As part of efforts to more regularly test the Xen hypervisor with Nova as part of OpenStack development, I’m spending some time figuring out how to virtualise Xen on Xen, specifically Oracle’s Oracle VM Server.

In virtualisation terms the different levels of hypervisor are referred to as LN, where N is the nesting level. In our setup, Oracle VM Server 3.4.2 (OVM-S) is running on baremetal as L0, another instance of OVM-S is running on that as L1, and the final OpenStack instantiated guest would be L2.

There are not so many blogs or up to date howtos in this area, so most of the below comes direct from the official Xen documentation.

Also, we’re using the xenlight (xl) toolkit, as of yet I have not found how to enable the relevant parameters in libvirt to make nesting work.

Starting from L0, here is an example xl guest config file:

builder = "hvm"
name = "example"
memory = 4096
vcpus = 2
vif = [ 'bridge=xenbr0' ]
disk = [ 'format=raw, vdev=hda, access=rw, target=/root/disk.img', 'format=raw, vdev=hdc, access=ro, devtype=cdrom, target=/root/V789846-01.iso' ]
vnc = 1
cpuid = ['0x1:ecx=0xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx']

This is copied directly from /etc/xen/xlexample.hvm, with minor tweaks for disks and networking. The sample files are a good place to start as the above example will almost certainly be out of date in time.

I’m using bridged networking, xenbr0 was created in the usual way with the hosts default interface added to it.

The last three lines are the important pieces, without these L1 will fail to install with the following error:

libxl__domain_make domain creation fail: cannot make domain: -3

Once logged into L1, an image can be booted for L2. In an OpenStack environment Nova will be managing this step. To verify it’s working however, we can boot Cirros in Xen using the following config:

builder = "hvm"
name = "example.hvm"
memory = 128
vcpus = 2
vif = [ 'xenbr0' ]
disk = [ '/root/cirros.img,qcow2,xvda' ]
vnc = 1


I will continue to update this post in time as I make improvements to this process. In particular, I would like to solve the following:

  • Set the required nesting params via libvirt, so that we aren’t forced to use xl.
  • Install using console rather than VNC.