VMware: Support spawning from OVA images


This blueprint proposes to add support of spawning an instance from the disk embedded in an OVA (Open Virtualization Application) glance image.

Problem description

Given that the best practice for obtaining a compact, portable template of a virtual machine in the vSphere platform is to export it into an OVF folder or an OVA file (http://www.dmtf.org/standards/ovf), a frequent customer ask is to be able to deploy them in OpenStack as Glance images and spawn new instances with them.

In addition, OVF/OVA contains virtual disks that are converted to the streamOptimized format, and streamOptimized disks are the only disk type deployable on vSAN datastores (see https://blueprints.launchpad.net/nova/+spec/vmware-vsan-support) Since exporting a virtual machine to OVA/OVF remains one of the most convenient means to obtain streamOptimized disks, providing support for spawning using OVA glance images will streamline the process of providing images for vSAN use.

Proposed change

An OVF contains additional information about the virtual machine beyond its disks - it has an .ovf XML descriptor file that describes the virtual machine configuration (memory, CPU settings, virtual devices, etc). But for the purpose of this blueprint, it is treated essential as a container of a root disk targetted for the spawn process.

Note: An OVA is essentially a tarball of an OVF bundle. Given the current image-as-a-single-file nature of glance images, it is more straightforward to support the uploading/download of OVA as a Glance image.

The blueprint propose to support spawning of an image of container format ‘ova’ and disk format ‘vmdk’. The driver expects the image to be an OVA tar bundle.

While much of the information in the XML descriptor file could prove useful in the proper configuration of the spawned virtual machine in the future, the implementation of this blueprint will only perform minimal processing of the XML file solely for the purpose of obtaining the right disk file to use for spawn as well as type of the virtual disk adapter that the disk should be attached to by default. The disk adapter type used will continue to be overridable by specifying the “vmware_adaptertype” property in the spawn operation.


  • When implemented, the vmware-vsan-support blueprint will allow spawning of streamOptimized disk. An alternative is to force all users to extract the streamOptimized disk from any OVA/OVF they intend to deploy in OpenStack and have the compute driver only support spawning of a streamOptimized disk image. This that puts unnecesary burden on the user.

  • Use the Task framework under proposal in Glance to provide on-the-fly conversion of a supplied OVF/OVA into some other appropriate forms. This is closely related to the previous alternative, as it may provide a more streamlined workflow in glance to degenerate an incoming OVF into a single streamOptimized disk.

  • Add support for OVF folder as the portable vSphere VM image. Since an OVF is a folder with multiple files, it does not work well with existing the glance model.

  • There are other proposals that involves using images that references data in the hypervisor’s datastore, or storing images directly on the datastore. These are welcome optimizations that will reduce the amount of glance<->nova nova transfers, but they do not address the issue of providing portable image data that can be deployed in other vCenter installations.

  • Continue to force customers to upload images using the flat and sparse disk variants. Because there is no straightforward way of obtaining disk images of these type while still adopting the best practice of exporting virtual machines first, this leads a separate, lengthier and more error-prone workflow for preparing images for OpenStack use.

Data model impact


REST API impact


Security impact


Notifications impact


Other end user impact


Performance Impact

OVA and streamOptimized disks are more space efficient and streamable, this means less storage use in glance and faster first-time deployment times (as compared to a flat or sparse disk image).

Other deployer impact

This change will allow deployment of existing libraries of exported OVA images, with little or no additional transformations. Existing image using flat/sparse disk types may be deprecated/deleted in favor of OVA (or standalone streamOptimized disks).

Developer impact



Primary assignee:


Other contributors:


Work Items

  • Download OVA, process embedded .ovf descriptor file for the path to the root disk in the OVA, and spawn using data from said disk.



Since Tempest in general does not support driver-specific tests, the proposal is to update the MineSweeper CI (https://wiki.openstack.org/wiki/NovaVMware/Minesweeper) with additional tests to verify spawning of instances using OVA images uploaded to glance with the ‘ova’ container format.

Documentation Impact

In addition, new information in the vmware driver section of the Nova documentation will have to be added to document:

  • The parameters to use when uploading an OVA image.

  • The scope of the information contained in the OVA that is used in the spawn process (essentially information pertaining to obtaining the root disk and not much else)