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SubjectRe: Detecting if you are running in a container
Lennart Poettering <> writes:

> On Mon, 10.10.11 13:59, Eric W. Biederman ( wrote:
>> > Quite a few kernel subsystems are
>> > currently not virtualized, for example SELinux, VTs, most of sysfs, most
>> > of /proc/sys, audit, udev or file systems (by which I mean that for a
>> > container you probably don't want to fsck the root fs, and so on), and
>> > containers tend to be much more lightweight than real systems.
>> That is an interesting viewpoint on what is not complete. But as a
>> listing of the tasks that distribution startup needs to do differently in
>> a container the list seems more or less reasonable.
> Note that this is just what came to my mind while I was typing this, I
> am quite sure there's actually more like this.
>> There are two questions
>> - How in the general case do we detect if we are running in a container.
>> - How do we make reasonable tests during bootup to see if it makes sense
>> to perform certain actions.
>> For the general detection if we are running in a linux container I can
>> see two reasonable possibilities.
>> - Put a file in / that let's you know by convention that you are in a
>> linux container. I am inclined to do this because this is something
>> we can support on all kernels old and new.
> Hmpf. That would break the stateless read-only-ness of the root dir.
> After pointing the issue out to the LXC folks they are now setting
> "container=lxc" as env var when spawning a container. In systemd-nspawn
> I have then adopted a similar scheme. Not sure though that that isp
> particularly nice however, since env vars are inherited further down the
> tree where we probably don't want them.

Interesting. That seems like a reasonable enough thing to require
of the programs that create containers.

> In case you are curious: this is the code we use in systemd:
> What matters to me though is that we can generically detect Linux
> containers instead of specific implementations.

>> - Allow modification to the output of uname(2). The uts namespace
>> already covers uname(2) and uname is the standard method to
>> communicate to userspace the vageries about the OS level environment
>> they are running in.
> Well, I am not a particular fan of having userspace tell userspace about
> containers. I would prefer if userspace could get that info from the
> kernel without any explicit agreement to set some specific variable.

Well userspace tells userspace about stdin and it works reliably.

Containers are a userspace construct built with kernel facilities.
I don't see why asking userspace to implement a convention is any more
important than the other things that have to be done.

We do need to document the convetions. Just like we document the
standard device names but I don't beyond that we should be fine.

>> My list of things that still have work left to do looks like:
>> - cgroups. It is not safe to create a new hierarchies with groups
>> that are in existing hierarchies. So cgroups don't work.
> Well, for systemd they actually work quite fine since systemd will
> always place its own cgroups below the cgroup it is started in. cgroups
> hence make these things nicely stackable.
> In fact, most folks involved in cgroups userspace have agreed to these
> rules now:
> Among other things they ask all userspace code to only create subgroups
> below the group they are started in, so not only systemd should work
> fine in a container environment but everything else following these
> rules.
> In other words: so far one gets away quite nicely with the fact that the
> cgroup tree is not virtualized.

Assuming you bind mount the cgroups inside and generally don't allow
people in a container to create cgroup hierarchies. At the very least
that is nasty information leakage.

But I am glad there is a solution for right now.

For my uses I have yet to find control groups anything but borked.

>> - VTs. Ptys should be well supported at this point. For the rest
>> they are physical hardware that a container should not be playing with
>> so I would base which gettys to start up based on which device nodes
>> are present in /dev.
> Well, I am not sure it's that easy since device nodes tend to show up
> dynamically in bare systems. So if you just check whether /dev/tty0 is
> there you might end up thinking you are in a container when you actually
> aren't simply because you did that check before udev loaded the DRI
> driver or so.

But the point isn't to detect a container the point is to decide if
a getty needs to be spawned. Even with the configuration for a getty
you need to wait for the device node to exist before spawning one.

>> - sysctls (aka /proc/sys) that is a trick one. Until the user namespace
>> is fleshed out a little more sysctls are going to be a problem,
>> because root can write to most of them. My gut feel says you probably
>> want to base that to poke at sysctls on CAP_SYS_ADMIN. At least that
>> test will become true when the userspaces are rolled out, and at
>> that point you will want to set all of the sysctls you have permission
>> to.
> So what we did right now in systemd-nspawn is that the container
> supervisor premounts /proc/sys read-only into the container. That way
> writes to it will fail in the container, and while you get a number of
> warnings things will work as they should (though not necessarily safely
> since the container can still remount the fs unless you take
> CAP_SYS_ADMIN away).

That sort of works. In practice it means you can't setup interesting
things like forwarding in the networking stack. But it certainly gets
things going.

>> So while I agree a check to see if something is a container seems
>> reasonable. I do not agree that the pid namespace is the place to put
>> that information. I see no natural to put that information in the
>> pid namespace.
> Well, a simple way would be to have a line /proc/1/status called
> "PIDNamespaceLevel:" or so which would be 0 for the root namespace, and
> increased for each namespace nested in it. Then, processes could simply
> read that and be happy.

Not a chance. PIDNamespaceLevel is implementing an implementation
detail that may well change in the lifetime of a process. It is true
we don't have migration mreged in the kernel yet but one of these days
I expect we will.

>> I further think there are a lot of reasonable checks for if a
>> kernel feature is supported in the current environment I would
>> rather pursue over hacks based the fact we are in a container.
> Well, believe me we have been tryiung to find nicer hooks that explicit
> checks for containers, but I am quite sure that at the end of the day
> you won't be able to go without it entirely.

And you have explicit information you are in a container at this point.

It looks like all that is left is Documentation of the conventions.


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