Infrastructure Week - Day 2: What Do We Do With Our Infrastructure?

What Does Void Do With the Infrastructure?

Yesterday we looked at what kinds of infrastructure Void has, how its managed, and what makes each kind unique and differently suited. Today we’ll look at what runs on the infrastructure, and what it does. We’ll then finally look at how we make sure it keeps running in the event of an error or disruption.

Two Kinds of Services

Void runs, broadly speaking, two different categories of services. In the first category, we have the tooling that supports maintainers and makes it easier or in some cases possible to work on Void. These are services that most users are unaware of, and in general don’t interact with. In the second category of services are systems that general end users of Void interact with and are more likely to know about or recognize.

Public Services

We’ll first talk about public services that are broadly available to both maintainers and general consumers of Void Linux. These are almost, but not entirely, web based services that are accessed via a browser. See how many of these services you recognize.

Void’s Website

Void’s website (the one you are reading right now) is a GitHub pages Jekyll site. This content is checked into git rendered by a worker process in the GitHub network, and then published to a CDN where you can read it. Additionally the Jekyll software produces feeds suitable for consumption in an RSS reader. The website is probably our simplest service and the easiest to copy on your own since it requires no special infrastructure, just a GitHub account to setup.

Void Mirrors

Void’s mirrors are simple nginx webservers that host static copies of all our software. This also includes some other sites that include content that we host ourselves, such as the docs site and the dedicated infrastructure docs site. We host these from our own system since they both use mdbook, which is not as straightforward to use with a hosting service like GitHub Pages. We also run these sites this way so that they are broadly copied in the event of a failure in any of our systems. Did you know you can go to /docs on any mirror to read the Void handbook?


Popcorn is a package statistics service that provides information about the popularity of packages as provided by systems that have opted in to have their package information reported. Though we are evaluating ways to replace the data provide by Popcorn, it still provides good real-world data on package installs. You can learn more about Popcorn in the handbook.

Source Site

The Sources Site (https://sources.voidlinux.org) provides a copy of all the sources as our build servers consumed them. This provides a way for us to quickly and easily make sure that we have the same source to troubleshoot a bad build with when finding the fault may require more than just the build error logs.


Some functionality on our website requires the ability to query the Void repository data. This is accomplished by fronting the repository data by a service called xq-api which provides query functionality on top of the repodata files. The data is refreshed frequently, so new packages quickly show up in the website search results as well as making sure that packages that are no longer available in our repos are removed promptly.

Old Wiki Snapshot

At one time prior to the introduction of our docs site, Void maintained a MediaWiki instance. While MediaWiki is extremely powerful software and is a great choice for hosting a wiki, Void found that our wiki was being slowly filled with hyper-specific guides, lots of abandoned pages, and lower quality versions of pages that exist on the Arch Linux Wiki. While we ported over a large number of pages to the docs that remained generally applicable, we also felt it was important to archive the entire wiki as it appeared before releasing the resources powering it. This was accomplished using a wiki crawler which could convert the wiki itself into an archive format that we now serve with kiwix server. You can find that old content at https://wiki.voidlinux.org should it interest you.

Online Man Pages

Void makes available a copy of all the contents of our man page database online so users can easily search for commands even when not on a Void enabled system, such as during install time when internet access may not be available yet from a Void device. This service involves a task which routinely extracts the man pages from all packages using a program that is specific to XBPS, and then the files are arranged on disk to be served by the mdocml man page server, which is a program we obtain from OpenBSD. You can browse our online manuals at https://man.voidlinux.org.

Services that help Maintainers

Not all services are meant for public consumption. A number of Void’s services are meant to help maintainers be more productive, produce build artifacts, or generally make our workflows easier to accomplish.

Build Pipeline

The build pipeline was discussed in detail in another post, but we’ll recap that post here. In general there are a handful of powerful servers that we run automated compiler tasks on that run xbps-src whenever the contents of void-packages is updated. Once the packages are built, they are collected to a central point, signed cryptographically to attest that they are in fact packages produced by Void, and then they are copied out to mirrors around the world for users to download.

The build pipeline is the single largest collection of moving parts within our infrastructure, and is usually the component that breaks the most often as it has many exciting failure modes. Some of the author’s favorites include running out of disk, stuck connection poll loops, and rsync just wandering off instead of synchronizing packages.


Void maintainers have access to email on the voidlinux.org domain. To provide this service, Void runs an email server. We make use of maddy which provides a convenient all in one mail server. It works well at our scale, and doesn’t require a significant amount of maintainer time to make work. Though most of us access the mail using a combination of desktop and CLI clients, we also run a copy of the Alps web frontend which allows quick and easy access to mail when away from normal console services.


