nbdkit for loopback pt 4: loopback-mounting compressed images

nbdkit is a pluggable NBD server with lots of plugins and filters. Two of the plugins[1] handle compressed files (for gzip and xz respectively). We can uncompress and serve a file on the fly. For gzip it’s kind of inefficient. For xz it’s very efficient provided you prepared your xz files ahead of time with a smaller than default block size.

Let’s use nbdkit to loopback mount an xz file:

$ nbdkit -fv xz file=/var/tmp/fedora-28.img.xz
# nbd-client -b 512 localhost /dev/nbd0
Warning: the oldstyle protocol is no longer supported.
This method now uses the newstyle protocol with a default export
Negotiation: ..size = 6144MB
Connected /dev/nbd0
# ls /dev/nbd0p*
/dev/nbd0p1  /dev/nbd0p2  /dev/nbd0p3  /dev/nbd0p4
# fdisk -l /dev/nbd0
Device        Start      End Sectors  Size Type
/dev/nbd0p1    2048     4095    2048    1M BIOS boot
/dev/nbd0p2    4096  2101247 2097152    1G Linux filesystem
/dev/nbd0p3 2101248  3360767 1259520  615M Linux swap
/dev/nbd0p4 3360768 12580863 9220096  4.4G Linux filesystem
# mount -o ro /dev/nbd0p4 /mnt

Of course it’s read-only. To write to a compressed file would involve changing the size of inner parts of the file. Use qcow2 compression if you want a writable compressed file (although writes to that format are not compressed).

Also loopback mounting in general is unsafe. Use libguestfs to safely mount untrusted disk images.

[1] These should really be filters, not plugins, so that you can chain an uncompression filter into an existing plugin, and one day I’ll get around to writing that.

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