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Deploy your testing VM in a couple of seconds

Project description

🗲 spawn Cloud instances on libvirt!🗲

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You want to spawn local VM quickly.. Like... really quickly. You want them to be as generical as possible. Actually you would like to reuse some existing cloud images!

This is the right tool for you.

Virt-Lightning exposes a CLI inspired by the Cloud and Vagrant. It can also prepare the Ansible inventory file.

This is handy to quickly validate a new Ansible playbook, or a role on a large number of environments.

example: less than 30 seconds to spawn an instance ⚡

In a nutshell:

echo "- distro: centos-7" > virt-lightning.yaml
vl up
vl ansible_inventory > inventory
ansible all -m ping -i inventory

example: or 75 seconds for 10 nodes lab ⚡

During this recording, we:

  1. use the list of distribution to generate a virt-lightning.yaml file.
  2. we then create a environment based on this file
  3. once the environment is ready, we generate an Ansible inventory file
  4. and we use it to call Ansible's ping module on all the host.



  • Python 3.8 or greater
  • The Python3 binding for libvirt, the package is probably called python3-libvirt or 'libvirt-python' according to pip.
  • Libvirt must be running, most of the time you just need to run: sudo systemctl start --now libvirtd
  • Finally, be sure your user can access the system libvirt daemon, e.g with: virsh -c qemu:///system


  • You make also want to install python3-urwid if you want to get the fancy list of VM. This dependency is optional.

Installation (Fedora/RHEL)

sudo dnf install libvirt-devel gcc python3-devel pipx
pipx ensurepath
pipx install virt-lightning

Installation (Debian/Ubuntu)

sudo apt install python3-venv pkg-config gcc libvirt-dev python3-dev pipx
pipx ensurepath
pipx install virt-lightning

Post Installation

virt-lightning will be installed in ~/.local/bin/. Add it in your $PATH if it's not already the case. For instance if you use:

echo "export PATH=$PATH:~/.local/bin/" >> ~/.bashrc
source ~/.bashrc

Fetch some images

Before you start your first VM, you need to fetch the images. To do so, you just use the vl fetch command:

$ vl fetch fedora-32


vl is an alias for virt-lightning, you can us both. In the rest of the document we use the shortest version.

vl distro_list

List the distro images that can be used. Its output is compatible with vl up. You can initialize a new configuration with: vl distro_list > virt-lightning.yaml.

vl up

virt-lightning will read the virt-lightning.yaml file from the current directory and prepare the associated VM.

vl down

Destroy all the VM managed by Virt-Lightning.

vl start

Start a specific VM, without reading the virt-lightning.yaml file.

vl stop

Stop just one VM.

vl status

List the VM, their IP and if they are reachable.

vl ansible_inventory

Export an inventory in the Ansible format.

vl ssh

Show up a menu to select a host and open a ssh connection.

vl ssh

vl console

Like vl ssh but with the serial console of the VM.

vl ssh

vl viewer

Like vl console but with the SPICE console of the VM. Requires virt-viewer.

vl fetch

Fetch a VM image. You can find here a list of the available images. You can also update the custom configuration to add a private image hub.


Global configuration

If ~/.config/virt-lightning/config.ini exists, Virt-Lightning will read its configuration there.

network_name = virt-lightning
root_password = root
storage_pool = virt-lightning
network_auto_clean_up = True
ssh_key_file = ~/.ssh/

network_name: if you want to use an alternative libvirt network

root_password: the root password

storage_pool: if you want to use an alternative libvirt storage pool

network_auto_clean_up: if you want to automatically remove a network when running virt-lightning down

ssh_key_file: if you want to use an alternative public key

private_hub: if you need to set additional url from where images should be retrieved, update the configuration file ~/.config/virt-lightning/config.ini adding the following


VM configuration keys

A VM can be tuned at two different places with the following keys:

  • distro: the name of the base distro image to use, it's the only mandatory parameter.
  • name: the VM name
  • memory: the amount of memory to dedicate to the VM
  • vcpus: the number of vcpu to dedicate to the VM
  • root_password: the root password in clear text
  • ssh_key_file: the path of the public key for connecting to the VM
  • groups: this list of groups will be used if you generate an Ansible inventory.
  • disks: a list of disks to create and attach to the VM. The first one is used as the root disk. Default to [{"size": 15}]
    • size the size of the disk in GB. Default is 1.
  • networks: a list of network to attach to the VM. The default is: one virtio interface attached to virt-lightning network.
    • network: the name of the libvirt network. Default is the key network_name from the configuration (virt-lightning by default). The key cannot be used with bridge.
    • ipv4: a static IPv4. Default is a dynamic IPv4 address.
    • nic_model: the libvirt driver to use. Default is virtio
    • mac: an optional static MAC address, e.g: '52:54:00:71:b1:b6'
    • bridge: optional, the name of a bridge to connect too. This key replace the network key.
    • virtualport_type: The type of the virtualport, currently, this is can be used with bridge.

Example: a virt-lightning.yaml file:

- name: esxi-vcenter
  distro: esxi-6.7
  memory: 12000
  root_disk_size: 30
  vcpus: 2
  root_password: '!234AaAa56'
  groups: ['all_esxi']
- name: esxi1
  distro: esxi-6.7
  memory: 4096
  vcpus: 1
  root_password: '!234AaAa56'
  groups: ['all_esxi', 'esxi_lab']
- name: esxi2
  distro: esxi-6.7
  memory: 4096
  vcpus: 1
  root_password: '!234AaAa56'
  groups: ['all_esxi', 'esxi_lab']
- name: centos-7
  distro: centos-7
    - network: default
    - yum update -y

Example: connect to an OpenvSwitch bridge

- name: controller
  distro: fedora-35
  - bridge: my-ovs-bridge-name
    virtualport_type: openvswitch

You can also associate some parameters to the distro image itself

cat /var/lib/virt-lightning/pool/upstream/esxi-6.7.yaml
username: root
python_interpreter: /bin/python
memory: 4096
  - network: virt-lightning
    nic_model: virtio
  - network: default
    nic_model: e1000

Example: working with snapshots

User can create a snapshot of VM to restore it later. Default configuration of virt-lightning supports snapshots both for running and powered off VMs. qcow2 disk format used allows diskspace-wise incremental snapshotting, keeping only updated storage blocks. virsh tool supports it by CLI, virt-manager provides a neat GUI supporting the most of the features

# create first snapshot of running machine
virsh snapshot-create-as --domain vm_name --name snapshot_1
# create second snapshot
virsh snapshot-create-as --domain vm_name --name snapshot_2
# validate that both of them were saved
virsh snapshot-list vm_name
# and revert to the first one
virsh snapshot-revert vm_name --snapshotname snapshot_1


install libvirt-dev package:


apt install python3-venv pkg-config gcc libvirt-dev python3-dev


dnf install python3-devel gcc libvirt-devel

You can run a development copy in a virtual env:

python3 -m venv /tmp/vl-dev-venv
. /tmp/vl-dev-venv/bin/activate
pip3 install -r requirements.txt
pip3 install -e /path/to/my-virt-lightning-copy

The changes that are introduce in /path/to/my-virt-lightning-copy should be visible when you run vl from within the virtual env. running test will require:

pip3 install -r test-requirements.txt

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