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vSphere Integrated Containers Engine

vSphere Integrated Containers Engine (VIC Engine) is a container runtime for vSphere, allowing developers familiar with Docker to develop in containers and deploy them alongside traditional VM-based workloads on vSphere clusters, and allowing for these workloads to be managed through the vSphere UI in a way familiar to existing vSphere admins.

See VIC Engine Architecture for a high level overview.

Project Status

VIC Engine now provides:

  • support for most of the Docker commands for core container, image, volume and network lifecycle operations. Several docker compose commands are also supported. See the complete list of supported commands here.
  • vCenter support, leveraging DRS for initial placement. vMotion is also supported.
  • volume support for standard datastores such as vSAN and iSCSI datastores. NFS shares are also supported. See --volume-store - SIOC is not integrated but can be set as normal.
  • direct mapping of vSphere networks --container-network - NIOC is not integrated but can be set as normal.
  • dual-mode management - IP addresses are reported as normal via vSphere UI, guest shutdown via the UI will trigger delivery of container STOPSIGNAL, restart will relaunch container process.
  • client authentication - basic authentication via client certificates known as tlsverify.
  • integration with the VIC Management Portal (Admiral) for Docker image content trust.
  • integration with the vSphere Platform Services Controller (PSC) for Single Sign-on (SSO) for docker commands such as docker login.
  • an install wizard in the vSphere HTML5 client, as a more interactive alternative to installing via the command line. See details here.
  • support for a standard Docker Container Host (DCH) deployed and managed as a container on VIC Engine. This can be used to run docker commands that are not currently supported by VIC Engine (docker build, docker push). See details here.

We are working hard to add functionality while building out our foundation so continue to watch the repo for new features. Initial focus is on the production end of the CI pipeline, building backwards towards developer laptop scenarios.


After building the binaries (see the Building section), pick up the correct binary based on your OS, and install the Virtual Container Host (VCH) with the following command. For Linux:

bin/vic-machine-linux create --target <target-host>[/datacenter] --image-store <datastore name> --name <vch-name> --user <username> --password <password> --thumbprint <certificate thumbprint> --compute-resource <cluster or resource pool name> --tls-cname <FQDN, *.wildcard.domain, or static IP>

See vic-machine-$OS create --help for usage information. A more in-depth example can be found here.


The installed VCH can be deleted using vic-machine-$OS delete.

See vic-machine-$OS delete --help for usage information. A more in-depth example can be found here.


See CONTRIBUTING for details on submitting changes and the contribution workflow.


Building the project is done with a combination of make and containers, with golang:1.8 being the common container base. This is done so that it's possible to build directly, without a functional docker, if using a Debian based system with the Go 1.8 toolchain and Drone.io installed.

To build as closely as possible to the formal build:

drone exec

To build inside a Docker container:

docker run -v $(pwd):/go/src/github.com/vmware/vic -w /go/src/github.com/vmware/vic golang:1.8 make all

To build directly:

make all

There are three primary components generated by a full build, found in $BIN (the ./bin directory by default). The make targets used are the following:

  1. vic-machine - make vic-machine
  2. appliance.iso - make appliance
  3. bootstrap.iso - make bootstrap

Building binaries for development

Some of the project binaries can only be built on Linux. If you are developing on a Mac or Windows OS, then the easiest way to facilitate a build is by utilizing the project's Vagrantfile. The Vagrantfile will share the directory where the file is executed and set the GOPATH based on that share.

To build the component binaries, ensure GOPATH is set, then issue the following command in the root directory:

make components

This will install required tools and build the component binaries tether-linux, rpctool and server binaries docker-engine-server, port-layer-server. The binaries will be created in the $BIN directory, ./bin by default.

To run unit tests after a successful build, issue the following:

make test

Running "make" every time causes Go dependency regeneration for each component, so that "make" can rebuild only those components that are changed. However, such regeneration may take significant amount of time when it is not really needed. To fight that developers can use cached dependencies that can be enabled by defining the environment variable VIC_CACHE_DEPS. As soon as it is set, infra/scripts/go-deps.sh will read cached version of dependencies if those exist.


