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MAAS image anatomy

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Standard MAAS images are downloaded from images.maas.io into the MAAS region controller's cache, the layout of which is shown below. To see what goes into a MAAS image, we can snapshot images.maas.io like this:

Index of /
[ICO]	Name            Last modified	       Size
[DIR]	ephemeral-v2/	2016-05-17 18:17 	-
[DIR]	ephemeral-v3/	2020-10-14 14:35 	-
[DIR]	ephemeral/	2013-09-13 18:23 	-
[DIR]	query/	2017-05-02 18:38 	-
[DIR]	streams/	2013-08-22 05:04 	-
Apache/2.4.29 (Ubuntu) Server at images.maas.io Port 443

We'll ignore everything but the ephemeral-v3 directory for this discussion; it contains the following:

Index of /ephemeral-v3
[ICO]	     Name	       Last modified	 Size
[PARENTDIR]  Parent Directory	 	           -
[DIR]	     candidate/	       2022-05-15 21:40    -
[DIR]	     daily/	       2020-06-17 13:05    -
[DIR]	     stable/	       2022-08-11 20:04    -
Apache/2.4.29 (Ubuntu) Server at images.maas.io Port 443

As of this writing, the MAAS documentation tell us that the candidate stream "contains images and bootloaders which have not been explicitly tested with MAAS." These images may be more up-to-date than others in the repository.

Similarly, the stable stream "contains images and bootloaders which have been tested with the latest version of MAAS", so these images are more likely to be reliable and error-free than the candidate stream. This stream is intended for production use.

The daily stream has been retired, even though it retains a subdirectory. Any attempts to pull from the daily stream are automatically redirected to the stable stream.

What's in a stream?

Delving into the stable stream gives us this listing:

Index of /ephemeral-v3/stable
[ICO]	 Name	           Last modified     Size
[PARENTDIR]	 Parent Directory	 	      -
[DIR]	 bionic/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 bootloaders/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 centos/	   2020-11-19 19:05   -
[DIR]	 focal/	           2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 groovy/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 hirsute/	   2020-11-03 23:03   -
[DIR]	 impish/	   2021-05-17 21:04   -
[DIR]	 jammy/	           2022-04-20 16:06   -
[DIR]	 kinetic/	   2022-08-11 20:04   -
[DIR]	 precise/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 streams/	   2020-10-22 15:49   -
[DIR]	 trusty/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 xenial/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
Apache/2.4.29 (Ubuntu) Server at images.maas.io Port 443

You can see that there are stable Ubuntu images for a number of different Unbuntu releases, dating back several years. Not all of these images will work on all versions of MAAS, BTW. Just looking at the latest stable release (jammy), we can get a picture of what's included with the image stream:

Index of /ephemeral-v3/stable/jammy
[ICO]	 Name	           Last modified     Size
[PARENTDIR]	 Parent Directory	 	      -
[DIR]	 amd64/	           2022-08-11 20:05   -
[DIR]	 arm64/	           2022-08-11 20:05   -
[DIR]	 armhf/	           2022-08-11 20:05   -
[DIR]	 ppc64el/	   2022-08-11 20:05   -
[DIR]	 s390x/	           2022-08-11 20:05   -
Apache/2.4.29 (Ubuntu) Server at images.maas.io Port 443

The stream is sorted by architecture, so let's examine the amd64 architecture, one of the most common instances used for MAAS:

Index of /ephemeral-v3/stable/jammy/amd64
[ICO]	 Name	           Last modified     Size
[PARENTDIR]	 Parent Directory	 	      -
[DIR]	 20220616/	   2022-06-24 15:04   -
[DIR]	 20220712.1/	   2022-07-14 21:05   -
[DIR]	 20220718/	   2022-07-21 19:01   -
[DIR]	 20220808/	   2022-08-11 20:03   -
Apache/2.4.29 (Ubuntu) Server at images.maas.io Port 443

Here, we see that there are several different versions, roughly one per month. If we choose the latest (20220808), we begin to see the anatomy of an image:

Index of /ephemeral-v3/stable/jammy/amd64/20220808
[ICO]	 Name	           Last modified     Size
[PARENTDIR]	 Parent Directory	 	      -
[DIR]	 ga-22.04/	   2022-08-11 20:04   -
[ ]	         squashfs	   2022-08-08 14:26  404M
[ ]	         squashfs.manifest 2022-08-08 14:26   16K
Apache/2.4.29 (Ubuntu) Server at images.maas.io Port 443

So we've picked up one component of the image, the SquashFS, a compressed, read-only filesystem that can be loaded into RAMdisk for the ephemeral image to use (e.g., when commissioning a MAAS machine). You can get an idea of what's in this SquashFS by looking at the squashfs.manifest. The first part of this particular manifest file looks like this:

adduser	3.118ubuntu5
apparmor	3.0.4-2ubuntu2.1
apport	2.20.11-0ubuntu82.1
apport-symptoms	0.24
apt	2.4.5
apt-utils	2.4.5
base-files	12ubuntu4.1
base-passwd	3.5.52build1
bash	5.1-6ubuntu1
bash-completion	1:2.11-5ubuntu1
bc	1.07.1-3build1
bcache-tools	1.0.8-4ubuntu3
bind9-dnsutils	1:9.18.1-1ubuntu1.1
bind9-host	1:9.18.1-1ubuntu1.1

It's obvious that this is (mostly) just a list of packages to be included with the running system. If you want to peruse the whole thing, you can go to images.maas.io and download the manifest file, which is plain text.

