Kubevirt Running VMs on a Kubernetes Cluster

Kubevirt allows developers to containerize applications easily and use Kubernetes to run virtual machines. Learn more about Kubevirt and how it's used

It feels like we have come full circle as Kubernetes has matured and has been greatly extended over the past few years to do some really amazing things. One of the amazing things you can do now with Kubernetes is run virtual machines. Kubevirt makes this possible. In this post, Let’s look at Kubevirt and this functionality.

What is Kubevirt?

Let’s talk about Kubevirt and what it is exactly. Kubevirt is an open source solution that allows Kubernetes clusters to run and manage virtual machines, including Linux and Windows along with native Kubernetes container workloads (pods) and allows developers to rapidly containerize applications. Enterprises are looking at ways to standardize their infrastructure and use consistent tooling. Using Kubernetes for containers and virtual machines helps with this effort.

Kubevirt allows you to run virtual machines in your kubernetes cluster
Kubevirt allows you to run virtual machines in your kubernetes cluster

Kubevirt provides a virtualization API, allowing the Kubernetes API to control both containers and multiple virtual machines, providing a single unified development platform for both. Kubevirt is part of the cloud native computing foundation and has many contributors from the community.

Why might developers want to use Kubevirt?

For development teams transitioning to Kubernetes infrastructure and cloud computing, especially those with existing virtual machine (VM)-based workloads with guest operating system installs that are not easy to containerize. KubeVirt bridges the gap between traditional VM configurations and modern containerized environments for development workflows to production. With Kubevirt, you no longer need a separate hypervisor environment to run your virtual machine workloads. It also allows for interacting with your Kubernetes resources using standard tools like kubectl.

Kubevirt technology addresses a smoother and quicker transition for teams with virtual machine-based workflows to rapidly containerize virtualized workloads. It allows teams to use existing virtual machines VMs for applications as they work on a strategy to deploy applications residing on container-based architectures.

Kubevirt architecture

Users interacting with virtualization services communicate via the Virtualization API to arrange the desired Virtual Machine Instances (VMIs). With Kubevirt, Kubernetes is responsible for managing scheduling, networking, and storage of data for your virtual machines.

Layers of the kubevirt stack
Layers of the kubevirt stack

The following is a simplified diagram showing the basics of how the additional controllers and daemons communicate with Kubernetes and where the additional types are stored. Kubevirt’s architecture integrates with existing Kubernetes clusters, leveraging remaining virtualized components. This integration is made possible by the Kubevirt Operator and Custom Resource Definitions (CRDs) that extend Kubernetes capabilities.

Simplified diagram of the kubevirt architecture
Simplified diagram of the kubevirt architecture

How can you use Kubevirt?

There are multiple Kubernetes distros that you can use to try out Kubevirt and provide your feedback to the solutions. Note the following quickstart guides provided by Kubevirt.io:

Rancher Harvester: Easy Kubevirt

Also, if you want a dedicated solution for trying out Kubevirt in an easy way, Rancher Harvester is an open-source solution, containing all the packages needed to run the Kubevirt software that allows you to install Harvester on physical servers or nested virtual machines. It provides virtual machine management along with running native Kubernetes pods and pulling container images from the container registry.

Using Kubevirt with Harvester, you can run your VMs with the scalability, security, rbac, and performance constructs for your workload environment, the same as you can with your container pods. You can take a look at the Harvester project and documentation here: Harvester – Open-source hyperconverged infrastructure (harvesterhci.io). You can also check out the official repositories and releases here: GitHub – harvester/harvester: Open source hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) software.

Below, I have booted the Harvester ISO and creating a new Harvester cluster on your nodes.

Create a new harvester cluster
Create a new harvester cluster

After installing Rancher Harvester and waiting for the Harvester cluster and management IP to be ready.

Harvester cluster ready to go
Harvester cluster ready to go

Logging into Harvester.

Logging into harvester
Logging into harvester

Below, I have created a new Ubuntu 22.04 virtual machine and booting the VM for installation using Kubevirt in Harvester. Very cool! The management experience in Harvester is great.

