirt Cloud Import project also includes a Tekton task which wraps the cli command and allows integrating AMI import into a Tekton pipeline.

Using a Tekton pipeline, someone can combine the task of importing an AMI into KubeVirt with the task of starting a VM using that AMI. An example pipeline can be found here which outlines how this is accomplished.

Below is a pipeline run that uses the example pipeline to import the publicly shared fedora34 AMI into a PVC, then starts a VM using that imported AMI.

cat << EOF > pipeline-run.yaml
kind: PipelineRun
  name: my-vm-creation-pipeline
  namespace: default
  serviceAccountName: my-kubevirt-service-account
    name: create-vm-pipeline 
    - name: vmName
      value: vm-fedora34
    - name: s3Bucket
      value: my-kubevirt-exports
    - name: s3ReadCredentialsSecret
      value: my-s3-read-only-credentials
    - name: awsRegion
      value: us-west-2
    - name: amiId 
      value: ami-00a4fdd3db8bb2851
    - name: pvcStorageClass 
      value: rook-ceph-block
    - name: pvcName
      value: fedora34
    - name: pvcNamespace
      value: default
    - name: pvcSize
      value: 6Gi
    - name: pvcAccessMode
      value: ReadWriteOnce
    - name: awsCredentialsSecret
      value: my-aws-credentials

kubectl create -f pipeline-run.yaml

After posting the pipeline run, watch for the pipeline run to complete.

$ kubectl get pipelinerun
selecting docker as container runtime
my-vm-creation-pipeline   True        Succeeded   11m         9m54s

Then observe that the resulting VM is online

$ kubectl get vmi
selecting docker as container runtime
NAME          AGE   PHASE     IP               NODENAME   READY
vm-fedora34   11m   Running   node01     True

For more detailed and up-to-date information about how to automate AMI import using Tekton, view the KubeVirt Cloud Import

Key Takeaways

The portability of workloads across different environments is becoming increasingly important and operations teams need to be vigilant about avoiding vendor lock in. For containers, Kubernetes is an attractive option because it provides a consistent API layer that can run across multiple cloud platforms. KubeVirt can provide that same level of consistency for VMs. As a community we need to invest further into automation tools that allow people to make the transition to KubeVirt.