To round out this part of the image, we can double-jump straight to ga-22.04/generic to find:

[ICO]	 Name	           Last modified     Size
[PARENTDIR]	 Parent Directory	 	      -
[ ]	         boot-initrd	   2022-08-08 14:26  106M
[ ]	         boot-kernel	   2022-08-08 14:26   11M

Here we see an initial ramdisk (boot-initrd), which loads a temporary, in-memory root filesystem for use by a booting ephemeral kernel on startup. You'll also notice that the ephemeral kernel is located in this directory, as well.

What else do we need?

This almost completes the picture of the MAAS image. We have a kernel, a temporary root filesystem, and an extended filesystem in compressed form. What's missing? Well, the bootloader, which is back at the top level of our streams directory:

Index of /ephemeral-v3/stable
[ICO]	 Name	           Last modified     Size
[PARENTDIR]	 Parent Directory	 	      -
[DIR]	 bionic/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 bootloaders/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 centos/	   2020-11-19 19:05   -
[DIR]	 focal/	           2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 groovy/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 hirsute/	   2020-11-03 23:03   -
[DIR]	 impish/	   2021-05-17 21:04   -
[DIR]	 jammy/	           2022-04-20 16:06   -
[DIR]	 kinetic/	   2022-08-11 20:04   -
[DIR]	 precise/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 streams/	   2020-10-22 15:49   -
[DIR]	 trusty/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
[DIR]	 xenial/	   2020-10-07 21:13   -
Apache/2.4.29 (Ubuntu) Server at images.maas.io Port 443

Without walking all the directories under bootloaders, we can summarize the contents like this:

  • the open-firmware directory contains some number of compressed grub archives for various architectures, updated with a new version every time a new MAAS image set is pushed.
  • the pxe directory contains compressed syslinux archives, sorted by architecture and release date.
  • the uefi directory contains compressed grub and shim (secure boot) archives, again sorted by architecture and release date.

This set of files covers all the possible boot configurations that this ephemeral image can support.

What an image contains

A MAAS simplestreams image, then, contains the following four things:

  1. A kernel.
  2. A bootloader.
  3. An initial RAMdisk (temporary root filesystem).
  4. A SquashFS compressed ("complete") filesystem.

As you can see from the foregoing discussion, there are many different architectures and update versions for each of these.

How the rack controller lays it down on disk

When you downloaded MAAS images from the simplestreams, you're actually just downloading them to the rack controller. In fact, until they are downloaded to the rack controller, they can't be deployed.

Image directory

For the MAAS snap, the rack controller stores its images in /var/snap/maas/common/maas/boot-resources/current. A typical image layout might look like this:

 4 drwxr-xr-x 5 root root  4096 Aug 11 15:38 bootloader
 4 drwxr-xr-x 3 root root  4096 Aug 11 15:38 centos
 4 drwxr-xr-x 3 root root  4096 Aug 11 15:38 custom
 4 drwxr-xr-x 2 root root  4096 Aug 11 15:39 grub
 4 -rw-r--r-- 1 root root   238 Aug 11 15:39 ipxe.cfg
92 -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 92070 Aug 16 15:36 maas.meta
 4 drwxr-xr-x 3 root root  4096 Aug 11 15:38 rhel
 4 drwxr-xr-x 3 root root  4096 Aug 11 15:38 ubuntu

The bootloader

The typical bootloader directory might look like this:

total 20
4 drwxr-xr-x 5 root root 4096 Aug 11 15:38 .
4 drwxr-xr-x 8 root root 4096 Aug 11 15:39 ..
4 drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 Aug 11 15:38 open-firmware
4 drwxr-xr-x 3 root root 4096 Aug 11 15:38 pxe
4 drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 4096 Aug 11 15:38 uefi

open-firmware/ppc64el/bootppc64.bin

This example directory contains the bootppc64.bin open firmware bootloader for PowerPC processors.

pxe/i386

This example directory contains various bootloaders and associated syslinux programs for the SYSLINUX PXE bootloader. The bootloaders typically found in this directory include lpxelinux.0 and pxelinux.0.

uefi

The files in this example directory would typically include various extensible firmware interface (EFI) bootloaders for booting systems under various conditions. Typical files might include:

  • arm64/bootaa64.efi
  • amd64/bootx64.efi
  • arm64/grubaa64.efi
  • amd64/grubx64.efi

centos

This directory typically contains various CentOS images supported by MAAS. These images are sorted by directory (e.g., centos/amd64/generic/8/stable), since they are typically all named root-tgz.

custom

grub

ipxe.cfg

maas.meta

rhel

ubuntu

Links to commonly used files

For convenience, a number of symbolic links to common files are kept in the current directory:

link points to
bootaa64.efi bootloader/uefi/arm64/bootaa64.efi
bootppc64.bin bootloader/open-firmware/ppc64el/bootppc64.bin
bootx64.efi bootloader/uefi/amd64/bootx64.efi
chain.c32 bootloader/pxe/i386/chain.c32
grubaa64.efi bootloader/uefi/arm64/grubaa64.efi
grubx64.efi bootloader/uefi/amd64/grubx64.efi
ifcpu64.c32 bootloader/pxe/i386/ifcpu64.c32
ldlinux.c32 bootloader/pxe/i386/ldlinux.c32
libcom32.c32 bootloader/pxe/i386/libcom32.c32
libutil.c32 bootloader/pxe/i386/libutil.c32
lpxelinux.0 bootloader/pxe/i386/lpxelinux.0
pxelinux.0 lpxelinux.0
syslinux bootloader/pxe/i386
Current as of 2022-09-24 Sat 11:37 in Crane Creek.
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