Installing a virtual machine using kubevirt and harvester
Installing a virtual machine using kubevirt and harvester

YAML file configuration for Kubevirt virtual machine

One of the really cool things about using Kubevirt to create virtual machines is the ability to describe them in a YAML file. Creating an Ubuntu 22.04 LTS VM in Harvester, I had the following YAML code for the VM manifest as an example in the above demo:

apiVersion: kubevirt.io/v1
kind: VirtualMachine
    harvesterhci.io/vmRunStrategy: RerunOnFailure
    harvesterhci.io/volumeClaimTemplates: >-
    kubevirt.io/latest-observed-api-version: v1
    kubevirt.io/storage-observed-api-version: v1alpha3
    network.harvesterhci.io/ips: '[]'
  creationTimestamp: '2024-01-21T14:45:14Z'
    - harvesterhci.io/VMController.UnsetOwnerOfPVCs
  generation: 2
    harvesterhci.io/creator: harvester
    harvesterhci.io/os: ubuntu
    - apiVersion: kubevirt.io/v1alpha3
      fieldsType: FieldsV1
            f:kubevirt.io/latest-observed-api-version: {}
            f:kubevirt.io/storage-observed-api-version: {}
      manager: Go-http-client
      operation: Update
      time: '2024-01-21T14:45:15Z'
    - apiVersion: kubevirt.io/v1
      fieldsType: FieldsV1
            .: {}
            f:harvesterhci.io/vmRunStrategy: {}
            f:harvesterhci.io/volumeClaimTemplates: {}
            f:network.harvesterhci.io/ips: {}
            .: {}
            v:"harvesterhci.io/VMController.UnsetOwnerOfPVCs": {}
            .: {}
            f:harvesterhci.io/creator: {}
            f:harvesterhci.io/os: {}
          .: {}
          f:runStrategy: {}
            .: {}
              .: {}
                .: {}
                f:harvesterhci.io/sshNames: {}
                .: {}
                f:harvesterhci.io/vmName: {}
              .: {}
              f:accessCredentials: {}
              f:affinity: {}
                .: {}
                  .: {}
                  f:cores: {}
                  f:sockets: {}
                  f:threads: {}
                  .: {}
                  f:disks: {}
                  f:inputs: {}
                  f:interfaces: {}
                  .: {}
                    .: {}
                    f:enabled: {}
                  .: {}
                  f:type: {}
                  .: {}
                    .: {}
                    f:cpu: {}
                    f:memory: {}
              f:evictionStrategy: {}
              f:hostname: {}
              f:networks: {}
              f:terminationGracePeriodSeconds: {}
              f:volumes: {}
      manager: harvester
      operation: Update
      time: '2024-01-21T14:45:36Z'
    - apiVersion: kubevirt.io/v1alpha3
      fieldsType: FieldsV1
          .: {}
          f:conditions: {}
          f:created: {}
          f:printableStatus: {}
          f:ready: {}
          f:volumeSnapshotStatuses: {}
      manager: Go-http-client
      operation: Update
      subresource: status
      time: '2024-01-21T15:03:12Z'
  name: ubuntu-01
  namespace: default
  resourceVersion: '538511'
  uid: 3e3f0426-a70b-427b-8aba-113b3fa2a5e7
  runStrategy: RerunOnFailure
        harvesterhci.io/sshNames: '[]'
      creationTimestamp: null
        harvesterhci.io/vmName: ubuntu-01
      affinity: {}
          cores: 2
          sockets: 1
          threads: 1
            - bootOrder: 1
                bus: sata
              name: disk-0
            - disk:
                bus: virtio
              name: cloudinitdisk
            - bus: usb
              name: tablet
              type: tablet
            - macAddress: 52:54:00:de:68:02
              masquerade: {}
              model: virtio
              name: default
            enabled: true
          type: q35
          guest: 1948Mi
            cpu: '2'
            memory: 2Gi
            cpu: 125m
            memory: 1365Mi
      evictionStrategy: LiveMigrate
      hostname: ubuntu-01
        - name: default
          pod: {}
      terminationGracePeriodSeconds: 120
        - name: disk-0
            claimName: ubuntu-01-disk-0-fhsec
        - cloudInitNoCloud:
              name: ubuntu-01-ixwie
              name: ubuntu-01-ixwie
          name: cloudinitdisk
    - lastProbeTime: null
      lastTransitionTime: '2024-01-21T15:03:09Z'
      status: 'True'
      type: Ready
    - lastProbeTime: null
      lastTransitionTime: null
      status: 'True'
      type: LiveMigratable
  created: true
  printableStatus: Running
  ready: true
    - enabled: false
      name: disk-0
      reason: 2 matching VolumeSnapshotClasses for longhorn-image-675pg
    - enabled: false
      name: cloudinitdisk
      reason: Snapshot is not supported for this volumeSource type [cloudinitdisk]

Using the virtctl command line interface

You can also interact with your Kubevirt virtual machines using the virtctl command line tool. You may need to install virtctl. However, in working with Harvester, it is installed by default.