Sometimes when preparing a fix or updating a package, a maintainer will want to share this new built artifact with others to gather feedback or see if the fix works. To enable this quickly and easily, we have a dedicated webserver and SFTP share box for these files. You can see things we’re currently working on or haven’t yet cleaned up at https://devspace.voidlinux.org/ where the files are organized by maintainer.

Sometimes end users will be asked to fetch a build from devspace when filing an issue ticket to verify that a particular fix works, or that a given problem continues to exist when rebuilding a package or disk image from clean sources.

void-robot and void-fleet

Void’s team communicates primarily via IRC. In order to allow our infrastructure to communicate with us, we have a pair of IRC bots that inform us of status changes. The more chatty of the bots, void-robot tells us when PRs change status or when references change on Void’s many git repos. This allows us to know when changes are going out, and its not uncommon for a maintainer to just ping someone else with a single ^ to gesture at a push or reference the bot has printed to the channel.

The second bot speaks on behalf of our monitoring infrastructure and notifies us when things break or when they’re resolved. We’ll take a deeper look at monitoring in a future post and look more at what this bot does then.

Nomad, Consul & Vault

Many of Void’s more modern services run on top of containers managed by Hashicorp Nomad. These services retrieve secrets from Hashicorp Vault, and can locate each other using Hashicorp Consul. The use of these tools allows us to largely abstract out what provider any given software is running on and where it resides in the world. This also makes it much easier when we need to replace a host or take one down for maintenance without interrupting access to user facing services.

The use of well understood tools like the Hashistack also makes it much easier for us to subdivide systems and check components locally.


With all these services, it would be inconvenient for maintainers to need to maintain separate usernames and passwords for everything. In order to avoid this, we use Single Sign On concepts where all services that support it reach out to a centralized secure authentication service. You can read more about NetAuth at https://netauth.org.

How Does All This Get Run?

For some of Void’s older services, notably the build farm itself, our services are configured, provisioned, and maintained using Ansible just like the underlying OS configuration. This works well, but has some drawbacks in being difficult to test, difficult to change in an idempotent way, and difficult to explain to others since its firmly the realm of infrastructure engineering. Trying to explain to someone how a hundred lines of yaml gets converted into a working webserver requires detours through a number of other assorted technologies.

Void’s newer services run uniformly as containers and are managed by Nomad. This enables us to dynamically move workloads around, have machines self-heal and update in coordination with the fleet, and to provide a lens into our infrastructure for people to see. You can explore all our running containers in a limited read-only context by looking at the nomad dashboard. Before you go trying to open a security notice though, we’re aware that buttons that shouldn’t be visible look like they’re clickable. Rest assured that the anonymous policy that provides the view access can’t actually stop jobs or drain nodes (we’ve reported this UI bug a few times already).

What Nomad does under the hood is actually really clever. It assesses what we want to run, and what resources we have available to run it. It then applies any constraints we’ve set on the services themselves. These constraints encode information like requiring locality to a particular disk in the fleet, or requiring that two copies of a service reside on different hosts. This then gets converted into a plan of what services will run where, and the workload of applications is distributed to all machines in the fleet. If a server fails to check in periodically, the workload on it is considered “lost” and can be restarted elsewhere if allowed. When we need to move between providers or update hardware, Nomad provides a way for us to quickly and easily work out how much of a machine we’re actually consuming as well as actually performing the movement of the services from one location to another.

While Nomad is very clever and makes a lot of things much easier, we do still have a number of services that run directly on the Void system installed to the machines. For services that run on top of the metal directly we almost always use runit to supervise the tasks and restart them when they crash. This works well, but does tightly couple the service to the machine on which it is installed, and requires coordination with Ansible to make sure that restarts happen when they are supposed to during maintenance activities. For services that run in containers, we can simply set the restart policy on the container and allow the runtime to supervise the services as well as any cascading restarts that need to happen, such as when certificates are renewed or rotated.

In general, all our services have at least one layer of service supervision in the form of Void’s runit-based init system, and in many cases more application specific level supervision occurs, often with status checks to validate and check assumptions made about the readiness of a service.

This has been day two of Void’s infrastructure week. Check back tomorrow to learn about how we know that the services we run are up, and how we verify that once they’re up, they’re behaving as expected.. This post was authored by maldridge who runs most of the day to day operations of the Void fleet. Feel free to ask questions on GitHub Discussions or in IRC.