Use KVM and Terraform to create a VM cluster


I have a spare desktop computer that was not getting a lot of use, so I decided to repurpose it as the primary server for running a small Kubernetes cluster in my home lab.

The output of this blog post will be a cluster of 3 KVM virtual machines (VM) networked via a virtual "bridge" that allows the VMs to communicate with each other and be reachable from any machine on your local network.

Although I will be using my home lab for learning Kubernetes (via K3s), this guide is suitable for many uses, including home labs and local development.

I use k3sup to setup the K3s cluster, which is similar to kubeadm and makes bootstrapping K3s clusters a breeze.

My setup is very minimal and approximates most home computer and network setups:

  • residential-grade wifi router and cable modem
  • DHCP for IP address assignments
  • Desktop computer specs
    • 16 GB memory
    • 4 core, 4GHz AMD Ryzen 3200G processor
    • 500 GB SSD


See for Terraform code that we will use to spin up the VM infrastucture.


Here is what we will use to create the infrastructure:

  • KVM for Linux VMs.
  • Terraform for automating the creation of VMs, the related virtual network and other resources.
  • terraform-provider-libvirtd this plugin provides Terraform with the necessary functionality to create KVM infrastructure.
  • CentOS will be used for each virtual machine.
  • Fedora Server will be used on the home lab server. Fedora Server ships with a web application Cockpit which makes server administration very easy.

All of the following instructions assume a RPM-based Linux distribution (ie Fedora Server), but these tools are available for many distributions, so you should be able to find the comparable tool for your package manager.


Unless otherwise mentioned, the following instructions should be completed on the host server via SSH or direct access:

Terraform and terraform-provider-libvirtd plugin

Terraform maintains a custom respository of Terraform binaries for RPM-based distributions, as seen here: Follow the instructions there and install the latest Terraform binary.

Next, follow the instructions at to install the terraform-provider-libvirtd plugin. As of this writing, installation involves downloading the library from the GitHub releases page and placing the binary in the ~/.local/share/terraform/plugins/ directory, substituting the 0.6.3 bit with the version of the release you are installing.

KVM tools

sudo dnf install bridge-utils libvirt virt-install qemu-kvm qemu-guest-agent virt-top libguestfs-tools

Start and enable the libvirtd (KVM) daemon:

sudo systemctl start libvirtd
sudo systemctl enable libvirtd

Bridge network setup

By default, KVM VMs are created with a bridge network called vibr0. This networks the VMs together, which allows the VMs to communicate with each other.

However, the vibr0 network is not connected to the ethernet connection utilized by the VM host server. So, we need to create a separate bridge network to provide ethernet access from the host server to the guest VMs. Do NOT delete the vibr0 network because it is integral to how KVM works.

Note - bridge networks only function with ethernet connections. There may be a way to do this via wifi connections, but I have not found a successful path to do so.

To show all connections:

sudo nmcli c

From the output, find your ethernet connection and note the entries under the DEVICE and UUID columns. This will be the device name we will use to provide internet access to the bridge network.

Now, we will need to delete the existing connection via its UUID. We will replace it with the bridge network:

sudo nmcli c delete UUID

Create the bridge network:

sudo nmcli c add type bridge autoconnect yes con-name bridge0 ifname bridge0

Configure the bridge0 network to use DHCP:

sudo nmcli c modify bridge0 ipv4.method auto ipv6.method auto

Attach the ethernet interface (substituting the DEVICE entry for your machine) from the first step:

sudo nmcli c add type ethernet autoconnect yes con-name DEVICE ifname DEVICE master bridge0

Activate the bridge network:

sudo nmcli c up bridge0

Verify that the bridge0 network has been assigned an IP address and that the original ethernet device does not have an IP address:

sudo ip addr

After performing the above, you should have a functioning bridge network.

Create the VMs

On the host server, clone the GitHub repo referenced at the top of the post and do the following in the local repo directory:

Create an SSH key to use for VM access:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -f id_rsa -C centos -N "" -q

Initialize the Terraform project:

sudo terraform init

Then plan it:

sudo terraform plan

Then apply it:

sudo terraform apply

If the resources are successfully created, Terraform will output the assigned IP addresses of the VMs.

Verify that you are able to SSH into each VM:

ssh -i id_rsa

Lastly, test that you are able to reach the VMs by pinging them from another device (other than the host server) on your network:


Wrap up

That is it! You now have a functioning set of VMs that can communicate across devices on your local network.

At this point, you can set up the VMs to be a Kubernetes cluster, using a tool such as k3sup or kubeadm.