XenServer API extensions¶
The XenAPI is a general and comprehensive interface to managing the life-cycles of Virtual Machines, and offers a lot of flexibility in the way that XenAPI providers may implement specific functionality (e.g. storage provisioning, or console handling). XenServer has several extensions which provide useful functionality used in our own XenCenter interface. The workings of these mechanisms are described in this chapter.
Extensions to the XenAPI are often provided by specifying
map keys to various objects. The use of this parameter indicates that
the functionality is supported for that particular release of
XenServer, but not as a long-term feature. We are constantly
evaluating promoting functionality into the API, but this requires the
nature of the interface to be well-understood. Developer feedback as to
how you are using some of these extensions is always welcome to help us
make these decisions.
VM console forwarding¶
Most XenAPI graphical interfaces will want to gain access to the VM consoles, in order to render them to the user as if they were physical machines. There are several types of consoles available, depending on the type of guest or if the physical host console is being accessed:
|Operating System||Text||Graphical||Optimized graphical|
|Windows||No||VNC, using an API call||RDP, directly from guest|
|Linux||Yes, through VNC and an API call||No||VNC, directly from guest|
|Physical Host||Yes, through VNC and an API call||No||No|
Hardware-assisted VMs, such as Windows, directly provide a graphical console over VNC. There is no text-based console, and guest networking is not necessary to use the graphical console. Once guest networking has been established, it is more efficient to setup Remote Desktop Access and use an RDP client to connect directly (this must be done outside of the XenAPI).
Paravirtual VMs, such as Linux guests, provide a native text console
directly. XenServer provides a utility (called
convert this text-based console into a graphical VNC representation.
Guest networking is not necessary for this console to function. As with
Windows above, Linux distributions often configure VNC within the guest,
and directly connect to it over a guest network interface.
The physical host console is only available as a
vt100 console, which
is exposed through the XenAPI as a VNC console by using
vncterm in the
RFB (Remote Framebuffer) is the protocol which underlies VNC, specified in The RFB Protocol. Third-party developers are expected to provide their own VNC viewers, and many freely available implementations can be adapted for this purpose. RFB 3.3 is the minimum version which viewers must support.
Retrieving VNC consoles using the API¶
VNC consoles are retrieved using a special URL passed through to the host agent. The sequence of API calls is as follows:
Client to Master/443: RPC:
Master/443 to Client: Returns a session reference to be used with subsequent calls.
Client to Master/443: RPC:
Master/443 to Client: Returns a reference to a particular VM (or the "control domain" if you want to retrieve the physical host console).
Client to Master/443: RPC:
Master/443 to Client: Returns a list of console objects associated with the VM.
Client to Master/443: RPC:
Returns a URI describing where the requested console is located. The URIs are of the form:
Client to 192.168.0.1: HTTP CONNECT "/console?ref=(...)"
The final HTTP CONNECT is slightly non-standard since the HTTP/1.1 RFC specifies that it should only be a host and a port, rather than a URL. Once the HTTP connect is complete, the connection can subsequently directly be used as a VNC server without any further HTTP protocol action.
This scheme requires direct access from the client to the control domain's IP, and will not work correctly if there are Network Address Translation (NAT) devices blocking such connectivity. You can use the CLI to retrieve the console URI from the client and perform a connectivity check.
Retrieve the VM UUID by running:
xe vm-list params=uuid --minimal name-label=name
Retrieve the console information:
xe console-list vm-uuid=uuid uuid ( RO): 714f388b-31ed-67cb-617b-0276e35155ef vm-uuid ( RO): 8acb7723-a5f0-5fc5-cd53-9f1e3a7d3069 vm-name-label ( RO): etch protocol ( RO): RFB location ( RO): https://192.168.0.1/console?ref=(...)
Use command-line utilities like
ping to test connectivity to the IP
address provided in the
Disabling VNC forwarding for Linux VM¶
When creating and destroying Linux VMs, the host agent automatically
vncterm processes which convert the text console into VNC. Advanced
users who wish to directly access the text console can disable VNC
forwarding for that VM. The text console can then only be accessed
directly from the control domain directly, and graphical interfaces such
as XenCenter will not be able to render a console for that VM.
Before starting the guest, set the following parameter on the VM record:
xe vm-param-set uuid=uuid other-config:disable_pv_vnc=1
Start the VM.
Use the CLI to retrieve the underlying domain ID of the VM with:
xe vm-list params=dom-id uuid=uuid --minimal
On the host console, connect to the text console directly by:
This configuration is an advanced procedure, and we do not recommend that the text console is directly used for heavy I/O operations. Instead, connect to the guest over SSH or some other network-based connection mechanism.
Paravirtual Linux installation¶
The installation of paravirtual Linux guests is complicated by the fact that a Xen-aware kernel must be booted, rather than simply installing the guest using hardware-assistance. This does have the benefit of providing near-native installation speed due to the lack of emulation overhead. XenServer supports the installation of several different Linux distributions, and abstracts this process as much as possible.
To this end, a special bootloader known as
eliloader is present in the
control domain which reads various
other-config keys in the VM record
at start time and performs distribution-specific installation behavior.
install-repository- Required. Path to a repository; 'http', 'https', 'ftp', or 'nfs'. Should be specified as would be used by the target installer, but not including prefixes, e.g. method=.
install-vnc- Default: false. Use VNC where available during the installation.
install-vncpasswd- Default: empty. The VNC password to use, when providing one is possible using the command-line of the target distribution.
install-round- Default: 1. The current bootloader round. Not to be edited by the user.
