Introduction to Multipass

Ashraf Miah
9 min readJun 4, 2022

Ubuntu Virtual Machines (VMs) On-Demand

Screenshot of Multipass homepage | Image by the Author

multipass is a Command Line Interface (CLI) tool for the quick deployment of Virtual Machines (VMs) dominated by Ubuntu but other Operating Systems and applications are available. With a general trend of migrating away from VMs to containers (with the exception of microvms like Firecracker) why would we need another VM management tool?

It’s all about the developer experience. My focus is often on Ubuntu based Open Container Initiative (OCI) or docker format containers, but how do you determine the commands to put into either a ContainerFile or DockerFile ? Often, this is achieved by running on a local host either natively (if running Linux), in a VM or integrated VM like Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Multipass promises to abstract away all the manual steps for creating a VM on-the-fly — from testing out that curl | bash command or compiling something from source:

So multipass offers a better environment for honing your container file commands, building software in isolation or testing untested tools with a significantly easier interface than typical VMs. In a Linux environment the VMs are constructed with Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) but that comes with traditional penalties such as disk use and allocated memory — some of which can be mitigated with advanced features described below.

Data Science Tools by Ashraf Miah | Image by the Author

The purpose of the article is to provide an introduction to multipass .

Installation

Install Snap

The primary method of installation is using the snap store:

# Install vis snap
sudo snap install multipass
sudo: snap: command not found

Unless you are running Ubuntu, its unlikely you have Snapcraft installed. Follow the Snapcraft instructions to install on your operating system:

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Ashraf Miah

CTO, Data Scientist & Chartered Engineer (MEng CEng EUR ING MRAeS) with over 20 years experience in the Aerospace, Rail & Energy Industry.