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Installation

Containerlab is distributed as a Linux deb/rpm package and can be installed on any Debian- or RHEL-like distributive in a matter of a few seconds.

Pre-requisites#

The following requirements must be satisfied to let containerlab tool run successfully:

  • A user should have sudo privileges to run containerlab.
  • A Linux server/VM2 and Docker installed.
  • Load container images (e.g. Nokia SR Linux, Arista cEOS) that are not downloadable from a container registry. Containerlab will try to pull images at runtime if they do not exist locally.

Quick setup#

The easiest way to get started with containerlab is to use the quick setup script that installs all of the following components in one go (or allows to install them separately):

  • docker (docker-ce), docker compose
  • Containerlab (using the package repository)
  • gh CLI tool

The script supports the following OSes:

  • Ubuntu 20.04, 22.04, 23.10
  • Debian 11, 12

To install all components at once, run the following command on any of the supported OSes:

curl -sL https://containerlab.dev/setup | sudo bash -s "all"

To install an individual component, specify the function name as an argument to the script. For example, to install only docker:

curl -sL https://containerlab.dev/setup | sudo bash -s "install-docker"

Install script#

Containerlab can be installed using the installation script that detects the operating system type and installs the relevant package:

Note

Containerlab is distributed via deb/rpm packages, thus only Debian- and RHEL-like distributives can leverage package installation.
Other systems can follow the manual installation procedure.

Download and install the latest release (may require sudo):

bash -c "$(curl -sL https://get.containerlab.dev)"

Download a specific version. Versions can be found on the Releases page.

bash -c "$(curl -sL https://get.containerlab.dev)" -- -v 0.10.3
# with wget
bash -c "$(wget -qO - https://get.containerlab.dev)"

Since the installation script uses GitHub API, users may hit the rate limit imposed by GitHub. To avoid this, users can pass their personal GitHub token as an env var to the installation script:

GITHUB_TOKEN=<your token> bash -c "$(curl -sL https://get.containerlab.dev)"

Package managers#

It is possible to install official containerlab releases via public APT/YUM repository.

echo "deb [trusted=yes] https://netdevops.fury.site/apt/ /" | \
sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list.d/netdevops.list

sudo apt update && sudo apt install containerlab
yum-config-manager --add-repo=https://netdevops.fury.site/yum/ && \
echo "gpgcheck=0" | sudo tee -a /etc/yum.repos.d/yum.fury.io_netdevops_.repo

sudo yum install containerlab

Download .apk package from Github releases.

Arch Linux users can download a package from this AUR repository.

Manual package installation

Alternatively, users can manually download the deb/rpm package from the Github releases page.

example:

# manually install latest release with package managers
LATEST=$(curl -s https://github.com/srl-labs/containerlab/releases/latest | sed -e 's/.*tag\/v\(.*\)\".*/\1/')
# with yum
yum install "https://github.com/srl-labs/containerlab/releases/download/v${LATEST}/containerlab_${LATEST}_linux_amd64.rpm"
# with dpkg
curl -sL -o /tmp/clab.deb "https://github.com/srl-labs/containerlab/releases/download/v${LATEST}/containerlab_${LATEST}_linux_amd64.deb" && dpkg -i /tmp/clab.deb

# install specific release with yum
yum install https://github.com/srl-labs/containerlab/releases/download/v0.7.0/containerlab_0.7.0_linux_386.rpm

The package installer will put the containerlab binary in the /usr/bin directory as well as create the /usr/bin/clab -> /usr/bin/containerlab symlink. The symlink allows the users to save on typing when they use containerlab: clab <command>.

Container#

Containerlab is also available in a container packaging. The latest containerlab release can be pulled with:

docker pull ghcr.io/srl-labs/clab

To pick any of the released versions starting from release 0.19.0, use the version number as a tag, for example, docker pull ghcr.io/srl-labs/clab:0.19.0

Since containerlab itself deploys containers and creates veth pairs, its run instructions are a bit more complex, but still, it is a copy-paste-able command.

For example, if your lab files are contained within the current working directory - $(pwd) - then you can launch containerlab container as follows:

docker run --rm -it --privileged \
    --network host \
    -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
    -v /var/run/netns:/var/run/netns \
    -v /etc/hosts:/etc/hosts \
    -v /var/lib/docker/containers:/var/lib/docker/containers \
    --pid="host" \
    -v $(pwd):$(pwd) \
    -w $(pwd) \
    ghcr.io/srl-labs/clab bash

Within the started container you can use the same containerlab deploy/destroy/inspect commands to manage your labs.