Adding Xenstore entries to VMs¶
Developers may wish to install guest agents into VMs which take special
action based on the type of the VM. In order to communicate this
information into the guest, a special Xenstore name-space known as
vm-data is available which is populated at VM creation time. It is
populated from the
xenstore-data map in the VM record.
xenstore-data parameter in the VM record:
xe vm-param-set uuid=vm_uuid xenstore-data:vm-data/foo=bar
Start the VM.
If it is a Linux-based VM, install the XenServer Tools and use the
xenstore-read to verify that the node exists in Xenstore.
Only prefixes beginning with
vm-dataare permitted, and anything not in this name-space will be silently ignored when starting the VM.
The control domain in XenServer and above has various security enhancements in order to harden it against attack from malicious guests. Developers should never notice any loss of correct functionality as a result of these changes, but they are documented here as variations of behavior from other distributions.
The socket interface,
xenstored, access using
libxenstore. Interfaces are restricted by
/dev/xen/evtchn, which is accessed by calling
libxenctrl. A handle can be restricted using
/proc/xen/privcmd, accessed through
libxenctrl. A handle is restricted using
xc_interface_restrict(). Some privileged commands are naturally hard to restrict (e.g. the ability to make arbitrary hypercalls), and these are simply prohibited on restricted handles.
A restricted handle cannot later be granted more privilege, and so the interface must be closed and re-opened. Security is only gained if the process cannot subsequently open more handles.
The control domain privileged user-space interfaces can now be restricted to only work for certain domains. There are three interfaces affected by this change:
qemudevice emulation processes and
vnctermterminal emulation processes run as a non-root user ID and are restricted into an empty directory. They uses the restriction API above to drop privileges where possible.
Access to xenstore is rate-limited to prevent malicious guests from causing a denial of service on the control domain. This is implemented as a token bucket with a restricted fill-rate, where most operations take one token and opening a transaction takes 20. The limits are set high enough that they should never be hit when running even a large number of concurrent guests under loaded operation.
The VNC guest consoles are bound only to the
localhostinterface, so that they are not exposed externally even if the control domain packet filter is disabled by user intervention.
Advanced settings for network interfaces¶
Virtual and physical network interfaces have some advanced settings that
can be configured using the
other-config map parameter. There is a set of custom ethtool settings and some miscellaneous settings.
Developers might wish to configure custom ethtool settings for physical
and virtual network interfaces. This is accomplished with
ethtool-<option> keys in the
other-config map parameter.
|ethtool-rx||Specify if RX checksumming is enabled||
|ethtool-tx||Specify if TX checksumming is enabled||
|ethtool-sg||Specify if scatter-gather is enabled||
|ethtool-tso||Specify if tcp segmentation offload is enabled||
|ethtool-ufo||Specify if UDP fragmentation offload is enabled||
|ethtool-gso||Specify if generic segmentation offload is enabled||
|ethtool-autoneg||Specify if autonegotiation is enabled||
|ethtool-speed||Set the device speed in Mb/s||10, 100, or 1000|
|ethtool-duplex||Set full or half duplex mode||half or full|
For example, to enable TX checksumming on a virtual NIC using the xe CLI:
xe vif-param-set uuid=<VIF UUID> other-config:ethtool-tx="on"
xe vif-param-set uuid=<VIF UUID> other-config:ethtool-tx="true"
To set the duplex setting on a physical NIC to half duplex using the xe CLI:
xe vif-param-set uuid=<VIF UUID> other-config:ethtool-duplex="half"
You can also set a promiscuous mode on a VIF or PIF by setting the
promiscuous key to
on. For example, to enable promiscuous mode on a physical NIC using the xe CLI:
xe pif-param-set uuid=<PIF UUID> other-config:promiscuous="on"
xe pif-param-set uuid=<PIF UUID> other-config:promiscuous="true"
The VIF and PIF objects have a
MTU parameter that is read-only and
provide the current setting of the maximum transmission unit for the
interface. You can override the default maximum transmission unit of a
physical or virtual NIC with the
mtu key in the
parameter. For example, to reset the MTU on a virtual NIC to use jumbo
frames using the xe CLI:
xe vif-param-set uuid=<VIF UUID> other-config:mtu=9000
Note that changing the MTU of underlying interfaces is an advanced and experimental feature, and may lead to unexpected side-effects if you have varying MTUs across NICs in a single resource pool.
Internationalization for SR names¶
The SRs created at install time now have an
indicating how their names may be internationalized.
other_config["i18n-key"] may be one of
other_config["i18n-original-value-<field name>"] gives
the value of that field when the SR was created. If XenCenter sees
a record where
other_config["i18n-original-value-name_label"] (that is, the record has not changed since it was created during
XenServer installation), then internationalization will be applied.
In other words, XenCenter will disregard the current contents of
that field, and instead use a value appropriate to the user's own
If you change
SR.name_label for your own purpose, then it no longer is
the same as
XenCenter does not apply internationalization, and instead
preserves your given name.
Hiding objects from XenCenter¶
Networks, PIFs, and VMs can be hidden from XenCenter by adding the
HideFromXenCenter=true to the
other_config parameter for the object. This capability
is intended for ISVs who know what they are doing, not general use by
everyday users. For example, you might want to hide certain VMs because
they are cloned VMs that shouldn't be used directly by general users in
In XenCenter, hidden Networks, PIFs, and VMs can be made visible, using the View menu.