Born in 2008, LXC (pronouced lexy) is a userspace interface for the Linux kernel containment features, that enables the creation and management of application containers.

LXC leverages a number of kernel features to contain processes:

  • Kernel namespaces (ipc, uts, mount, pid, network and user)
  • Apparmor and SELinux profiles
  • Seccomp policies
  • Chroots (using pivot_root)
  • Kernel capabilities
  • CGroups (control groups)

LXC containers are often considered as something in between a chroot and a full blown VM. The goal of LXC is to create an environment as close as possible to a standard Linux installation, without the need for a separate kernel.

Kudos to Dave Cohen who put together a nice LXC video series, that gets straight to the point. What follows are my notes based on his videos. Dave’s videos are actually based on Stéphane Graber’s 2013 LXC 1.0 blog post series.

LXC in 5 steps

  1. Install it. On a hat based distro with yum install epel-release then yum install lxc lxc-extra lxc-templates. lxc-extra includes helpful scripts such as lxc-ls. Verify with lxc-checkconfig.
  2. Create containers like this lxc-create -t centos -n web1. The container templates -t available can be found in /usr/share/lxc/templates. On first use will download the base file system for the chosen template, dumping it in /var/cache e.g. /var/cache/lxc/centos/x86_64/7/. LXC containers are stored in /var/lib/lxc. A temporary root password to log into the container is placed here /var/lib/lxc/web1/tmp_root_pass.
  3. Spark it up with lxc-start -n web1 -d. The -d runs it in daemon mode, preventing it from taking over stdout and stdin.
  4. Get a state of play with lxc-ls -f (with fancy option)
  5. When you’re ready to jump into a container, lxc-attach -n web1

Bonus Options

Binding to a specific TTY

lxc-start -n web1 -c /dev/tty4 &


LXC employs the freezer cgroup to freeze all running processes within a container, placing them in the blocked state until thawed. The state of LXC containers within the freezer cgroup can be queried using the /sys (like /proc) virtual file system, for example:

# cat /sys/fs/cgroup/freezer/lxc/web1/freezer.state

lxc-freeze -n web1 will initiate the freeze, and lxc-unfreeze -n web1 will defrost it again.

Kill a container (lxc-stop -k)

lxc-stop -n web1 -k, the optional -k switch will send a SIGTERM (15).



Available LXC templates, which are just shell scripts, live in /usr/share/lxc/templates.

# ls /usr/share/lxc/templates
lxc-alpine    lxc-archlinux  lxc-centos  lxc-debian    lxc-fedora  lxc-openmandriva  lxc-oracle  lxc-sshd    lxc-ubuntu-cloud
lxc-altlinux  lxc-busybox    lxc-cirros  lxc-download  lxc-gentoo  lxc-opensuse      lxc-plamo   lxc-ubuntu


Each LXC container created, get a rootfs placed under /var/lib/lxc. For a container named web1:

# ls /var/lib/lxc/web1/rootfs
bin  boot  dev  etc  home  lib  lib64  media  mnt  opt  proc  root  run  sbin  selinux  srv  sys  tmp  usr  var


Each LXC container is given its own config file, example /var/lib/lxc/web1/config. For documentation on this config, checkout man 5 lxc.container.conf. The boilerplate config will look like this:

# Template used to create this container: /usr/share/lxc/templates/lxc-centos
# Parameters passed to the template:
# For additional config options, please look at lxc.container.conf(5) = veth = up = virbr0 = fe:c0:1f:81:f8:26
lxc.rootfs = /var/lib/lxc/web1/rootfs

# Include common configuration
lxc.include = /usr/share/lxc/config/centos.common.conf

lxc.arch = x86_64
lxc.utsname = web1

lxc.autodev = 1

# When using LXC with apparmor, uncomment the next line to run unconfined:
#lxc.aa_profile = unconfined

# example simple networking setup, uncomment to enable = veth = up = lxcbr0 = eth0
# Additional example for veth network type
#    static MAC address, = 00:16:3e:77:52:20
#    persistent veth device name on host side
#        Note: This may potentially collide with other containers of same name! = v-web1-e0

Lets make some changes to get a static IP, control the boot order, assign the container to 1+ groups, and auto start when the host boots. = = auto = 1 #1 = boot at host startup
lxc.start.delay = 15 #15 second delay prior to boot
lxc.start.order = 10 #the higher the number, the higher the priority = web,dns #assigns the container to 1 or more groups, which can then be managed in chunks

Beware of the, which renders the option useless.

The final steps to getting a static IP, is to disable DHCP in the network config within the container itself. On CentOS for example:

# vi /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0

Managing Auto Start

LXC containers, as shown, can be conveniently grouped, and auto started, easing the pain of starting and stopping indvidual containers all the time. The lxc-autostart command supports a -L (list) option that will show in priority order the auto boot sequence it is aware of.

# lxc-autostart -L
psql-1 15
psql-2 15
rabbit-mq 15
nginx-1 15
ngnix-2 15

The order of the list shows the priority. The value that follows the container name, is the number of seconds it will delay before proceeding to auto-boot the next container.

Unprivileged Containers