Note

Containerlab' container command is itself containerlab, so you can deploy a lab without invoking a shell, for example:

docker run --rm -it --privileged \
# <run options omitted>
-w $(pwd) \
ghcr.io/srl-labs/clab deploy -t somelab.clab.yml

Manual installation#

If the linux distributive can't install deb/rpm packages, containerlab can be installed from the archive:

# get the latest available tag
LATEST=$(curl -s https://github.com/srl-labs/containerlab/releases/latest | \
       sed -e 's/.*tag\/v\(.*\)\".*/\1/')

# download tar.gz archive
curl -L -o /tmp/clab.tar.gz "https://github.com/srl-labs/containerlab/releases/download/v${LATEST}/containerlab_${LATEST}_Linux_amd64.tar.gz"

# create containerlab directory
mkdir -p /etc/containerlab

# extract downloaded archive into the containerlab directory
tar -zxvf /tmp/clab.tar.gz -C /etc/containerlab

# (optional) move containerlab binary somewhere in the $PATH
mv /etc/containerlab/containerlab /usr/bin && chmod a+x /usr/bin/containerlab

Windows Subsystem Linux (WSL)#

Containerlab runs on WSL, but you need to install docker-ce inside the WSL2 linux system instead of using Docker Desktop3.

If you are running Ubuntu/Debian as your WSL2 machine, you can use the quick setup this script to install docker-ce.

curl -L https://containerlab.dev/setup | sudo bash -s "install-docker" | \

Once installed, issue sudo service docker start to start the docker service inside WSL2 machine.

Running VM-based routers inside WSL

In Windows 11 with WSL2 it is now possible to enable KVM support. Let us know if that worked for you in our Discord.

Apple macOS#

Running containerlab on macOS is possible both on ARM (M1/M2) and Intel chipsets with certain limitations and caveats rooted in different architectures and underlying OS.

ARM#

At the moment of this writing, there are not a lot6 of Network OSes built for arm64 architecture. This fact alone makes it not practical to run containerlab natively on ARM-based Macs. Nevertheless, it is technically possible to run containerlab on ARM-based Macs by launching a Linux VM with x86_64 architecture and running containerlab inside this VM. This approach comes with a hefty performance penalty, therefore it is suitable only for tiny labs.

UTM#

The easiest way to start a Linux VM with x86_64 architecture on macOS is to use UTM. UTM is a free7 and open-source graphical virtual machine manager that provides a simple and intuitive interface for creating, managing, and running virtual machines with qemu.

When you have UTM installed, you can download a pre-built Debian 12 UTM image built by the Containerlab team using the following command8:

sudo docker run --rm -v $(pwd):/workspace ghcr.io/oras-project/oras:v1.1.0 pull \
    ghcr.io/srl-labs/containerlab/clab-utm-box:0.1.0

By running this command you will download the clab_debian12.utm file which is a UTM image with containerlab, docker-ce and gh tools pre-installed9.

Open the downloaded image with UTM File -> Open -> select .utm file and start the VM.

Once the VM is started, you can log in using debian:debian credentials. Run ip -4 addr in the terminal to find out which IP got assigned to this VM.
Now you can use this IP for your Mac terminal to connect to the VM via SSH10.

When logged in, you can upgrade the containerlab to the latest version with:

sudo clab version upgrade

and start downloading the labs you want to run.

Docker in Docker#

Another option to run containerlab on ARM-based Macs is to use Docker in Docker approach. With this approach, a docker-in-docker container is launched on the macOS inside the VM providing a docker environment. This setup also works on other operating systems where Docker is available. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to set it up.

"Docker in docker guide"

We'll provide an example of a custom devcontainer that can be opened in VSCode with Remote Development extension pack installed.

Create .devcontainer directory in the root of the Containerlab repository with the following content:

.devcontainer
|- devcontainer.json
|- Dockerfile
# The devcontainer will be based on debian bullseye
# The base container already has entrypoint, vscode user account, etc. out of the box
FROM mcr.microsoft.com/vscode/devcontainers/base:bullseye

# containelab version will be set in devcontainer.json
ARG _CLAB_VERSION

# Set permissions for mounts in devcontainer.json
RUN mkdir -p /home/vscode/.vscode-server/bin
RUN chown -R vscode:vscode /home/vscode/.vscode-server

