Simple init script to manage KVM
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Simple init script to manage KVM virtual machines.


kvm-simple-init can perform the following actions on a KVM machine :

  • Start

  • Stop by sending a system power down event to the guest system

  • Kill by stopping immediatly the QEMU emulator (automatic fallback on this action if the VM does not respond to stop action)

  • Restart


kvm-simple-init focuses on simplicity, and is fully implemented in just a few hundred lines of shell script.

It is intended for people who do not want to run libvirt just for running a few VM, or people who prefer to manage flat configuration files using their prefered configuration management system.

kvm-simple-init does not provide complicated configuration file format or parameters. Only two informations are needed :

  • QEMU monitor port for the machine (used to know if the VM is running, or to send specific commands)

  • Full KVM command line needed to start the machine (gives full configuration freedom)

kvm-simple-init can be used directly as system init script for starting all KVM machines on a host machine. Just drop it in /etc/init.d, and enable it with the tools provided by your UNIX distribution (update-rc.d on Debian, chkconfig on Red Hat, ...).

kvm-simple-init was inspired by the init script of FreeBSD jails.


You need to have the following tools :

  • Posix shell (/bin/sh)
  • Netcat (available via the nc command)
  • timeout command (part of coreutils in Debian)
  • Of course a working QEMU/KVM setup, available via the kvm command

Then, drop kvm-simple-init somewhere into your PATH (/usr/local/sbin could be a good place), or into /etc/init.d if intended to be used as system init script.

Currently, this tool has only been tested on Debian 6.0, Debian 7.0, Ubuntu 15.10.


Here is the command synopsis, also found when running kvm-simple-init with no arguments :

kvm-simple-init [start|stop|restart] [VM]

The directory /etc/kvm-simple-init/ contains the VMs configuration files.

The specified action (start, stop or restart) is executed :

  • If VM argument is specified, using the matching file in the directory
  • If not, using all files in the directory

VM configuration files should contain at least two shell variables :

  • MONITOR_PORT : Unique port number which need to be also specified in the -monitor KVM parameter (using the KVM_OPTS variable below)
  • KVM_OPTS : KVM arguments necessary to launch the VM

Warning : if the virtual machine does not respond to stop action (because the operating system does not manage it, or is in a bad state), the machine will be violently interrupted.


Create a /etc/kvm-simple-init/test1 config file, according to the example provided in the file config.example.

Then, manage the VM with :

/etc/init.d/kvm-simple-init start test1
/etc/init.d/kvm-simple-init stop test1
/etc/init.d/kvm-simple-init restart test1

To manage all the VMs (usually when booting or stopping the system) :

/etc/init.d/kvm-simple-init start
/etc/init.d/kvm-simple-init stop
/etc/init.d/kvm-simple-init restart


  • 2013-05-30 : Package for Debian
  • 2013-05-30 : Add man page
  • 2013-05-30 : Add status command (also for LSB compliance)
  • 2013-06-03 : Add parameter AUTOSTART to VM config



Copyright 2013-2016 Thomas Martin

This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program. If not, see