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The SoftwareContainer is a framework to manage and contain applications created and vetted by third party developers in an automotive setting. A launcher (a UI for example) sends a signal to the SoftwareContainer to start a new Container. It can then configure the Container using a documented JSON format and can launch process inside the Container. This can then be used to contain applications from eachother and make sure they are not interfering with eachother and to limit/manage resources available to the applications.

Each container is configured using gateways, where each gateway has a scope of influence (network, dbus, files, pulseaudio, for example). The gateways get a configuration snippet from the Launcher which they will enforce.


SoftwareContainer is composed of the following components:

  • a libsoftwarecontainer library containing the interfacing code to LXC and the gateway code. This library handles one container and all the operations on it.
  • softwarecontainer-agent, a D-Bus service that handles multiple instances of libsoftwarecontainer, so that one can handle several containers from a common entrypoint.
  • a common library that contains code shared between libsoftwarecontainer and the softwarecontainer-agent, such as utility functions etc.


Build tools

  • cmake
  • pkg-config
  • build-essential (on Debian-based systems)
  • unzip
  • git - optional, if you want to build using vagrant
  • vagrant-cookbook - optional, if you want to build using vagrant
  • sphinx - optional, if you want to build documentation
  • doxygen - optional, if you want to build documentation

Build dependencies

Install build dependencies on Debian

$ sudo apt-get install lxc lxc-dev libglib2.0-dev libglibmm-2.4 \
                       libdbus-1-dev \ libglibmm-2.4-dev libglibmm-2.4 \
                       libjansson-dev libjansson4

Reasoning behind dependencies

  • Being a piece of software aimed towards the automotive industry, ivi-logging is a useful logging tool, since it interfaces well with GENIVI DLT.
  • In order to be able to provide a simple IPC from clients/launchers, we chose DBus as the IPC mechanism, as it is a proven solution that is de-facto standard on most GNU/Linux systems.
  • Glibmm is used mainly for main loop purposes, for setting up the dbus service, and for spawning binaries (such as dbus-proxy)
  • jansson is a simple, reliable c library for parsing json data. We have used jansson is other projects, but there is no deeper reasoning behind using that specific library. We should probably move to a c++ library some time in the future.

Runtime dependencies

  • lxc
  • iptables
  • brctl, available in bridge-utils on Debian-based systems


Building and installing is simple:

Update the submodules in softwarecontainer git repo to get dbus-proxy and vagrant cookbook modules

$ git submodule update --init
$ mkdir build
$ cd build
$ cmake ../
$ make
$ sudo make install

To build the project documentation set -DENABLE_ALL_DOC=ON when running cmake. You can also build the docs separately by pointing cmake to the doc directory. Documentation is separated into doxygen docs (API level docs) and docs built with sphinx (user documentation and general docs on a higher level).

To run the unit-tests build with -DENABLE_TEST=ON. To run code coverage tools build with -DENABLE_COVERAGE=ON. Then run coverage with make lcov (needs to be run as root).

To disable support for various gateways at compile time, set

  • -DENABLE_DEVICENODEGATEWAY=OFF (for device node gateway)
  • -DENABLE_FILEGATEWAY=OFF (for mounting files)
  • -DENABLE_ENVGATEWAY=OFF (for manipulating environment variables)

To build the examples, build with -DENABLE_EXAMPLES=ON (and see Examples section).

To prevent SoftwareContainer from creating a network bridge on startup (and instead only check that one is there), build with -DCREATE_BRIDGE=OFF.

For a concrete example of building SoftwareContainer and setting up dependencies, see Vagrantfile in this repository. For an example on how to build this code, please take a look at the Vagrantfile.

Note: It is possible to get the complete list of CMake options by running: mkdir build cd build cmake -LAH ..

Install without root

In order to install SoftwareContainer without root there are two things that needs to be set.

  1. -DENABLE_SYSTEM_BUS needs to be set to OFF. The dbus xml that is needed for the system bus to be used can not be installed without root privileges.
  2. -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX needs to be set to a path the installing user has write access to.

Building in Vagrant

Vagrant can be used to quickly set up a virtualized environment for building. On a debian-based system, issue the following commands to build using Vagrant:

git submodule init
git submodule update

sudo apt update
sudo apt install virtualbox vagrant

vagrant up

The vagrant machine can then be inspected by running vagrant ssh

This will create an environment for building softwarecontainer, download all the requirements and build the ones necessary to build. It will not build softwarecontainer and/or run any tests however. This is left for the developer and/or build system to do. The instructions for building and testing etc is performed by the Jenkinsfile.


You normally only want to run the softwarecontainer-agent, which requires root privileges. It will register itself onto the system bus, so no dbus magic is needed. Run it with --help to see runtime options.

Why does it require root privileges?

First, creating LXC containers requires root privileges. Second, setting up a network bridge using brctl and ifconfig/iptables typically also does require that.


For examples see the examples directory and the there for more information.


There are currently three levels of tests: unit tests, component tests, and service tests.

The unit tests written in gtest/gmock are available in /unit-test/. The tests are run using from the build directory. Note that you have to run them as root, since the actual container creation is not stubbed off and requires root access.

The service tests are in service-test/ and can be run with See servicetest/ for more details about these tests.

All the examples can also be build and tested against the current codebase by running from the examples/ directory.


We use semantic versioning, but we have yet to release a first stable 1.0.0 version, so for now, all bets are off.

License and Copyright

Copyright (C) 2016-2017 Pelagicore AB

The source code included here is licensed under the LGPL 2.1. Please see the "LICENSE" file for more information. Text documents are licensed under creative commons 4.0

SPDX-License-Identifier: CC-BY-4.0