# install some basic tools inside the container
# adjust this list based on your demands
RUN apt-get update && \
    apt-get upgrade -y && \
    apt-get install -y --no-install-recommends \
    sshpass \
    curl \
    iputils-ping \
    htop \
    yamllint \
    && rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/* \
    && rm -Rf /usr/share/doc && rm -Rf /usr/share/man \
    && apt-get clean

# install preferred version of the containerlab
RUN bash -c "$(curl -sL https://get.containerlab.dev)" -- -v ${_CLAB_VERSION}
// For format details, see https://aka.ms/devcontainer.json. For config options, see the
// README at: https://github.com/devcontainers/templates/tree/main/src/python
{
    "name": "clab-dev-container",
    "build": {
        "dockerfile": "Dockerfile",
        "args": {
            "_CLAB_VERSION": "0.47.2"
        }
    },
    "features": {
        // Containerlab will run in a docker-in-docker container
        // it is also possible to use docker-outside-docker feature
        "ghcr.io/devcontainers/features/docker-in-docker:latest": {
            "version": "latest"
        }
        // You can add other features from this list: https://github.com/orgs/devcontainers/packages?repo_name=features
        // For example:
        //"ghcr.io/devcontainers/features/go:latest": {
        //    "version": "1.21"
        //}

    },
    // add any required extensions that must be pre-installed in the devcontainer
    "customizations": {
        "vscode": {
            "extensions": [
                // various tools
                "ms-azuretools.vscode-docker",
                "tuxtina.json2yaml",
                "vscode-icons-team.vscode-icons",
                "mutantdino.resourcemonitor"
            ]
        }
    },
    // This adds persistent mounts, so some configuration like docker credentials are saved for the vscode user and root (for sudo).
    // Furthermore, your bash history and other configurations you made in your container users 'vscode' home are saved.
    // .vscode-server is an anonymous volume. Gets destroyed on rebuild, which allows vscode to reinstall the extensions and dotfiles.
    "mounts": [
    "source=clab-vscode-home-dir,target=/home/vscode,type=volume",
    "source=clab-docker-root-config,target=/root/.docker,type=volume",
    "target=/home/vscode/.vscode-server,type=volume"
]
}

Once the devcontainer is defined as described above:

  • Open the devcontainer in VSCode
  • Import the required images for your cLab inside the container (if you are using Docker-in-Docker option)
  • Start your Containerlab

Intel#

On Intel based Macs, containerlab can be run in a Linux VM started by Docker Desktop for Mac4. To start using containerlab in this Linux VM we start a container with containerlab inside and mount the directory with our lab files into the container.

CLAB_WORKDIR=~/clab

docker run --rm -it --privileged \
    --network host \
    -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
    -v /run/netns:/run/netns \
    --pid="host" \
    -w $CLAB_WORKDIR \
    -v $CLAB_WORKDIR:$CLAB_WORKDIR \
    ghcr.io/srl-labs/clab bash

The first command in the snippet above sets the working directory which you intend to use on your macOS. The ~/clab in the example above expands to /Users/<username>/clab and means that we intend to have our containerlab labs to be stored in this directory.

Note

  1. It is best to create a directory under the ~/some/path unless you know what to do5
  2. vrnetlab based nodes will not be able to start, since Docker VM does not support virtualization.
  3. Docker Desktop for Mac introduced cgroups v2 support in 4.3.0 version; to support the images that require cgroups v1 follow these instructions.
  4. Docker Desktop relies on a LinuxKit based HyperKit VM. Unfortunately, it is shipped with a minimalist kernel, and some modules such as VRF are disabled by default. Follow these instructions to rebuild it with more modules.

When the container is started, you will have a bash shell opened with the directory contents mounted from the macOS. There you can use containerlab commands right away.

Step-by-step example

Let's imagine I want to run a lab with two SR Linux containers running directly on a macOS.

First, I need to have Docker Desktop for Mac installed and running.

Then I will create a directory under the $HOME path on my mac:

mkdir -p ~/clab

Then I will create a clab file defining my lab in the newly created directory:

cat <<EOF > ~/clab/2srl.clab.yml
name: 2srl

topology:
    nodes:
    srl1:
        kind: nokia_srlinux
        image: ghcr.io/nokia/srlinux
    srl2:
        kind: nokia_srlinux
        image: ghcr.io/nokia/srlinux

    links:
    - endpoints: ["srl1:e1-1", "srl2:e1-1"]
EOF

Now when the clab file is there, launch the container and don't forget to use path to the directory you created:

