Install NixOS on Scaleway X86 Virtual Cloud Server

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Create Scaleway Instance

If you know the Scaleway API you can do equivalent steps via API instead of using the webinterface.

  • Open Scaleway "Create a server" page
  • Enter name
  • Select region
  • Select server type
    • This will only work for the V and X types of servers (e.g. VC1M or X64-15GB)
  • Select "Debian Sid" from the distributions tab
Note: At the time of writing of this guide the Ubuntu Xenial did not have a kexec enabled kernel and will therefore not work!
  • Create server
  • Wait until server has been provisioned and is done booting
    • The status of the system can be checked on by looking at the console in the webinterface

Build NixOS kexec Tarball

remote build

First you will need to build a NixOS kexec tarball. To do this follow the steps outlined below:

git clone
cd nix-tests/kexec/
# Edit configuration.nix according to your needs. An example can be found below:
nix-build '<nixpkgs/nixos>' -A -I nixos-config=./configuration.nix -Q -j 4

copy the NixOS tarball

  • Copy the prepared NixOS kexec tarball to the server
scp result/tarball/nixos-system-x86_64-linux.tar.xz root@51.YY.XX.93:
  • Use ssh to access the server
    • Use the corrensponding SSH key you configured at Scaleway before
  • Extract the tarball into /
cd /; tar -xf /root/nixos-system-x86_64-linux.tar.xz

local (Scaleway instance) build

apt-get update
apt-get install -y git
curl | sh
source ~/.nix-profile/etc/profile.d/
git clone
cd nix-tests/kexec/
vim configuration.nix

remove autoreboot.nix, comment out boot.supportedFilesystems = [ "zfs" ]; (as in the sample config below)

nix-build '<nixpkgs/nixos>' -A -I nixos-config=./configuration.nix -Q -j 4
cp result/tarball/nixos-system-x86_64-linux.tar.xz /nixos.tar.xz
cd /
tar -xf nixos.tar.xz

Example configuration.nix

(removed autoreboot.nix from imports, added SSH key)

# new cmd: nix-build '<nixpkgs/nixos>' -A -I nixos-config=./configuration.nix -Q -j 4

{ lib, pkgs, config, ... }:

with lib;

  imports = [ <nixpkgs/nixos/modules/installer/netboot/netboot-minimal.nix> ./kexec.nix ./justdoit.nix ];

  #boot.supportedFilesystems = [ "zfs" ];
  boot.loader.grub.enable = false;
  boot.kernelParams = [
    "console=ttyS0,115200"          # allows certain forms of remote access, if the hardware is setup right
    "panic=30" "boot.panic_on_fail" # reboot the machine upon fatal boot issues
  ]; = mkForce [ "" ];
  networking.hostName = "kexec";
  # example way to embed an ssh pubkey into the tar
  users.users.root.openssh.authorizedKeys.keys = [ "ssh-rsa AAAAB3.... Your-SSH-key" ];

Start NixOS kexec System

  • Execute the kexec_nixos script
  • The output should look something like this:
root@scalenix:/# ./kexec_nixos 
++ mktemp -d
+ cd /tmp/tmp.iDXuzu8Ec4
+ pwd
+ mkdir initrd
+ pushd initrd
/tmp/tmp.iDXuzu8Ec4/initrd /tmp/tmp.iDXuzu8Ec4
+ cat /ssh_pubkey
cat: /ssh_pubkey: No such file or directory
+ find -type f
+ cpio -o -H newc
+ gzip -9
1 block
+ popd
+ cat /nix/store/2lmw78k2ralvpn6fa270b53nz1xgqk8b-image/initrd extra.gz
+ kexec -l /nix/store/2lmw78k2ralvpn6fa270b53nz1xgqk8b-image/kernel --initrd=final.gz '--append=init=/nix/store/sv9hndbkrdxr1psi2jr82hkm1ba0j8bx-nixos-system-kexec-17.09.git.f3841ab/init loglevel=4 console=ttyS0,115200 panic=30 boot.panic_on_fail'
+ sync
+ echo 'executing kernel, filesystems will be improperly umounted'
executing kernel, filesystems will be improperly umounted
+ kexec -e
packet_write_wait: Connection to 51.XX.XX.93 port 22: Broken pipe
  • Once the ssh connection is broken take a look at the servers console in the webinterface. After a while you should see a NixOS root session:

Screenshot of console showing root session

Installing NixOS

Scaleway peculiarities

Scaleway starts up VMs differently than other providers. This results in the following things that need to be done so that NixOS can boot:

  • Scaleway start scripts mount /dev/vda -> No partitioning of the root volume possible
  • You have to configure 3 "tags" in the Scaleway configuration of the system to tell the start script which kernel and initrd to load
    • KEXEC_KERNEL=/boot/nixos-kernel
    • KEXEC_INITRD=/boot/nixos-initrd
    • KEXEC_APPEND=init=/boot/nixos-init
      Screenshot of Scaleway webinterface tag setting showing 2 of the 3 tags
  • You need to configure NixOS with the following options
boot.loader.initScript.enable = true;
boot.loader.generationsDir.enable = true;
boot.loader.generationsDir.copyKernels = true;
boot.loader.grub.enable = false;

Scaleway Aarch64 peculiarities

If your server is aarch64, there is no working kexec on initrd image provided by Scaleway. So KEXEC_KERNEL tag won't work. This can be worked around by compiling static kexec and copying in to /boot and also by providing fake /sbin/init (a file which Scaleway's initrd launches at the end) = pkgs.writeScript "" ''

  export TOPLEVEL="$1"
  export PATH=${pkgs.coreutils}/bin

  cp -f $TOPLEVEL/kernel /boot/kernel
  cp -f $TOPLEVEL/initrd /boot/initrd
  cp -f ${pkgs.pkgsMusl.kexectools.overrideDerivation(old: {configureFlags = old.configureFlags ++ ["LDFLAGS=-static"]; }) }/bin/kexec /boot/kexec
  cp -f ${pkgs.pkgsMusl.busybox.override {enableStatic = true;}}/bin/busybox /boot/sh

  mkdir -p /sbin
  cat > /sbin/init <<EOF
  /boot/kexec -d -l /boot/kernel --initrd=/boot/initrd --append="init=$TOPLEVEL/init systemConfig=$TOPLEVEL $(cat $TOPLEVEL/kernel-params)"
  /boot/kexec -d -e
  chmod 0777 /sbin/init
boot.loader.grub.enable = false;

Step by Step Guide

  • Mount /dev/vda
    mount /dev/vda /mnt/
  • Delete all existing data from the previous Debian system
    rm -rf /mnt/*
  • Create mountpoint for /nix on the 2nd volume (I want to use it for the nix store)
    mkdir /mnt/nix
  • Create filesystem on the 2nd volume
    mkfs.ext4 /dev/vdb -L nixstore
  • Mount 2nd volume
    mount /dev/vdb /mnt/nix/
  • Generate NixOS config
    nixos-generate-config --root /mnt
  • Edit /mnt/etc/nixos/configuration.nix
    • Remove the default boot.loader.grub entries
    • Add the following
boot.loader.initScript.enable = true;
boot.loader.generationsDir.enable = true;
boot.loader.generationsDir.copyKernels = true;
boot.loader.grub.enable = false;
    • Make sure to add users/keys to access the system later via SSH
  • Install NixOS nixos-install --root /mnt
    • This might take some time
    • Set root password at the end of
  • reboot