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Operating system content and usage

Configuring systemd units

To add a custom systemd unit:

COPY mycustom.service /usr/lib/systemd/system
RUN ln -s mycustom.service /usr/lib/systemd/system/

It will not work currently to do RUN systemctl enable mycustom.service instead of the second line - unless you also write a systemd preset file enabling that unit.

Static enablement versus presets

systemd presets are designed for “run once” semantics - thereafter, OS upgrades won’t cause new services to start. In contrast, “static enablement” by creating the symlink (as is done above) bypasses the preset logic.

In general, it’s recommended to follow the “static enablement” approach because it more closely aligns with “immutable infrastructure” model.

Using presets

If nevertheless you want to use presets instead of “static enablement”, one recommended pattern to avoid this problem (and is also somewhat of a best practice anyways) is to use a common prefix (e.g. examplecorp- for all of your custom systemd units), resulting in examplecorp-checkin.service, examplecorp-agent.service etc.

Then you can write a single systemd preset file to e.g. /usr/lib/systemd/system-preset/50-examplecorp.preset that contains:

enable examplecorp-*

Automatic updates enabled by default

The base image here enables the bootc-fetch-apply-updates.service systemd unit which automatically finds updated container images from the registry and will reboot into them.

Controlling automatic updates

First, one can disable the timer entirely as part of a container build:

RUN systemctl mask bootc-fetch-apply-updates.timer

This is useful for environments where manually updating the systems is preferred, or having another tool perform schedule and execute the updates, e.g. Ansible.

Alternatively, one can use systemd “drop-ins” to override the timer (for example, to schedule updates for once a week), create a file like this, named e.g. 50-weekly.conf:

# Clear previous timers
OnBootSec= OnBootSec=1w OnUnitInactiveSec=1w

Then add it into your container:

RUN mkdir -p /usr/lib/systemd/system/bootc-fetch-apply-updates.timer.d
COPY 50-weekly.conf /usr/lib/systemd/system/bootc-fetch-apply-updates.timer.d

Air-gapped and dissconnected updates

For environments without a direct connection to a centralized container registry, we encourage mirroring an on-premise registry if possible or manually moving container images using skopeo copy. See this blog for example.

For systems that require manual updates via USB drives, this procedure describes how to use skopeo and bootc switch.

Copy image to USB Drive:

skopeo copy docker://[registry]/[path to image] dir://run/media/$USER/$DRIVE/$DIR

*note, Using the dir transport will create a number of files, and it’s recommended to place the image in it’s own directory. If the image is local the containers-storage transport will transfer the image from a system directly to the drive:

skopeo copy containers-storage:[image]:[tag] dir://run/media/$USER/$DRIVE/$DIR

From the client system, insert the USB drive and mount it:

mount /dev/$DRIVE /mnt

bootc switch will direct the system to look at this mount point for future updates, and is only necessary to run one time if you wish to continue consuming updates from USB devices. note that if the mount point changes, simply run this command to point to the alternate location. We recommend using the same location each time to simplfy this.

bootc switch --transport dir /mnt/$DIR

Finally bootc upgrade will 1) check for updates and 2) reboot the system when --apply is used.

bootc upgrade --apply

Filesystem interaction and layout

At “build” time, this image runs the same as any other OCI image where the default filesystem setup is an overlayfs for / that captures all changes written - to anywhere.

However, the default runtime (when booted on a virtual or physical host system, with systemd as pid 1) there are some rules around persistence and writability.

The reason for this is that the primary goal is that base operating system changes (updating kernels, binaries, configuration) are managed in your container image and updated via bootc upgrade.

In general, aim for most content in your container image to be underneath the /usr filesystem. This is mounted read-only by default, and this matches many other “immutable infrastructure” operating systems.

The /etc filesystem defaults to persistent and writable - and is the expected place to put machine-local state (static IP addressing, hostnames, etc).

All other machine-local persistent data should live underneath /var by default; for example, the default is for systemd to persist the journal to /var/log/journal.

Understanding root.transient`

At a technical level today, the base image uses the bootc project, which uses ostree as a backend. However, unlike many other ostree projects, this base image enables the root.transient feature from ostree-prepare-root.

This has two primary effects:

  • Content placed underneath /var at container build time is moved t /usr/share/factory/var, and on firstboot, updated files are handled via a systemd tmpfiles.d rule that copies new files (see /usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/ostree-tmpfiles.conf)
  • The default / filesystem is writable, but not persistent. All content added in the container image in other toplevel directories (e.g. /opt) will be refreshed from the new container image on updates, and any modifications will be lost.