CLAB_WORKDIR=~/clab

docker run --rm -it --privileged \
    --network host \
    -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
    -v /run/netns:/run/netns \
    --pid="host" \
    -w $CLAB_WORKDIR \
    -v $CLAB_WORKDIR:$CLAB_WORKDIR \
    ghcr.io/srl-labs/clab bash

Immediately you will get into the directory inside the container with your lab file available:

root@docker-desktop:/Users/romandodin/clab# ls
2srl.clab.yml

Now you can launch the lab, as containerlab is already part of the image:

root@docker-desktop:/Users/romandodin/clab# clab dep -t 2srl.clab.yml
INFO[0000] Parsing & checking topology file: 2srl.clab.yml
INFO[0000] Creating lab directory: /Users/romandodin/clab/clab-2srl
INFO[0000] Creating root CA
INFO[0000] Creating docker network: Name='clab', IPv4Subnet='172.20.20.0/24', IPv6Subnet='2001:172:20:20::/64', MTU='1500'
INFO[0000] Creating container: srl1
INFO[0000] Creating container: srl2
INFO[0001] Creating virtual wire: srl1:e1-1 <--> srl2:e1-1
INFO[0001] Adding containerlab host entries to /etc/hosts file
+---+----------------+--------------+-----------------------+------+-------+---------+----------------+----------------------+
| # |      Name      | Container ID |         Image         | Kind | Group |  State  |  IPv4 Address  |     IPv6 Address     |
+---+----------------+--------------+-----------------------+------+-------+---------+----------------+----------------------+
| 1 | clab-2srl-srl1 | 574bf836fb40 | ghcr.io/nokia/srlinux | srl  |       | running | 172.20.20.2/24 | 2001:172:20:20::2/64 |
| 2 | clab-2srl-srl2 | f88531a74ffb | ghcr.io/nokia/srlinux | srl  |       | running | 172.20.20.3/24 | 2001:172:20:20::3/64 |
+---+----------------+--------------+-----------------------+------+-------+---------+----------------+----------------------+

Upgrade#

To upgrade containerlab to the latest available version issue the following command1:

sudo -E containerlab version upgrade

This command will fetch the installation script and will upgrade the tool to its most recent version. In case of GitHub rate limit, provide GITHUB_TOKEN env var with your personal GitHub token to the upgrade command.

Or leverage apt/yum utilities if containerlab repo was added as explained in the Package managers section.

From source#

To build containerlab from source:

To build containerlab from source, clone the repository and issue go build at its root.

When we release containerlab we use goreleaser project to build binaries for all supported platforms as well as the deb/rpm packages.
Users can install goreleaser and do the same locally by issuing the following command:

goreleaser --snapshot --skip-publish --rm-dist

Uninstall#

To uninstall containerlab when it was installed via installation script or packages:

apt remove containerlab
yum remove containerlab

Containerlab binary is located at /usr/bin/containerlab. In addition to the binary, containerlab directory with static files may be found at /etc/containerlab.

SELinux#

When SELinux set to enforced mode containerlab binary might fail to execute with Segmentation fault (core dumped) error. This might be because containerlab binary is compressed with upx and selinux prevents it from being decompressed by default.

To fix this:

sudo semanage fcontext -a -t textrel_shlib_t $(which containerlab)
sudo restorecon $(which containerlab)

or more globally:

sudo setsebool -P selinuxuser_execmod 1

  1. only available if installed from packages 

  2. Most containerized NOS will require >1 vCPU. RAM size depends on the lab size. Architecture: AMD64. IPv6 should not be disabled in the kernel. 

  3. No need to uninstall Docker Desktop, just make sure that it is not integrated with WSL2 machine that you intend to use with containerlab. Moreover, you can make it even work with Docker Desktop with a few additional steps, but installing docker-ce into the WSL maybe more intuitive. 

  4. kudos to Michael Kashin who shared this approach with us 

  5. otherwise make sure to add a custom shared directory to the docker on mac. 

  6. FRR is a good example of arm64-capable network OS. Nokia SR Linux is going to be available for arm64 in the 2024. 

  7. There are two options to install UTM: via downloadable dmg file (free) or App Store (paid). The App Store version is exactly the same, it is just a way to support the project. 

  8. This command requires docker to be installed on your macOS. You can use Docker Desktop, Rancher or colima to run docker on your macOS. 

  9. If you want to install these tools on an existing Debian machine, you can run wget -qO- containerlab.dev/setup-debian | bash -s -- all command. 

  10. The UTM image has a pre-installed ssh key for the debian user. You can download the shared private key from here