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description: | This VMware Packer builder is able to create VMware virtual machines from an ISO file as a source. It currently supports building virtual machines on hosts running VMware Fusion for OS X, VMware Workstation for Linux and Windows, and VMware Player on Linux. It can also build machines directly on VMware vSphere Hypervisor using SSH as opposed to the vSphere API. layout: docs page_title: VMware Builder from ISO ...

VMware Builder (from ISO)

Type: vmware-iso

This VMware Packer builder is able to create VMware virtual machines from an ISO file as a source. It currently supports building virtual machines on hosts running VMware Fusion for OS X, VMware Workstation for Linux and Windows, and VMware Player on Linux. It can also build machines directly on VMware vSphere Hypervisor using SSH as opposed to the vSphere API.

The builder builds a virtual machine by creating a new virtual machine from scratch, booting it, installing an OS, provisioning software within the OS, then shutting it down. The result of the VMware builder is a directory containing all the files necessary to run the virtual machine.

Basic Example

Here is a basic example. This example is not functional. It will start the OS installer but then fail because we don't provide the preseed file for Ubuntu to self-install. Still, the example serves to show the basic configuration:

{
  "type": "vmware-iso",
  "iso_url": "http://old-releases.ubuntu.com/releases/precise/ubuntu-12.04.2-server-amd64.iso",
  "iso_checksum": "af5f788aee1b32c4b2634734309cc9e9",
  "iso_checksum_type": "md5",
  "ssh_username": "packer",
  "shutdown_command": "shutdown -P now"
}

Configuration Reference

There are many configuration options available for the VMware builder. They are organized below into two categories: required and optional. Within each category, the available options are alphabetized and described.

In addition to the options listed here, a communicator can be configured for this builder.

Required:

  • iso_checksum (string) - The checksum for the OS ISO file. Because ISO files are so large, this is required and Packer will verify it prior to booting a virtual machine with the ISO attached. The type of the checksum is specified with iso_checksum_type, documented below. At least one of iso_checksum and iso_checksum_url must be defined. This has precedence over iso_checksum_url type.

  • iso_checksum_type (string) - The type of the checksum specified in iso_checksum. Valid values are "none", "md5", "sha1", "sha256", or "sha512" currently. While "none" will skip checksumming, this is not recommended since ISO files are generally large and corruption does happen from time to time.

  • iso_checksum_url (string) - A URL to a GNU or BSD style checksum file containing a checksum for the OS ISO file. At least one of iso_checksum and iso_checksum_url must be defined. This will be ignored if iso_checksum is non empty.

  • iso_url (string) - A URL to the ISO containing the installation image. This URL can be either an HTTP URL or a file URL (or path to a file). If this is an HTTP URL, Packer will download it and cache it between runs.

  • ssh_username (string) - The username to use to SSH into the machine once the OS is installed.

Optional:

  • boot_command (array of strings) - This is an array of commands to type when the virtual machine is first booted. The goal of these commands should be to type just enough to initialize the operating system installer. Special keys can be typed as well, and are covered in the section below on the boot command. If this is not specified, it is assumed the installer will start itself.

  • boot_wait (string) - The time to wait after booting the initial virtual machine before typing the boot_command. The value of this should be a duration. Examples are "5s" and "1m30s" which will cause Packer to wait five seconds and one minute 30 seconds, respectively. If this isn't specified, the default is 10 seconds.

  • disk_additional_size (array of integers) - The size(s) of any additional hard disks for the VM in megabytes. If this is not specified then the VM will only contain a primary hard disk. The builder uses expandable, not fixed-size virtual hard disks, so the actual file representing the disk will not use the full size unless it is full.

  • disk_size (integer) - The size of the hard disk for the VM in megabytes. The builder uses expandable, not fixed-size virtual hard disks, so the actual file representing the disk will not use the full size unless it is full. By default this is set to 40,000 (about 40 GB).

  • disk_type_id (string) - The type of VMware virtual disk to create. The default is "1", which corresponds to a growable virtual disk split in 2GB files. This option is for advanced usage, modify only if you know what you're doing. For more information, please consult the Virtual Disk Manager User's Guide for desktop VMware clients. For ESXi, refer to the proper ESXi documentation.

  • floppy_files (array of strings) - A list of files to place onto a floppy disk that is attached when the VM is booted. This is most useful for unattended Windows installs, which look for an Autounattend.xml file on removable media. By default, no floppy will be attached. All files listed in this setting get placed into the root directory of the floppy and the floppy is attached as the first floppy device. Currently, no support exists for creating sub-directories on the floppy. Wildcard characters (*, ?, and []) are allowed. Directory names are also allowed, which will add all the files found in the directory to the floppy.

