Linux 3.6 and EC2

EC2 is xen based. For the most part people are using ancient kernel that has been back patched all to wazoo. 2.6.18 and 2.6.28 being really popular. With my laptop sitting in the 3.5 series I was hoping to get my clould VMs somewhere in that range as well. I know that xen went native in the kernel in the 3 series so it is possible.

I lined up my caffeine and started to prepare for a long series of failed boots as I tinkered with my kernel setting moving my 2.6.28 config up into the 3.x series of kernels. Then, out of sheer whimsy I decided to see what the gentoo overlays had in store. Lets see if someone else can do the heavy lifting. Sure enough the sabayon-distro overlay is just what the doctor ordered. In it there is a ebuild for the 3.6 kernel with the appropriate config.

Since I mint my own EC2 images from scratch I have a chroot environment on a server at home to build said image. Before you embark this blog post large body of work is assumed to havebeen done. Specifically you are familiar with Gentoo, that you know how layman works in Gentoo, and lastly you know how to gen up an EC2 gentoo image from thin air.

chroot <path to my ec2 image> /bin/bash
layman -s sabayon-distro
emerge -av ec2-sources
eselect kernel list
eselect kernel set <number next to linux-3.6.0-ec2>
cd /usr/src/linux
#this is a hack to make sure genkernel gets the right config
cp .config /usr/share/genkernel/arch/x86_64/kernel-config
genkernel --makeopts=-j<number of cpus +1> all
#in /boot kernel-genkernel-x86_64-3.6.0-ec2 initramfs-genkernel-x86_64-3.6.0-ec2 should now exist

There are two paths to follow now, you are either upgrading an existing system or you are creating a new ami from scratch. and uploading it. First I will cover the upgrade scenario.


Here is the tricky part, if you are upgrading from 2.6.x to the 3.x series of kernels the device names change for hard drives.  You have two options, go into the inner workings of udev and make drives show up as /dev/sd[a-z]+[0-9]+ or modify grub and fstab accordingly. I went with the latter. First backup your instances’ system drive b snapshotting the current running volume. This way you can get back to the original VM by creating a new AMI. Next, I copied the kernels up to my EC2 instance from my chroot vm work environment and placed them in /boot on my EC2 machine. Next I need to move up the kernel modules.

In my chroot environment:

cd /lib/modules
tar cvf modultes.tar 3.6.0-ec2
scp modules.tar root@myec2instance:/lib/modules

SSH to the EC2 instance:

cd /lib/modules
tar xvf modules.tar

I then changed all the /dev/sda[0-9] entries in /etc/fstab to /dev/xvda1 and made the same change to /boot/grub/menu.1st

kernel /boot/kernel-genkernel-x86_64-3.6.0-ec2 root=/dev/sda1 rootfstype=ext3

changed to:

kernel /boot/kernel-genkernel-x86_64-3.6.0-ec2 root=/dev/xvda1 rootfstype=ext3

Next you reboot.  If all goes well delete your backup snapshot.


If you want a new AMI, just make the changes to /etc/fstab and /boot/grub/menu.1st in your chroot environment ant follow the procedure for beaming it all up there in one of the EC2 custom image links listed above.

In Closing

Not only do you have a way to upgrade to 3.6, but now you can make continual kernel tweekes to your EC2 instance in a relatively safe manner.