Run Kata Containers on a Service VM

This tutorial describes how to install, configure, and run Kata Containers on the Ubuntu based Service VM with the ACRN hypervisor. In this configuration, Kata Containers leverage the ACRN hypervisor instead of QEMU which is used by default. Refer to the Kata Containers with ACRN presentation from a previous ACRN Project Technical Community Meeting for more details on Kata Containers and how the integration with ACRN has been done.


  1. Refer to the ACRN supported hardware.
  2. For a default prebuilt ACRN binary in the E2E package, you must have 4 CPU cores or enable “CPU Hyper-Threading” in order to have 4 CPU threads for 2 CPU cores.
  3. Follow these instructions to set up the ACRN Service VM based on Ubuntu.
  4. This tutorial is validated on the following configurations:
    • ACRN v1.6.1 (tag: acrn-2020w18.4-140000p)
    • Ubuntu 18.04.4
  5. Kata Containers are only supported for ACRN hypervisors configured for the SDC scenario.

Install Docker

The following instructions install Docker* on the Ubuntu Service VM. Refer to the Get Docker Engine - Community for Ubuntu installation guide for detailed information.

  1. Install the following prerequisite packages:

    $ sudo apt-get install apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl
  2. Run the following commands to add Docker’s official GPG key, set up the repository, and install the Docker Engine - Community from the repository:

    $ curl -fsSL | sudo apt-key add -
    $ sudo add-apt-repository "deb [arch=amd64] $(lsb_release -cs) stable"
    $ sudo apt-get update
    $ sudo apt-get install -y docker-ce docker-ce-cli

Install Kata Containers

Kata Containers provide a variety of installation methods, this guide uses kata-manager to automate the Kata Containers installation procedure.

  1. Install Kata Containers packages:

    $ bash -c "$(curl -fsSL install-packages"
  2. Add the following settings to /etc/docker/daemon.json to configure Docker to use Kata Containers by default. You may need to create the file if it doesn’t exist.

      "storage-driver": "devicemapper",
      "default-runtime": "kata-runtime",
      "runtimes": {
          "kata-runtime": {
              "path": "/usr/bin/kata-runtime"

    In order to run Kata with ACRN, the container stack must provide block-based storage, such as device-mapper. Since Docker may be configured to use overlay2 storage driver, the above configuration also instructs Docker to use devive-mapper storage driver.

  3. Configure Kata to use ACRN.

    $ sudo mkdir -p /etc/kata-containers
    $ sudo cp /usr/share/defaults/kata-containers/configuration-acrn.toml /etc/kata-containers/configuration.toml
  4. Restart the Docker service.

    $ sudo systemctl restart docker

Verify that these configurations are effective by checking the following outputs:

$ sudo docker info | grep runtime
WARNING: the devicemapper storage-driver is deprecated, and will be
removed in a future release.
WARNING: devicemapper: usage of loopback devices is strongly discouraged
for production use.
         Use `--storage-opt dm.thinpooldev` to specify a custom block storage device.
Runtimes: kata-runtime runc
$ kata-runtime kata-env | awk -v RS= '/\[Hypervisor\]/'
  MachineType = ""
  Version = "DM version is: 1.5-unstable-"2020w02.5.140000p_261" (daily tag:"2020w02.5.140000p"), build by mockbuild@2020-01-12 08:44:52"
  Path = "/usr/bin/acrn-dm"
  BlockDeviceDriver = "virtio-blk"
  EntropySource = "/dev/urandom"
  Msize9p = 0
  MemorySlots = 10
  Debug = false
  UseVSock = false
  SharedFS = ""

Run a Kata Container with ACRN

The system is now ready to run a Kata Container on ACRN. Note that a reboot is recommended after the installation.

Before running a Kata Container on ACRN, you must offline at least one CPU:

$ curl -O
$ chmod +x ./
$ sudo ./

Start a Kata Container on ACRN:

$ sudo docker run -ti --runtime=kata-runtime busybox sh

If you run into problems, contact us on the ACRN mailing list and provide as much detail as possible about the issue. The output of sudo docker info and kata-runtime kata-env is useful.