Note the following commands:

  • addvolume – add a volume to a running VM
  • completion – generate the autocompletion script for the specified shell
  • console – connect to a console of a virtual machine instance
  • expose – expose a virtual machine instance, virtual machine, or virtual machine instance replica set as a new service
  • fslist – return full list of filesystems available on the guest machine
  • guestfs – start a shell into the libguestfs pod 
  • guestosinfo – return guest agent info about operating system
  • help – help about any command
  • image-upload – upload a VM image to a DataVolume/PersistentVolumeClaim
  • memorydump – dump the memory of a running VM to a given pvc
  • migrate – migrate a virtual machine
  • migratecancel – cancel migration of a virtual machine
  • pause – pase a virtual machine
  • permitteddevices – list the permitted devices for vmis
  • portforward – forward local ports toa virtualmachine or virtualmachineinstance
  • removevolume – remove a volume from a running VM
  • restart – restart a virtual machine
  • scp – scp files from/to a virtual machine instance
  • softreboot – soft reboot a virtual machine instance
  • ssh – open a SSH connection to a virtual machine instance
  • start – start a virtual machine
  • stop – stop a virtual machine
  • unpause – unpause a virtual machine
  • usbredir – redirect a USB device to a virtual machine instance
  • userlist – return full list of logged in users on the guest machine
  • version – print the client and server version information
  • vnc – open a vnc connection to a virtual machine instance
The virtctl command line tool to work with kubevirt
The virtctl command line tool to work with kubevirt

FAQs on Kubevirt and Kubernetes Virtual Machines

How Does Kubevirt Enhance Kubernetes Clusters for VM Workloads?

Kubevirt provides a virtualization API that integrates with the Kubernetes API. This integration means that Kubernetes can orchestrate both container and VM workloads.

What Are the Key Benefits of Using Kubevirt for Virtual Machine Management?

Using Kubevirt, you can leverage existing Kubernetes tools and APIs, which provide flexibility in handling both VM and container workloads. It can also help improve resource utilization. It can also help ease the transition to cloud-native environments for development.

Can Kubevirt Be Used in Production Environments?

Kubevirt is designed for use in both development and production environments. It can support the live migration of VMs for high availability. Also, Kubevirt’s integration with Kubernetes makes sure it can scale to meet the demands of a production environment.

How Do Kubevirt and Traditional Virtualization Differ?

Traditional virtualization focuses on managing virtual machines. Kubevirt allows Kubernetes clusters to run VMs alongside container workloads. This provides flexibility of Kubernetes’ orchestration, automation, and scaling features. It also maintains the benefits of VMs, such as complete OS isolation.

Is Kubevirt Suitable for Cloud Native Applications?

Kubevirt is suited for cloud-native applications that require Kubernetes’ orchestration and scaling capabilities. It enables developers to deploy Kubernetes in environments where VMs are necessary. These capabilities allow for the support of a wide range of native cloud applications.

How Does Kubevirt help with the deployment of Applications in VMs?

You can use Kubernetes APIs and tools to manage VMs. This capability makes it easier to deploy, scale, and manage applications that run on virtual machines.

Wrapping up Kubevirt as an excellent tool in the Kubernetes Ecosystem

In this introduction blog to Kubevirt, we have seen it is an interesting and powerful tool when running Kubernetes environments. It allows a company to harness the power of modern applications in Kubernetes pods and virtual machines on top of the Kubernetes cluster node for all their virtualization needs. This makes Kubernetes not just an environment for containers, but also for VMs. 

Since it uses the Kubernetes API, developers, and DevOps engineers can use the powerful Kubernetes APIs in order to automate many aspects of the environment, including policies, and apply these same API endpoints for automating their virtual machine operations. Since running Kubernetes is getting more and more interesting and used by organizations around the world, I am wondering how many are interested in migrating away from traditional hypervisors and using Kubernetes for everything. If you have already migrated VMs to Kubernetes what results have you see and what issues have you ran into? Are you using this or interested in using this at the core or edge? Is there a feature you are missing between Kubevirt and traditional hypervisor products? Let me know in the comments or in the forums.

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Brandon Lee

Brandon Lee is the Senior Writer, Engineer and owner at Virtualizationhowto.com and has over two decades of experience in Information Technology. Having worked for numerous Fortune 500 companies as well as in various industries, Brandon has extensive experience in various IT segments and is a strong advocate for open source technologies. Brandon holds many industry certifications, loves the outdoors and spending time with family.

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