If you're a site admin or a site manager, you can enable container-based virtual machines (CVMs) as a workspace deployment option. CVMs allow users to run system-level programs, such as Docker and systemd, in their workspaces.

Infrastructure requirements

  • CVMs leverage the Sysbox container runtime, so the Kubernetes Node must run a supported Linux distro with the minimum kernel version (see Sysbox distro compatibility for more information)
  • The cluster must allow privileged containers and hostPath mounts. Read more about why this is still secure here.

You can use any cloud provider that supports the above requirements, but we have instructions on how to set up supported clusters on AWS and Google. Azure-hosted clusters will meet these requirements as long as you use Kubernetes version 1.18+.

Coder doesn't support legacy versions of cluster-wide proxy services such as Istio, and CVMs do not currently support NFS as a file system.


NVIDIA GPUs can be added to CVMs on bare metal clusters only. This feature is not supported on Google Kubernetes Engine or other cloud providers at this time.

Support for NVIDIA GPUs is in beta. We do not support AMD GPUs at this time.

Enabling CVMs in Coder

  1. Go to Manage > Admin > Infrastructure.
  2. Toggle the Enable Container-Based Virtual Machines option to Enable.

Enabling cached CVMs

Cached CVMs are currently an alpha feature.

To improve the startup time for CVM-based workspaces, you can enable caching.

Cached CVMs require the shiftfs kernel to be present on the node. Some distributions (such as Ubuntu) include shiftfs. If you're unsure if shiftfs is present on your nodes, you can check by running modinfo shiftfs. If no output is returned, then you do not have shiftfs installed.

If you don't want to install shiftfs yourself, you can have Coder install the module automatically for you. It is important that you do not have secure boot enabled and that you have the kernel headers installed if you want Coder to install shiftfs on your behalf.

GPUs are not supported with cached CVMs at this time.

Cached CVMs

Setting up your cluster

The following sections show how you can set up your K8 clusters hosted by Google, Azure, and Amazon to support CVMs.

Google Cloud Platform w/ GKE

To use CVMs with GKE, create a cluster using the following parameters:

  • GKE Master version latest
  • node-version = "latest"
  • image-type = "UBUNTU"

For example:

gcloud beta container clusters create "YOUR_NEW_CLUSTER" \
    --node-version "latest" \
    --cluster-version "latest" \
    --image-type "UBUNTU"

Azure Kubernetes Service

If you're using Kubernetes version 1.18, Azure defaults to the correct Ubuntu node base image. When creating your cluster, set --kubernetes-version to 1.18.x or newer for CVMs.

Amazon Web Services w/ EKS

You can modify an existing AWS-hosted container to support CVMs by creating a nodegroup and updating your eksctl config spec.

  1. Define your config file in the location of your choice (we've named the file coder-node.yaml, but you can call it whatever you'd like):

    apiVersion: eksctl.io/v1alpha5
    kind: ClusterConfig
      version: "1.17"
      name: <YOUR_CLUSTER_NAME>
      region: <YOUR_AWS_REGION>
      - name: coder-node-group
        amiFamily: Ubuntu1804
  2. Create your nodegroup (be sure to provide the correct file name):

    eksctl create nodegroup --config-file=coder-node.yaml


The Container-based virtual machine deployment option leverages the Sysbox container runtime to offer a VM-like user experience while retaining the footprint of a typical container.

Coder first launches a supervising container with additional privileges. This container is standard and included with the Coder release package. During the workspace build process, the supervising container launches an inner container using the Sysbox container runtime. This inner container is the user’s workspace.

The user cannot gain access to the supervising container at any point. The isolation between the user's workspace container and its outer, supervising container is what provides strong isolation.

Images hosted in private registries

To use CVM workspaces with private images, you must create a registry with authentication credentials. Private images that can be pulled directly by the node will not work with CVMs.

This restriction is removed if you enable cached CVMs.

Image configuration

The following sections show how you can configure your image to include systemd and Docker for use in CVMs.


If your image's OS distribution doesn't link the systemd init to /sbin/init, you'll need to do this manually in your Dockerfile.

The following snippet shows how you can specify systemd as the init in your image:

FROM ubuntu:20.04
RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y \
    build-essential \

# use systemd as the init
RUN ln -s /lib/systemd/systemd /sbin/init

When you start up a workspace, Coder checks for the presence of /sbin/init in your image. If it exists, then Coder uses it as the container entrypoint with a PID of 1.


To add Docker, install the docker packages into your image. For a seamless experience, use systemd and register the docker service so dockerd runs automatically during initialization.

The following snippet shows how your image can register the docker services in its Dockerfile.

FROM ubuntu:20.04
RUN apt-get update && apt-get install -y \
    build-essential \
    git \
    bash \
    docker.io \
    curl \
    sudo \

# Enables Docker starting with systemd
RUN systemctl enable docker

# use systemd as the init
RUN ln -s /lib/systemd/systemd /sbin/init
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