Joyent Metadata Data Dictionary


Joyent SmartOS provides a facility to store arbitrary key-value pairs alongside the configuration of a virtual guest instance. The contents of this metadata store are available to the guest instance, either through the command-line tools, or the directly via the metadata protocol itself. The protocol is described in a related document: Joyent Metadata Protocol Specification (Version 2).

This document describes various well-known key names that have defined semantics. Some of these keys are expected (or required) to be used in particular ways during the boot process of a guest instance; they form an interface contract between the guest instance itself, the provisioning system and the consumer. This interface definition allows us to provide a consistent, predictable user experience to consumers, and to enable advanced functionality like zero-touch custom image management.

Read-only Metadata (The sdc: Namespace)

The SmartOS hypervisor provides a set of read-only keys to the guest instance. The names of these keys are prefixed with the string sdc:. They provide various information about the host system and the guest instance. The names of these keys do not appear in the output of the KEYS metadata operation, or the output of the mdata-list(1M) command. They may be read with the GET operation, but not modified with PUT or DELETE.


Every guest instance in a SmartOS hypervisor, and by extension in a Triton cloud, has a universally unique identifier or UUID that identifies it. This UUID is the identifier used to select the particular guest for control commands and configuration updates in the provisioning system API.


Every guest instance in a SmartOS hypervisor (and therefore in Triton), is provisioned from a starting image, which is assigned a UUID.


Every SmartOS hypervisor has a UUID that identifies it. So that consumers can reason about the placement of their guest instances relative to one another, the UUID of the hypervisor on which a guest instance is running is made available.


Every guest instance created through Triton APIs has an associated owning user account, which has a login name and UUID. While users normally just need their login name for interacting with Triton, there are places, such as the DNS names created by CNS, where users need to know their UUID.


During provisioning, a guest instance can optionally be assigned an alias, which is a more user-friendly way of identifying deployed instances.


Every Triton datacenter has a name. This string is generally configured by the cloud operator to represent the physical location (and potentially some fault isolation boundary) of the particular datacenter. For example, in the Joyent Public Cloud, there are datacenters with names such as us-west-1 and us-east-1.


A VM has a number of associated NICs whose configuration and details are stored in this key as a JSON array of objects. Each object may have the following fields:


When present, this field contains an array of IPv4 and IPv6 addresses to use for name resolution.


When present, this field contains a string containing the hostname for the VM.


When present, this field contains the domain that should be searched when performing a host name lookup. This would normally be placed into /etc/resolv.conf after the search keyword.


This field contains a collection of static routes to add to the operating system’s routing table. It is represented as an array of JSON objects, where each object has the following keys:

Metadata Keys With Defined Guest Behaviour


The value of this key is a set of linefeed-separated SSH public keys, in the format of an OpenSSH authorized_keys file. In KVM virtual machines, 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.

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


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.


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.


This key is set by the provisioning system itself and, if present, represents a program that must be executed on every boot. It must be executed prior to running any user-script. If this script exits with a error status, the error status is to be ignored and the boot process should continue.

This script hook enables the provisioning system to affect controlled, arbitrary change in the guest instance. This facility is critical to the creation phase of zero-touch custom image management.

Recommendations For Third Party Vendors

If you are producing an image to be deployed in a Triton instance, or specifically in the Joyent Public Cloud, you should follow the rules outlined previously in this document with respect to key names and intended behaviour. In addition, if you wish to provide additional configuration options that are specific to your product, you should do so with your own key namespace prefix.

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: