Detection of user-initiated shutdown from inside an instance

This is a design document detailing the implementation of a way for Ganeti to detect whether a machine marked as up but not running was shutdown gracefully by the user from inside the machine itself.

Current state and shortcomings

Ganeti keeps track of the desired status of instances in order to be able to take proper actions (e.g.: reboot) on the ones that happen to crash. Currently, the only way to properly shut down a machine is through Ganeti’s own commands, that will mark an instance as ADMIN_down. If a user shuts down an instance from inside, through the proper command of the operating system it is running, the instance will be shutdown gracefully, but Ganeti is not aware of that: the desired status of the instance will still be marked as running, so when the watcher realises that the instance is down, it will restart it. This behaviour is usually not what the user expects.

Proposed changes

We propose to modify Ganeti in such a way that it will detect when an instance was shutdown because of an explicit user request. When such a situation is detected, instead of presenting an error as it happens now, either the state of the instance will be set to ADMIN_down, or the instance will be automatically rebooted, depending on a instance-specific configuration value. The default behavior in case no such parameter is found will be to follow the apparent will of the user, and setting to ADMIN_down an instance that was shut down correctly from inside.

This design document applies to the Xen backend of Ganeti, because it uses features specific of such hypervisor. Initial analysis suggests that a similar approach might be used for KVM as well, so this design document will be later extended to add more details about it.


Xen knows why a domain is being shut down (a crash or an explicit shutdown or poweroff request), but such information is not usually readily available externally, because all such cases lead to the virtual machine being destroyed immediately after the event is detected.

Still, Xen allows the instance configuration file to define what action to be taken in all those cases through the on_poweroff, on_shutdown and on_crash variables. By setting them to preserve, Xen will avoid destroying the domains automatically.

When the domain is not destroyed, it can be viewed by using xm list (or xl list in newer Xen versions), and the State field of the output will provide useful information.

If the state is ----c- it means the instance has crashed.

If the state is ---s-- it means the instance was properly shutdown.

If the instance was properly shutdown and it is still marked as running by Ganeti, it means that it was shutdown from inside by the user, and the ganeti status of the instance needs to be changed to ADMIN_down.

This will be done at regular intervals by the group watcher, just before deciding which instances to reboot.

On top of that, at the same times, the watcher will also need to issue xm destroy commands for all the domains that are in crashed or shutdown state, since this will not be done automatically by Xen anymore because of the preserve setting in their config files.

This behavior will be limited to the domains shut down from inside, because it will actually keep the resources of the domain busy until the watcher will do the cleaning job (that, with the default setting, is up to every 5 minutes). Still, this is considered acceptable, because it is not frequent for a domain to be shut down this way. The cleanup function will be also run automatically just before performing any job that requires resources to be available (such as when creating a new instance), in order to ensure that the new resource allocation happens starting from a clean state. Functionalities that only query the state of instances will not run the cleanup function.

The cleanup operation includes both node-specific operations (the actual destruction of the stopped domains) and configuration changes, to be performed on the master node (marking as offline an instance that was shut down internally). The watcher, on the master node, will fetch the list of instances that have been shutdown from inside (recognizable by their oper_state as described below). It will then submit a series of InstanceShutdown jobs that will mark such instances as ADMIN_down and clean them up (after the functionality of InstanceShutdown will have been extended as specified in the rest of this design document).

LUs performing operations other than an explicit cleanup will have to be modified to perform the cleanup as well, either by submitting a job to perform the cleanup (to be completed before actually performing the task at hand) or by explicitly performing the cleanup themselves through the RPC calls.

Other required changes

The implementation of this design document will require some commands to be changed in order to cope with the new shutdown procedure.

With the default shutdown action in Xen set to preserve, the Ganeti command for shutting down instances would leave them in a shutdown but preserved state. Therefore, it will have to be changed in such a way to immediately perform the cleanup of the instance after verifying its correct shutdown. Also, it will correctly deal with instances that have been shutdown from inside but are still active according to Ganeti, by detecting this situation, destroying the instance and carrying out the rest of the Ganeti shutdown procedure as usual.

The gnt-instance list command will need to be able to handle the situation where an instance was shutdown internally but not yet cleaned up. The admin_state field will maintain the current meaning unchanged. The oper_state field will get a new possible state, S, meaning that the instance was shutdown internally.

The gnt-instance info command State field, in such case, will show a message stating that the instance was supposed to be run but was shut down internally.