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Kata Containers with virtio-fs


Container deployments utilize explicit or implicit file sharing between host filesystem and containers. From a trust perspective, avoiding a shared file-system between the trusted host and untrusted container is recommended. This is not always feasible. In Kata Containers, block-based volumes are preferred as they allow usage of either device pass through or virtio-blk for access within the virtual machine.

As of the 1.7 release of Kata Containers, 9pfs is the default filesystem sharing mechanism. While this does allow for workload compatibility, it does so with degraded performance and potential for POSIX compliance limitations.

To help address these limitations, virtio-fs has been developed. virtio-fs is a shared file system that lets virtual machines access a directory tree on the host. In Kata Containers, virtio-fs can be used to share container volumes, secrets, config-maps, configuration files (hostname, hosts, resolv.conf) and the container rootfs on the host with the guest. virtio-fs provides significant performance and POSIX compliance improvements compared to 9pfs.

Enabling of virtio-fs requires changes in the guest kernel as well as the VMM. For Kata Containers, experimental virtio-fs support is enabled through the NEMU VMM.

Note: virtio-fs support is experimental in the 1.7 release of Kata Containers. Work is underway to improve stability, performance and upstream integration. This is available for early preview - use at your own risk

This document describes how to get Kata Containers to work with virtio-fs.


  • Before Kata 1.8 this feature required the host to have hugepages support enabled. Enable this with the sysctl vm.nr_hugepages=1024 command on the host.

Install Kata Containers with virtio-fs support

The Kata Containers NEMU configuration, the NEMU VMM and the virtiofs daemon are available in the Kata Container release artifacts starting with the 1.7 release. While the feature is experimental, distribution packages are not supported, but installation is available through kata-deploy.

Install the latest release of Kata as follows:

docker run --runtime=runc -v /opt/kata:/opt/kata -v /var/run/dbus:/var/run/dbus -v /run/systemd:/run/systemd -v /etc/docker:/etc/docker -it katadocker/kata-deploy kata-deploy-docker install

This will place the Kata release artifacts in /opt/kata, and update Docker's configuration to include a runtime target, kata-nemu. Learn more about kata-deploy and how to use kata-deploy in Kubernetes here.

Run a Kata Container utilizing virtio-fs

Once installed, start a new container, utilizing NEMU + virtiofs:

$ docker run --runtime=kata-nemu -it busybox

Verify the new container is running with the NEMU hypervisor as well as using virtiofsd. To do this look for the hypervisor path and the virtiofs daemon process on the host:

$ ps -aux | grep virtiofs
root ... /home/foo/build-x86_64_virt/x86_64_virt-softmmu/qemu-system-x86_64_virt
...  -machine virt,accel=kvm,kernel_irqchip,nvdimm ...
root ... /home/foo/build-x86_64_virt/virtiofsd-x86_64 ...
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