This is important to note that as soon as you add a new package or an internal project dependency that didn't exist before, those dependencies should be regenerated to reflect latest changes. It can be done just by running:

make cleandeps

After that next "make" run will regenerate dependencies from scratch.

To enable generation of non-stripped binaries, the following environment variable can be set:

export VIC_DEBUG_BUILD=true

Updating the appliance with newly built binaries

After building any of the binaries for the appliance VM (vicadmin, vic-init, port-layer-server, or the docker personality), run make push to replace the binaries on your VCH with the newly built ones.

make push will prompt you for information that it needs, or you can set your GOVC environment variables, as well as VIC_NAME (name of your VCH) and VIC_KEY with a path to your SSH key in order to run make push noninteractively.

Replace individual components with one of: make push-portlayer, make push-vicadmin, make push-docker, or make push-vic-init.

Managing vendor/ directory

To build the VIC Engine dependencies, ensure GOPATH is set, then issue the following.

make gvt vendor

This will install the gvt utility and retrieve the build dependencies via gvt restore.

Building the ISOs

The component binaries above are packaged into ISO files, appliance.iso and bootstrap.iso, that are used by the installer. The generation of the ISOs is split into the following targets: iso-base, appliance-staging, bootstrap-staging, appliance, and bootstrap. Generation of the ISOs involves authoring a new root filesystem, meaning running a package manager (currently yum) and packing/unpacking archives. To install packages and preserve file permissions while unpacking these steps should be run as root, whether directly or in a container. To generate the ISOs:

make isos

The appliance and bootstrap ISOs are bootable CD images used to start the VMs that make up VIC Engine. To build the image using docker, ensure GOPATH is set and docker is installed, then issue the following.

docker run -v $(pwd):/go/src/github.com/vmware/vic -w /go/src/github.com/vmware/vic golang:1.8 make isos

Alternatively, the iso image can be built locally. Again, ensure GOPATH is set, but also ensure the following packages are installed. This will attempt to install the following packages if not present using apt-get:

apt-get install \
	curl \
	cpio \
	tar \
	xorriso \
	rpm \
	ca-certificates \

Package names may vary depending on the distribution being used. Once installed, issue the following (the targets listed here are those executed when using the iso target.

make iso-base appliance-staging appliance bootstrap-staging bootstrap

The iso image will be created in $BIN

Building with CI

PRs to this repository will trigger builds on our Drone CI.

To build locally with Drone:

Ensure that you have Docker 1.6 or higher installed. Install the Drone command line tools. From the root directory of the vic repository run drone exec

Common Build Problems

  1. Builds may fail when building either the appliance.iso or bootstrap.iso with the error: cap_set_file failed - Operation not supported

    Cause: Some Ubuntu and Debian based systems ship with a defective aufs driver, which Docker uses as its default backing store. This driver does not support extended file capabilities such as cap_set_file

    Solution: Edit the /etc/default/docker file, add the option --storage-driver=overlay to the DOCKER_OPTS settings, and restart Docker.

  2. go vet fails when doing a make all

    Cause: Apparently some caching takes place in $GOPATH/pkg/linux_amd64/github.com/vmware/vic and can cause go vet to fail when evaluating outdated files in this cache.

    Solution: Delete everything under $GOPATH/pkg/linux_amd64/github.com/vmware/vic and re-run make all.

  3. vic-machine upgrade integration tests fail due to BUILD_NUMBER being set incorrectly when building locally

    Cause: vic-machine checks the build number of its binary to determine upgrade status and a locally-built vic-machine binary may not have the BUILD_NUMBER set correctly. Upon running vic-machine upgrade, it may fail with the message foo-VCH has same or newer version x than installer version y. No upgrade is available.

    Solution: Set BUILD_NUMBER to a high number at the top of the Makefile - BUILD_NUMBER ?= 9999999999. Then, re-build binaries - sudo make distclean && sudo make clean && sudo make all and run vic-machine upgrade with the new binary.

Integration Tests

VIC Engine Integration Test Suite includes instructions to run locally.

Debugging with DLV

VIC Engine DLV Debugging with DLV includes instruction on how to use dlv.


VIC Engine is available under the Apache 2 license.