  • floppy_dirs (array of strings) - A list of directories to place onto the floppy disk recursively. This is similar to the floppy_files option except that the directory structure is preserved. This is useful for when your floppy disk includes drivers or if you just want to organize it's contents as a hierarchy. Wildcard characters (*, ?, and []) are allowed.

  • fusion_app_path (string) - Path to "VMware Fusion.app". By default this is "/Applications/VMware Fusion.app" but this setting allows you to customize this.

  • guest_os_type (string) - The guest OS type being installed. This will be set in the VMware VMX. By default this is "other". By specifying a more specific OS type, VMware may perform some optimizations or virtual hardware changes to better support the operating system running in the virtual machine.

  • headless (boolean) - Packer defaults to building VMware virtual machines by launching a GUI that shows the console of the machine being built. When this value is set to true, the machine will start without a console. For VMware machines, Packer will output VNC connection information in case you need to connect to the console to debug the build process.

  • http_directory (string) - Path to a directory to serve using an HTTP server. The files in this directory will be available over HTTP that will be requestable from the virtual machine. This is useful for hosting kickstart files and so on. By default this is "", which means no HTTP server will be started. The address and port of the HTTP server will be available as variables in boot_command. This is covered in more detail below.

  • http_port_min and http_port_max (integer) - These are the minimum and maximum port to use for the HTTP server started to serve the http_directory. Because Packer often runs in parallel, Packer will choose a randomly available port in this range to run the HTTP server. If you want to force the HTTP server to be on one port, make this minimum and maximum port the same. By default the values are 8000 and 9000, respectively.

  • iso_target_extension (string) - The extension of the iso file after download. This defaults to "iso".

  • iso_target_path (string) - The path where the iso should be saved after download. By default will go in the packer cache, with a hash of the original filename as its name.

  • iso_urls (array of strings) - Multiple URLs for the ISO to download. Packer will try these in order. If anything goes wrong attempting to download or while downloading a single URL, it will move on to the next. All URLs must point to the same file (same checksum). By default this is empty and iso_url is used. Only one of iso_url or iso_urls can be specified.

  • output_directory (string) - This is the path to the directory where the resulting virtual machine will be created. This may be relative or absolute. If relative, the path is relative to the working directory when packer is executed. This directory must not exist or be empty prior to running the builder. By default this is "output-BUILDNAME" where "BUILDNAME" is the name of the build.

  • remote_cache_datastore (string) - The path to the datastore where supporting files will be stored during the build on the remote machine. By default this is the same as the remote_datastore option. This only has an effect if remote_type is enabled.

  • remote_cache_directory (string) - The path where the ISO and/or floppy files will be stored during the build on the remote machine. The path is relative to the remote_cache_datastore on the remote machine. By default this is "packer_cache". This only has an effect if remote_type is enabled.

  • remote_datastore (string) - The path to the datastore where the resulting VM will be stored when it is built on the remote machine. By default this is "datastore1". This only has an effect if remote_type is enabled.

  • remote_host (string) - The host of the remote machine used for access. This is only required if remote_type is enabled.

  • remote_password (string) - The SSH password for the user used to access the remote machine. By default this is empty. This only has an effect if remote_type is enabled.

  • remote_private_key_file (string) - The path to the PEM encoded private key file for the user used to access the remote machine. By default this is empty. This only has an effect if remote_type is enabled.

  • remote_type (string) - The type of remote machine that will be used to build this VM rather than a local desktop product. The only value accepted for this currently is "esx5". If this is not set, a desktop product will be used. By default, this is not set.

  • remote_username (string) - The username for the SSH user that will access the remote machine. This is required if remote_type is enabled.

  • shutdown_command (string) - The command to use to gracefully shut down the machine once all the provisioning is done. By default this is an empty string, which tells Packer to just forcefully shut down the machine.

  • shutdown_timeout (string) - The amount of time to wait after executing the shutdown_command for the virtual machine to actually shut down. If it doesn't shut down in this time, it is an error. By default, the timeout is "5m", or five minutes.

  • skip_compaction (boolean) - VMware-created disks are defragmented and compacted at the end of the build process using vmware-vdiskmanager. In certain rare cases, this might actually end up making the resulting disks slightly larger. If you find this to be the case, you can disable compaction using this configuration value. Defaults to false.

  • skip_export (boolean) - Defaults to false. When enabled, Packer will not export the VM. Useful if the build output is not the resultant image, but created inside the VM.

  • keep_registered (boolean) - Set this to true if you would like to keep the VM registered with the remote ESXi server. This is convenient if you use packer to provision VMs on ESXi and don't want to use ovftool to deploy the resulting artifact (VMX or OVA or whatever you used as format). Defaults to false.

