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2.4.2 Using the Offload Facility

When desired, the build daemon can offload derivation builds to other machines running Guix, using the offload build hook. When that feature is enabled, a list of user-specified build machines is read from /etc/guix/machines.scm; anytime a build is requested, for instance via guix build, the daemon attempts to offload it to one of the machines that satisfies the derivation’s constraints, in particular its system type—e.g., x86_64-linux. Missing prerequisites for the build are copied over SSH to the target machine, which then proceeds with the build; upon success the output(s) of the build are copied back to the initial machine.

The /etc/guix/machines.scm file typically looks like this:

(list (build-machine
        (name "")
        (system "x86_64-linux")
        (user "bob")
        (speed 2.))    ; incredibly fast!

        (name "")
        (system "mips64el-linux")
        (user "alice")
         (string-append (getenv "HOME")

In the example above we specify a list of two build machines, one for the x86_64 architecture and one for the mips64el architecture.

In fact, this file is—not surprisingly!—a Scheme file that is evaluated when the offload hook is started. Its return value must be a list of build-machine objects. While this example shows a fixed list of build machines, one could imagine, say, using DNS-SD to return a list of potential build machines discovered in the local network (see Guile-Avahi in Using Avahi in Guile Scheme Programs). The build-machine data type is detailed below.

Data Type: build-machine

This data type represents build machines the daemon may offload builds to. The important fields are:


The remote machine’s host name.


The remote machine’s system type—e.g., "x86_64-linux".


The user account to use when connecting to the remote machine over SSH. Note that the SSH key pair must not be passphrase-protected, to allow non-interactive logins.

A number of optional fields may be specified:


Port number of the machine’s SSH server (default: 22).


The SSH private key file to use when connecting to the machine.


The number of builds that may run in parallel on the machine (1 by default.)


A “relative speed factor”. The offload scheduler will tend to prefer machines with a higher speed factor.


A list of strings denoting specific features supported by the machine. An example is "kvm" for machines that have the KVM Linux modules and corresponding hardware support. Derivations can request features by name, and they will be scheduled on matching build machines.

The guix command must be in the search path on the build machines, since offloading works by invoking the guix archive and guix build commands.

There’s one last thing to do once machines.scm is in place. As explained above, when offloading, files are transferred back and forth between the machine stores. For this to work, you need to generate a key pair to allow the daemon to export signed archives of files from the store (see Invoking guix archive):

# guix archive --generate-key

Thus, when receiving files, a machine’s build daemon can make sure they are genuine, have not been tampered with, and that they are signed by an authorized key.

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