LX Branded Zones

Hello, Linux!

The LX branded zone is a new type of zone, resurrected and further developed by Joyent for SmartOS, and now ported over to OmniOS. It allows an OmniOS deployment to host and run most Linux applications in a lighter-weight-than-a-VM environment.

Getting Started

The LX Brand support is not included with an initial install. One must explicitly install LX Brand support:

# pkg install pkg:/system/zones/brand/lx

The next thing one needs is an image. An image is either a:

  • ZFS Send Stream (plain or gzipped)
  • A dataset or snapshot residing on the same pool as the LX zone’s zonepath
  • A tar file (plain or gzipped)

The image must contain a Linux userland. For example, CentOS 6.8, or Ubuntu 16.04.

These can be found at various places. The bottom entries of the SmartOS image list are the most recent. Search for Container-native.

For example:

    "v": 2,
    "uuid": "0be607d2-8b61-11e6-bf98-03750d422a79",
    "owner": "00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000",
    "name": "centos-6",
    "version": "20161006",
    "state": "active",
    "disabled": false,
    "public": true,
    "published_at": "2016-10-06T01:06:00Z",
    "type": "lx-dataset",
    "os": "linux",
    "files": [
        "sha1": "d1b52f3382fa2f51bb95ba0e7760447c32deba82",
        "size": 286693599,
        "compression": "gzip"
    "description": "Container-native CentOS 6.8 64-bit image. Built to run on containers with bare metal speed, while offering all the services of a typical unix host.",
    "homepage": "https://docs.joyent.com/images/container-native-linux",
    "requirements": {
      "networks": [
          "name": "net0",
          "description": "public"
      "min_platform": {
        "7.0": "20160317T000105Z"
      "brand": "lx"
    "tags": {
      "role": "os",
      "kernel_version": "2.6.32"

Pay attention to both the image UUID, and the kernel_version attribute. The compressed ZFS send stream for this Joyent image can be obtained knowing the image UUID, like so file.

Here’s a terminal session transcript:

bloody(/tmp)[0]% curl -o centos68.zss.gz https://images.joyent.com/images/0be607d2-8b61-11e6-bf98-03750d422a79/file
  % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
                                 Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed
100  273M  100  273M    0     0  8584k      0  0:00:32  0:00:32 --:--:-- 9296k
bloody(/tmp)[0]% file centos68.zss.gz
centos68.zss.gz:        gzip compressed data - deflate method , max compression
bloody(/tmp)[0]% gunzip centos68.zss.gz 
bloody(/tmp)[0]% file centos68.zss
centos68.zss:   ZFS snapshot stream

To turn this into a working LX zone, you must next properly configure the zone using zonecfg(1M). Remember the above was 2.6.32:

# zonecfg -z lx0
zonecfg:lx0> create
zonecfg:lx0> set zonepath=/zones/lx0
zonecfg:lx0> set brand=lx
zonecfg:lx0> set autoboot=false
zonecfg:lx0> set ip-type=exclusive
zonecfg:lx0> add net
zonecfg:lx0> set physical=lx0
zonecfg:lx0> add property (name=gateway,value="")
zonecfg:lx0> add property (name=ips,value="")
zonecfg:lx0> add property (name=primary,value="true")
zonecfg:lx0> end
zonecfg:lx0> add attr
zonecfg:lx0> set name=dns-domain
zonecfg:lx0> set type=string
zonecfg:lx0> set value=example.com
zonecfg:lx0> end
zonecfg:lx0> add attr
zonecfg:lx0> set name=resolvers
zonecfg:lx0> set type=string
zonecfg:lx0> set value=
zonecfg:lx0> end
zonecfg:lx0> add attr
zonecfg:lx0> set name=kernel-version
zonecfg:lx0> set type=string
zonecfg:lx0> set value=2.6.32
zonecfg:lx0> end
zonecfg:lx0> set max-lwps=2000
zonecfg:lx0> exit

You will notice that for LX zones, we must use zonecfg(1M) to configure its networking. Using zonecfg(1M) for networking configuration only is supported on LX zones. Also note the explicit cap on max-lwps. This feeds into the LX emulation of ulimit(1), otherwise some Linux binaries break.

Once an LX zone is configured, one must use zoneadm(1M) to install the zone, using one of the image sources (-t for tarballs, -s for ZFS streams, snapshots, or datasets).

To use a ZFS send stream (or gzipped ZFS send stream):

# zoneadm -z lx0 install -s /full/path/to/centos68.zss.gz

To use a ZFS dataset:

# zoneadm -z lx0 install -s name/of/zfs-dataset

A snapshot will be made, cloned, and promoted. The dataset MUST be on the same pool as the zonepath.

To use a ZFS snapshot:

# zoneadm -z lx0 install -s name/of/datasets@snapshot

The snapshot will become the dataset for the LX zone. The snapshot MUST be on the same pool as the zonepath.

To use a tarball (like a docker one):

# zoneadm -z lx0 install -t /full/path/to/docker-tarball.tgz

Afterwards, you boot the zone like any other one.

zadm utility

A simpler way to configure and maintain LX zones is to use zadm.

LX Zones, BEs, and Upgrades

LX Zones, unlike ipkg or lipkg zones, do not have individual boot environments. If you update and create a new BE, any LX zones are not explicitly updated. LX zones use lofs mounts to remap the global zone’s /usr/bin into /native/usr/bin inside the LX zone. The zone content stays constant no matter which BE you’re using.