  • tools_upload_flavor (string) - The flavor of the VMware Tools ISO to upload into the VM. Valid values are "darwin", "linux", and "windows". By default, this is empty, which means VMware tools won't be uploaded.

  • tools_upload_path (string) - The path in the VM to upload the VMware tools. This only takes effect if tools_upload_flavor is non-empty. This is a configuration template that has a single valid variable: Flavor, which will be the value of tools_upload_flavor. By default the upload path is set to {{.Flavor}}.iso. This setting is not used when remote_type is "esx5".

  • version (string) - The vmx hardware version for the new virtual machine. Only the default value has been tested, any other value is experimental. Default value is '9'.

  • vm_name (string) - This is the name of the VMX file for the new virtual machine, without the file extension. By default this is "packer-BUILDNAME", where "BUILDNAME" is the name of the build.

  • vmdk_name (string) - The filename of the virtual disk that'll be created, without the extension. This defaults to "packer".

  • vmx_data (object of key/value strings) - Arbitrary key/values to enter into the virtual machine VMX file. This is for advanced users who want to set properties such as memory, CPU, etc.

  • vmx_data_post (object of key/value strings) - Identical to vmx_data, except that it is run after the virtual machine is shutdown, and before the virtual machine is exported.

  • vmx_template_path (string) - Path to a configuration template that defines the contents of the virtual machine VMX file for VMware. This is for advanced users only as this can render the virtual machine non-functional. See below for more information. For basic VMX modifications, try vmx_data first.

  • vnc_bind_address (string / IP address) - The IP address that should be binded to for VNC. By default packer will use 127.0.0.1 for this. If you wish to bind to all interfaces use 0.0.0.0

  • vnc_disable_password (boolean) - Don't auto-generate a VNC password that is used to secure the VNC communication with the VM.

  • vnc_port_min and vnc_port_max (integer) - The minimum and maximum port to use for VNC access to the virtual machine. The builder uses VNC to type the initial boot_command. Because Packer generally runs in parallel, Packer uses a randomly chosen port in this range that appears available. By default this is 5900 to 6000. The minimum and maximum ports are inclusive.

Boot Command

The boot_command configuration is very important: it specifies the keys to type when the virtual machine is first booted in order to start the OS installer. This command is typed after boot_wait, which gives the virtual machine some time to actually load the ISO.

As documented above, the boot_command is an array of strings. The strings are all typed in sequence. It is an array only to improve readability within the template.

The boot command is "typed" character for character over a VNC connection to the machine, simulating a human actually typing the keyboard.

-> Keystrokes are typed as separate key up/down events over VNC with a default 100ms delay. The delay alleviates issues with latency and CPU contention. For local builds you can tune this delay by specifying e.g. PACKER_KEY_INTERVAL=10ms to speed through the boot command.

There are a set of special keys available. If these are in your boot command, they will be replaced by the proper key:

  • <bs> - Backspace

  • <del> - Delete

  • <enter> and <return> - Simulates an actual "enter" or "return" keypress.

  • <esc> - Simulates pressing the escape key.

  • <tab> - Simulates pressing the tab key.

  • <f1> - <f12> - Simulates pressing a function key.

  • <up> <down> <left> <right> - Simulates pressing an arrow key.

  • <spacebar> - Simulates pressing the spacebar.

  • <insert> - Simulates pressing the insert key.

  • <home> <end> - Simulates pressing the home and end keys.

  • <pageUp> <pageDown> - Simulates pressing the page up and page down keys.

  • <leftAlt> <rightAlt> - Simulates pressing the alt key.

  • <leftCtrl> <rightCtrl> - Simulates pressing the ctrl key.

  • <leftShift> <rightShift> - Simulates pressing the shift key.

  • <leftAltOn> <rightAltOn> - Simulates pressing and holding the alt key.

  • <leftCtrlOn> <rightCtrlOn> - Simulates pressing and holding the ctrl key.

  • <leftShiftOn> <rightShiftOn> - Simulates pressing and holding the shift key.

  • <leftAltOff> <rightAltOff> - Simulates releasing a held alt key.

  • <leftCtrlOff> <rightCtrlOff> - Simulates releasing a held ctrl key.

  • <leftShiftOff> <rightShiftOff> - Simulates releasing a held shift key.

  • <wait> <wait5> <wait10> - Adds a 1, 5 or 10 second pause before sending any additional keys. This is useful if you have to generally wait for the UI to update before typing more.

When using modifier keys ctrl, alt, shift ensure that you release them, otherwise they will be held down until the machine reboots. Use lowercase characters as well inside modifiers.

