Running a Debian Lenny DomU under a CentOS 5 Dom0

The aim of this was to use the standard CentOS/RHEL Xen Dom0 tools to boot a Debian Lenny DomU.

I found plenty of instructions for doing CentOS DomU under a Debian Dom0, but not the other way around. So, this is a little how-to documenting the little things that need to be overcome.

I also wanted the Debian virtual machines to have their filesystems in a file, in the same standard way that the RHEL virt-install creates.

Steps involved:

  • Use virt-install to build a standard CentOS virtual machine
  • Use debootstrap to build a Debian Lenny base install for transplanting
  • Break apart a CentOS filesystem-in-a-file, and move the Debian install into it
  • Modify Debian config for booting the CentOS kernel

Use virt-install to build a standard CentOS virtual machine

I created a new virtual machine, using virt-install.

virt-install -n newvm -r 512 -f /var/lib/xen/images/debian.img -s 8 -l -p --nographics -x

I needed some CentOS virtual machines anyway, so I let the install go through and do its thing. If you didn’t need it, you could probably kill the install before it started installing packages. We just needed the config file for the VM in /etc/xen and the filesystem image.

Use debootstrap to build a Debian Lenny base install for transplanting

I actually had a Debian Xen Dom0 with the xen-tools package installed. I used this to create a new Debian Lenny install, and also do some of the nice hook scripts with you would otherwise have to do by hand.

# xen-create-image --hostname=vanila --size=8Gb --dist=lenny --memory=512M --ide --dhcp

This meant I had a hostname file, libc6-xen and other things already done for me.

This was installed into an LVM partition, so after building it, I mounted the LVM partition, and used tar to compress it.

# mount /dev/mapper/vg-vanilla--disk /mnt
# tar zc -C /mnt/ . > /tmp/vanilla-debian.tar.gz

Break apart a CentOS filesystem-in-a-file, and move the Debian install into it

Set up the loop device
# losetup -f /var/lib/xen/images/debian.img

Map the partitions inside the loop device
# kpartx -av  /dev/loop0
add map loop0p1 : 0 208782 linear /dev/loop0 63
add map loop0p2 : 0 16032870 linear /dev/loop0 208845

At this point, you should have /dev/mapper/loop0p1 which is the root filesystem of your new VM. You’ll need to format the filesystem with:
# mkfs.ext3 /dev/mapper/loop0p1

Mount the newly formatted filesystem
# mount /dev/mapper/loop0p1 /mnt

Extract our Debian Lenny install into the filesystem
# cd /mnt
# tar xf /tmp/vanilla-debian.tar.gz

Modify Debian config for booting the CentOS kernel

We want to use CentOS/RHEL’s pygrub bootloader, just because it’s nice.

First, you’ll need to copy the CentOS kernel into your Debian install. You’ll need the config, kernel and initrd files from /boot of a DomU (or maybe the Dom0..)
# cd /boot
# cp config-2.6.18-92.1.22.el5xen vmlinuz-2.6.18-92.1.22.el5xen initrd-2.6.18-92.1.22.el5xen.img /mnt/boot

Rename the initrd to drop the .img from the end. It doesn’t work with the update-grub script in Debian
# mv initrd-2.6.18-92.1.22.el5xen.img initrd-2.6.18-92.1.22.el5xen

Copy the kernel modules to your new VM too:
# cp -r /lib/modules/2.6.18-92.1.22.el5xen /mnt/lib/modules

If you don’t have a /boot/grub directory in your Debian DomU, then you’ll need create one. You only really need three files: menu.lst and We’ll need to set it up properly so that both the update-grub script in Debian and the pyGrub bootloader work happily.

Edit the /boot/grub/ file. Make sure your hd0 is set to /dev/xvda:
(hd0)   /dev/xvda

The pyGrub script reads grub.conf, and not menu.lst, so symlink it
cd /boot; ln -s menu.lst grub.conf

Here’s the contents of my /boot after I’m finished:

You’ll need to fix your inittab to use the xvc0 as your console. If you don’t you lose access to log into the console. In the file /etc/inittab, edit the tty1 line to be xvc0 instead.
1:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 xvc0

Your first tty should be changed to xvc0, and the others (tty2-6) should be commented out (if they’re not already)

Unmap the partitions and destroy our loop device
# kpartx -d /dev/loop0
# losetup -d /dev/loop0

Start the new Debian Lenny virtual machine

# xm create -c debian

You should see PyGrub come up, and let you pick the kernel.
pyGRUB version 0.6
| Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.18-92.1.22.el5xen                         |
| Debian GNU/Linux, kernel 2.6.18-92.1.22.el5xen (single-user mode)      |
|                                                                        |
|                                                                        |
|                                                                        |
|                                                                        |
|                                                                        |
|                                                                        |
Use the ^ and v keys to select which entry is highlighted.
Press enter to boot the selected OS. 'e' to edit the
commands before booting, 'a' to modify the kernel arguments
before booting, or 'c' for a command line.

Will boot selected entry in  4 seconds

Hopefully, it works for you too 🙂

I’ve made one vanilla debian install, and just make a copy of that image file for each new VM I need to create. I have eth0 in the interfaces file commented out, so I just put the new IP in, set the hostname and I’m ready to go.

I may have missed a step in here, so if you’re trying this out, please comment to let us know how it goes.

Posted in Geek, Work by Andy Botting at February 26th, 2009.

4 Responses to “Running a Debian Lenny DomU under a CentOS 5 Dom0”

  1. Barry van Someren says:

    Hi there,

    Thank you very much for your comprehensive guide.
    I’ve spent plenty of time battling Debian, but went about it the other way. I’ve created the Lenny image with debootstrap on a local Debian machine, then uploaded it and tarred up a kernel to go with it.

    I then placed the Debian-xen kernel inside the Dom0 /boot folder and use the direct boot method.

    It comes up with a few errors.
    Your method looks a lot better, so I’ll give this a spin tonight.


  2. Shared Frank says:

    A fully explained article!

    Well done, I found this blog on google and found very intresting.

    Thanks and bookmarked

  3. William.S says:

    that mirror no longer works, you can use this one now though replace x86_64 with i386 for your arch

  4. William.S says:

    But yeah, this has been the most accurate info for how to get debian as a domU, all the other stuff is outdated or messy and complicated, any one with minimal skills on linux could set this up. Thanks for the details

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