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A minimalist, idempotent command-line tool for managing local virtual machines
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README.md

LOVM

Love your virtual machines. Or low key vm manager, or local vm. lovm is a minimalist, idempotent command-line tool for managing local virtual machines (i.e. VMs you run on your computer).

Why?

I use regularly use VMs during development to test deployment scripts and configuration, and to install things I don't want to commingle with my desktop environment.

I used to use Vagrant but I found that I spent enormous amounts of time building and maintaining Vagrant boxes; ultimately, not the best use of my time.

I want to satisfy these minimum requirements for day-to-day use:

  • Clone a VM (installing the OS is outside the scope of lovm, we'll just clone one that works already)
  • Share a folder with the VM
  • Start the VM
  • Discover the VM's IP address
  • SSH to the VM
  • Stop the VM
  • Delete the VM when I'm done using it, or when I need to wipe out my changes

Design Goals

  • Simple
  • Speedy
  • Does not get in the way

Installing

With go:

go get github.com/cbednarski/lovm

Commands

lovm clone <source>                   Clone a VM. Start here!
lovm start                            Start the VM
lovm stop                             Stop the VM
lovm restart                          Stop and then start the VM
lovm ssh                              Open an SSH session to the VM
lovm ip                               Write the VM's IP address to stdout
lovm mount <host path> <guest path>   Mount a host folder into the VM
lovm delete                           Delete the VM; get your space back

Questions

How do I ssh to my box?

lovm ssh calls ssh with the IP address returned by lovm ip, but will pass through any additional flags directly to the underlying ssh command. The SSH prompt is interactive, so you can also type in your password in response to a prompt. For example:

lovm ssh -l root -i ~/.ssh/my_key.pem

Since you can't use user@ip syntax to change the ssh login, use -l instead.

Do I have to use VMware Workstation Pro or Fusion Pro?

Yes. lovm uses linked clones, which use copy-on-write to make cloning extremely fast. The non-Pro versions of these products do not (at time of writing) support linked clones. You may also use VirtualBox, which is free.

How do I create my own VM?

There are many options. The easiest way is to use the GUI for VMware or VirtualBox. VMware has an "easy install" option that will automatically install popular operating systems for you. You can use a VM image created using Packer or provided by a third party. You can even use a Vagrant Box, though you will need to unpack it first.

In order to clone the VM, the source VM must be in a powered-off state (not suspended), or must have a powered-off snaphot. Since the original VM is non- destructively cloned each time you run it, you only need to create it once.

How do I clone a snapshot?

You can clone a snapshot by adding : and the snapshot name to the clone source. For example:

lovm clone /path/to/vm:snapshot-name

What is the lovm-clone snapshot?

Linked clones in VirtualBox and VMware require a snapshot so lovm creates one called lovm-clone the first time it clones a VM. If you make changes to the original VM afterward, be sure to delete this snapshot so the next clone operation will create a new snapshot with the latest change. You can also create this snapshot manually.

Having more than one snapshot named lovm-clone on a single VM will result in unspecified behavior.

What about all the other virtualization tools, like bhyve and kvm?

I don't use those. I only use VMware, and most people I know only use VirtualBox.

What about Windows?

lovm doesn't currently run on Windows, though it can run Windows VMs on Linux. I don't currently develop on Windows, but I know a lot of people do, so I may add Windows host support later.

What about managing snapshots, multiple VMs, or [feature X], or [platform Y]?

There are a lot of features and platforms I don't use and don't have time to support. Feel free to clone or fork the project for your own needs. :)

Comparisons to Other Tools

Vagrant

Vagrant has many more features like Vagrantfiles (ruby), packaging (Vagrant Boxes), upload / download of boxes, provisioning, plugins, triggers, remote VM access (sharing), management of multiple machines, and more. Vagrant has numerous workflows for working with teams, mass-distribution of VMs, and support for custom behavior. Vagrant supports VMware through a paid plugin.

lovm only supports SSH and basic VM controls. However, it works with VMs that you already have and does not require extra packaging. VMware is supported out of the box.

https://vagrantup.com

Docker Desktop

Docker Desktop runs a Linux VM and installs some host-native client tools (like the Docker CLI) to make docker workflows easy. Docker desktop does not support other guest operating systems and does not support power management workflows (instead it runs the VM like an application).

lovm manages VMs and does not have any docker-specific features.

Just using VMware or VirtualBox

lovm wraps the CLI tools included with VMware and VirtualBox. lovm improves on the native CLI's ergonomics, speeds things up by using linked clones, and also quickly identifies the IP address when you start a VM.

Contributing

I built this for my own use, and I only intend to maintain this program so I can use it. Please do feel free to open bugs or PRs or ask questions, but don't feel bad if I don't respond or don't merge your PR. It's not you. It's me! :)

Compatibility Matrix

This is not a roadmap.

Operating Systems

  • FreeBSD
  • Linux
  • MacOS
  • Windows

Virtualization Engines

  • bhyve
  • Docker
  • HyperV
  • Parallels
  • qemu/kvm
  • VirtualBox
  • VMware
  • xhyve
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