For example: to simulate ctrl+c use <leftCtrlOn>c<leftCtrlOff>.

In addition to the special keys, each command to type is treated as a configuration template. The available variables are:

  • HTTPIP and HTTPPort - The IP and port, respectively of an HTTP server that is started serving the directory specified by the http_directory configuration parameter. If http_directory isn't specified, these will be blank!

Example boot command. This is actually a working boot command used to start an Ubuntu 12.04 installer:

[
  "<esc><esc><enter><wait>",
  "/install/vmlinuz noapic ",
  "preseed/url=http://{{ .HTTPIP }}:{{ .HTTPPort }}/preseed.cfg ",
  "debian-installer=en_US auto locale=en_US kbd-chooser/method=us ",
  "hostname={{ .Name }} ",
  "fb=false debconf/frontend=noninteractive ",
  "keyboard-configuration/modelcode=SKIP keyboard-configuration/layout=USA ",
  "keyboard-configuration/variant=USA console-setup/ask_detect=false ",
  "initrd=/install/initrd.gz -- <enter>"
]

VMX Template

The heart of a VMware machine is the "vmx" file. This contains all the virtual hardware metadata necessary for the VM to function. Packer by default uses a safe, flexible VMX file. But for advanced users, this template can be customized. This allows Packer to build virtual machines of effectively any guest operating system type.

~> This is an advanced feature. Modifying the VMX template can easily cause your virtual machine to not boot properly. Please only modify the template if you know what you're doing.

Within the template, a handful of variables are available so that your template can continue working with the rest of the Packer machinery. Using these variables isn't required, however.

  • Name - The name of the virtual machine.
  • GuestOS - The VMware-valid guest OS type.
  • DiskName - The filename (without the suffix) of the main virtual disk.
  • ISOPath - The path to the ISO to use for the OS installation.
  • Version - The Hardware version VMWare will execute this vm under. Also known as the virtualhw.version.

Building on a Remote vSphere Hypervisor

In addition to using the desktop products of VMware locally to build virtual machines, Packer can use a remote VMware Hypervisor to build the virtual machine.

-> Note: Packer supports ESXi 5.1 and above.

Before using a remote vSphere Hypervisor, you need to enable GuestIPHack by running the following command:

esxcli system settings advanced set -o /Net/GuestIPHack -i 1

When using a remote VMware Hypervisor, the builder still downloads the ISO and various files locally, and uploads these to the remote machine. Packer currently uses SSH to communicate to the ESXi machine rather than the vSphere API. At some point, the vSphere API may be used.

Packer also requires VNC to issue boot commands during a build, which may be disabled on some remote VMware Hypervisors. Please consult the appropriate documentation on how to update VMware Hypervisor's firewall to allow these connections.

To use a remote VMware vSphere Hypervisor to build your virtual machine, fill in the required remote_* configurations:

  • remote_type - This must be set to "esx5".

  • remote_host - The host of the remote machine.

Additionally, there are some optional configurations that you'll likely have to modify as well:

  • remote_port - The SSH port of the remote machine

  • remote_datastore - The path to the datastore where the VM will be stored on the ESXi machine.

  • remote_cache_datastore - The path to the datastore where supporting files will be stored during the build on the remote machine.

  • remote_cache_directory - The path where the ISO and/or floppy files will be stored during the build on the remote machine. The path is relative to the remote_cache_datastore on the remote machine.

  • remote_username - The SSH username used to access the remote machine.

  • remote_password - The SSH password for access to the remote machine.

  • remote_private_key_file - The SSH key for access to the remote machine.

  • format (string) - Either "ovf", "ova" or "vmx", this specifies the output format of the exported virtual machine. This defaults to "ovf". Before using this option, you need to install ovftool.

Using a Floppy for Linux kickstart file or preseed

Depending on your network configuration, it may be difficult to use packer's built-in HTTP server with ESXi. Instead, you can provide a kickstart or preseed file by attaching a floppy disk. An example below, based on RHEL:

{
  "builders": [
    {
      "type":"vmware-iso",
      "floppy_files": [
        "folder/ks.cfg"
      ],
      "boot_command": "<tab> text ks=floppy <enter><wait>"
    }
  ]
}

It's also worth noting that ks=floppy has been deprecated. Later versions of the Anaconda installer (used in RHEL/CentOS 7 and Fedora) may require a different syntax to source a kickstart file from a mounted floppy image.

{
  "builders": [
    {
      "type":"vmware-iso",
      "floppy_files": [
        "folder/ks.cfg"
      ],
      "boot_command": "<tab> inst.text inst.ks=hd:fd0:/ks.cfg <enter><wait>"
    }
  ]
}