Package and Run Virtual Machines as Docker Containers
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Latest commit 8c47794 Jul 12, 2018


Package and run KVM images as Kubernetes pods, run at scale.

How It Works

RancherVM allows you to create VMs that run inside of Kubernetes pods, called VM Pods. A VM pod looks and feels like a regular pod. Inside of each VM pod, however, is a container running a virtual machine instance. You can package any QEMU/KVM image as a Docker image, distribute it using any Docker registry such as DockerHub, and run it on RancherVM.

RancherVM extends the Kubernetes API with Custom Resource Definitions, or CRDs. Users define a VirtualMachine CRD specification detailing what base image, how much compute resources and what keypairs are authorized to open an SSH session. A Kubernetes controller creates VM pods as necessary to achieve the desired specification and reflects this in the VirtualMachine CRD status.

RancherVM comes with a Web UI for managing public keys, compute nodes, virtual machines and accessing the VNC console from a web browser.

How it works


Create a Kubernetes 1.8+ cluster and ensure KVM is installed on all nodes. Follow the distribution-specific instructions to ensure KVM works. We only require KVM to be enabled in the kernel. We do not need any user space tools like qemu-kvm or libvirt. On Ubuntu 14.04, you can make sure KVM is enabled by checking that both devices /dev/kvm and /dev/net/tun exist.

An easy way to run KVM on your Windows or Mac laptop is to use nested virtualization with VMware Workstation or VMware Fusion. Just enable "Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI" in VM settings.

Once you have Kubernetes and KVM both setup, deploy the system:

kubectl create -f

When you see all pods are ready and running as follows, you've deployed RancherVM successfully. Single-node Kubernetes clusters are expected to run fewer pods.

$ kubectl -n ranchervm-system get pods
NAME                             READY     STATUS    RESTARTS   AGE
backend-5f5dd7878-5p6rm          1/1       Running   0          1h
backend-5f5dd7878-9x9ss          1/1       Running   0          1h
frontend-5b5d47c669-cnlwn        1/1       Running   0          1h
frontend-5b5d47c669-xhtzf        1/1       Running   0          1h
ip-controller-648cdf6854-gkvxj   2/2       Running   0          1h
ip-controller-648cdf6854-wsnkl   2/2       Running   0          1h
vm-controller-7c5fdbb68d-d8qq8   1/1       Running   0          1h
vm-controller-7c5fdbb68d-vf22w   1/1       Running   0          1h

RancherVM is ready to use. To access the UI, discover the endpoint as follows.

$ kubectl -n ranchervm-system get svc/frontend
NAME       TYPE           CLUSTER-IP    EXTERNAL-IP       PORT(S)        AGE
frontend   LoadBalancer   80:31520/TCP   42m

If the Kubernetes Cluster supports creating LoadBalancer services, access RancherVM UI using the EXTERNAL-IP ( in the case above) on port 80. Otherwise, access RancherVM UI using <node_ip>: (port is 31520 in the case above), where node_ip is the public IP address of any node in the Kubernetes cluster.

You can create VM Pods through the Web UI or by creating Credential and VirtualMachine CRDs:

kubectl create -f
kubectl create -f

RancherVM is comprised of two Kubernetes controllers and a Web UI. Users may manage VM Pods using the UI, by making API calls to the REST server backend, or by directly creating/modifying CRDs.

Build VM Images

You can find instructions on how to build images, including Windows images, in the RancherVM Images document.


The details of how RancherVM configures network for the VM Pod is documented in RancherVM Networking.

Build from Source

To build a Docker image, run IMAGE=yes hack/

To only build the binary for your local OS & ARCH, run hack/