» VMware Builder (from VMX)

Type: vmware-vmx

This VMware Packer builder is able to create VMware virtual machines from an existing VMware virtual machine (a VMX file). It currently supports building virtual machines on hosts running VMware Fusion Professional for OS X, VMware Workstation for Linux and Windows, and VMware Player on Linux.

The builder builds a virtual machine by cloning the VMX file using the clone capabilities introduced in VMware Fusion Professional 6, Workstation 10, and Player 6. After cloning the VM, it provisions software within the new machine, shuts it down, and compacts the disks. The resulting folder contains a new VMware virtual machine.

» Basic Example

Here is an example. This example is fully functional as long as the source path points to a real VMX file with the proper settings:

{
  "type": "vmware-vmx",
  "source_path": "/path/to/a/vm.vmx",
  "ssh_username": "root",
  "ssh_password": "root",
  "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:

  • source_path (string) - Path to the source VMX file to clone. If remote_type is enabled then this specifies a path on the remote_host.

» 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 10s or 10 seconds.

  • disable_vnc (boolean) - Whether to create a VNC connection or not. A boot_command cannot be used when this is false. Defaults to false.

  • display_name (string) - The name that will appear in your vSphere client, and will be used for the vmx basename. This will override the "displayname" value in your vmx file. It will also override the "displayname" if you have set it in the "vmx_data" Packer option. This option is useful if you are chaining vmx builds and want to make sure that the display name of each step in the chain is unique: the vmware-vmx builder will use the displayname of the VM being cloned from if it is not explicitly specified via the vmx_data section or the displayname property.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 an empty string, 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 (number) - 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.

  • 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.

  • skip_validate_credentials (boolean) - When Packer is preparing to run a remote esxi build, and export is not disable, by default it runs a no-op ovftool command to make sure that the remote_username and remote_password given are valid. If you set this flag to true, Packer will skip this validation. Default: false.

  • 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 unless a shutdown command takes place inside script so this may safely be omitted. If one or more scripts require a reboot it is suggested to leave this blank since reboots may fail and specify the final shutdown command in your last script.

  • 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.

  • linked (boolean) - By default Packer creates a 'full' clone of the virtual machine specified in source_path. The resultant virtual machine is fully independant from the parent it was cloned from.

    Setting linked to true instead causes Packer to create the virtual machine as a 'linked' clone. Linked clones use and require ongoing access to the disks of the parent virtual machine. The benefit of a linked clone is that the clones virtual disk is typically very much smaller than would be the case for a full clone. Additionally, the cloned virtual machine can also be created much faster. Creating a linked clone will typically only be of benefit in some advanced build scenarios. Most users will wish to create a full clone instead. Defaults to false.

  • 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.

  • ovftool_options (array of strings) - Extra options to pass to ovftool during export. Each item in the array is a new argument. The options --noSSLVerify, --skipManifestCheck, and --targetType are reserved, and should not be passed to this argument.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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_remove_ethernet_interfaces (boolean) - Remove all ethernet interfaces from the VMX file after building. This is for advanced users who understand the ramifications, but is useful for building Vagrant boxes since Vagrant will create ethernet interfaces when provisioning a box. Defaults to false.

  • 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 (number) - 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.

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.

{
  "builders": [
    {
      "type": "vmware-vmx",
      "boot_key_interval": "10ms"
      ...
    }
  ]
}
  • <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.

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

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> <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.

  • <menu> - Simulates pressing the Menu key.

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

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

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

  • <leftSuper> <rightSuper> - Simulates pressing the ⌘ or Windows 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.

  • <waitXX> - Add an arbitrary pause before sending any additional keys. The format of XX is a sequence of positive decimal numbers, each with optional fraction and a unit suffix, such as 300ms, 1.5h or 2h45m. Valid time units are ns, us (or µs), ms, s, m, h. For example <wait10m> or <wait1m20s>

» On/Off variants

Any printable keyboard character, and of these "special" expressions, with the exception of the <wait> types, can also be toggled on or off. For example, to simulate ctrl+c, use <leftCtrlOn>c<leftCtrlOff>. Be sure to release them, otherwise they will be held down until the machine reboots.

To hold the c key down, you would use <cOn>. Likewise, <cOff> to release.

» Templates inside boot command

In addition to the special keys, each command to type is treated as a template engine. 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!
  • Name - The name of the VM.

For more examples of various boot commands, see the sample projects from our community templates page.

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>"
]

For more examples of various boot commands, see the sample projects from our community templates page.

» 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.

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. VNC can be disabled by not setting a boot_command and setting disable_vnc to true.

Please note that you should disable vMotion for the host you intend to run Packer builds on; a vMotion event will cause the Packer build to fail.

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

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. This option currently only works when option remote_type is set to "esx5". Since ovftool is only capable of password based authentication remote_password must be set when exporting the VM.

  • vnc_disable_password - This must be set to "true" when using VNC with ESXi 6.5 or 6.7.