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Instance Metadata

Instances can retrieve, list, and store metadata with the hypervisor using the following commands:

  • mdata-list - List metadata keys
  • mdata-get - Retrieve the value of a metadata key
  • mdata-put - Store data to a key name
  • mdata-delete - Delete a metadata key

Metadata is provided to instances via the customer_metadata key in the VM JSON object used to create the instance.

The following is a transcript of an example instance performing various metadata operations:

root@cf7514d9:~# mdata-list
root@cf7514d9:~# mdata-get key1
root@cf7514d9:~# mdata-put key3 val3
root@cf7514d9:~# mdata-list
root@cf7514d9:~# mdata-delete key2
root@cf7514d9:~# mdata-list

Metadata may be added to the JSON manifest used to create the image and will be available to the guest. Metadata stored by guests is also available to be read via vmadm.

[root@pris (sv16) ~]# vmadm get cf7514d9-6313-45ba-a4cb-f1cc10349c8d | json customer_metadata
  "key1": "val1",
  "key2": "val2",
  "key3": "val3"


Note: All metadata in the JSON manifest must be strings. To store JSON it must be stringified. Text with line breaks must use \n. Metadata values will be de-stringified by mdata-get. Bare JSON will be automatically stringified by mdata-put.

Metadata Keys With Defined Guest Behavior

For images obtained from, there is a reserved set of keys with specific behavior.

All non-reserved keys have no defined behavior and may be used in any way you wish.


The value of this key is a set of linefeed-separated SSH public keys, in the format of an OpenSSH authorized_keys file. In HVM virtual machines and LX brand zones, this key is read during first boot and written to /root/.ssh/authorized_keys, or wherever the SSH keys for the root user are located. This mechanism allows us to provide seamless login using the same SSH keys the user has placed within their account in the provisioning system.


"customer_metadata": {
    "root_authorized_keys": "ecdsa-sha2-nistp256 ... \nssh-rsa ...\n"

SmartOS instances do not generally make use of this key. Instead, a more advanced mechanism in Triton called SmartLogin is used – SmartLogin queries SSH keys from the provisioning system at each login.


This key may contain a program that is written to a file in the filesystem of the guest on each boot and then executed. It may be of any format that would be considered executable in the guest instance.

In a UNIX system, a shebang line (e.g. #!/bin/ksh) may be used to specify the interpreter for the script. The script may also not have a shebang line, at which point the traditional UNIX behaviour of executing the script with the current shell will occur. The current shell in this context is generally /bin/bash, or some other Bourne-compatible shell. The specific shell used will be the default shell of the guest image.


This key has no defined format, but its value is written to the file /var/db/mdata-user-data on each boot prior to the phase that runs user-script. This file is not to be executed. This allows a configuration file of some kind to be injected into the machine to be consumed by the user-script when it runs.


Instances that support cloud-init will retrieve the cloud-config from this key. The format of this key is JSON.stringify()'d yml.


"customer_metadata": {
    "cloud-init:user-data": "#cloud-config\n\package_update: true\npackage_upgrade: true\n"

See below for more information.

Metadata Namespacing

Metadata may be namespaced in the format of namespace:key. Using this, you can provide keys that are reserved by your organization. This is mostly used by vendors creating images for SmartOS to provide additional configuration options that are specific to the product.

To ensure that there are not inter-vendor key name conflicts, vendors are encouraged to use the reversed version of their corporate DNS domain as a prefix. For example:




Reserved Namespaces

The following namespaces are reserved and should not be used by vendors or guests.


The sdc: namespace provides access to keys in the instance JSON. Guest instances are not allowed to write to the sdc: namespace but may retrieve values.

The following keys are supported:

  • sdc:uuid
  • sdc:image_uuid
  • sdc:server_uuid
  • sdc:owner_uuid
  • sdc:alias
  • sdc:datacenter_name
  • sdc:nics
  • sdc:resolvers
  • sdc:hostname
  • sdc:dns_domain
  • sdc:routes

For full details, see the SmartOS Metadata Dictionary.


The cloud-init: namespace is reserved for the cloud-config system. The only supported key is cloud-init:user-data.

The exact behavior of cloud-init will depend on the version installed in the image you are using. Not all images will have cloud-init installed.

For full details refer to the cloud-init documentation.