SSH to your VMs without knowing their IP address

This is a shameless copy of this blog post, but I felt like I need to put it here as well, so that I can find it the next time I need it 🙂

libvirt approach

When you run a lot of VMs, especially for testing, every time with a fresh operating system, connecting to them is a pain, because you always need to figure out their IP address first. Turns out that is no longer true. I simply added this snippet to my ~/.ssh/config:

# https://penguindroppings.wordpress.com/2017/09/20/easy-ssh-into-libvirt-vms-and-lxd-containers/
# NOTE: doesn't work with uppercase VM names
Host *.vm
 CheckHostIP no
 Compression no
 UserKnownHostsFile /dev/null
 StrictHostKeyChecking no
 ProxyCommand nc $(virsh domifaddr $(echo %h | sed "s/\.vm//g") | awk -F'[ /]+' '{if (NR>2 && $5) print $5}') %p

and now I can simply execute ssh test.vm for a VM named test and I’m connected! A huge time saver. It doesn’t work with uppercase letters in VM names and I didn’t bother to try to fix that. Also, since I run VMs just for testing purposes, I disabled all ssh security checks (you should not do that for important machines).

avahi approach

There’s also a second approach I used for persistent VMs (those that survive for longer than a single install&reboot cycle). You can use Avahi to search for a hostname on the .local domain to find the IP address. Fedora has this enabled by default (if you have nss-mdns package installed, I believe, which should be by default). So, in the VM, set a custom hostname, for example f27:

$ sudo hostnamectl set-hostname f27
$ reboot

Now, you can run ssh f27.local and it should connect you to the VM automatically.

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SSH to your VMs without knowing their IP address

4 thoughts on “SSH to your VMs without knowing their IP address

    1. Interesting, thanks. But I guess I prefer the ‘.vm’ or ‘.local’ suffix, so that I can clearly distinguish a network host from a VM host and their names won’t potentially clash.

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