Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to pass QEMU command-line options through libvirt

An entire virtual machine configuration can be passed on QEMU's extensive
command-line, including everything from PCI slots to CPU features to serial
port settings. While defining a virtual machine from a monster
command-line may seem insane, there are times when QEMU's rich command-line
options come in handy.

And at those times one wishes to side-step libvirt's domain XML and specify
QEMU command-line options directly. Luckily libvirt makes this possible and I
learnt about it from Daniel Berrange and Anthony Liguori on IRC. This libvirt
feature will probably come in handy to others and so I want to share it.

The <qemu:commandline> domain XML tag

There is a special namespace for QEMU-specific tags in libvirt domain XML. You
cannot use QEMU-specific tags without first declaring the namespace. To enable
it use the following:
<domain type='kvm' xmlns:qemu=''>

Now you can add command-line arguments to the QEMU invocation. For example, to load an option ROM with -option-rom:
   <qemu:arg value='-option-rom'/>
   <qemu:arg value='path/to/my.rom'/>

It is also possible to add environment variables to the QEMU invocation:
   <qemu:env name='MY_VAR' value='my_value'/>

Setting qdev properties through libvirt

Taking this a step further we can set qdev properties through libvirt. There is no domain XML for setting the virtio-blk-pci ioeventfd qdev property. Here is how to set it using <qemu:arg> and the -set QEMU option:
  <qemu:arg value='-set'/>
  <qemu:arg value='device.virtio-disk0.ioeventfd=off'/>

The result is that libvirt generates a QEMU command-line that ends with -set device.virtio-disk0.ioeventfd=off. This causes QEMU to go back and set the ioeventfd property of device virtio-disk0 to off.

More information

The following libvirt wiki page documents mappings from QEMU command-line options to libvirt domain XML. This is extremely useful if you know which QEMU option to use but are unsure how to express that in domain XML.

That page also reveals the <qemu:commandline> tag and shows how it can be used to invoke QEMU with the GDB stub (-s).