» 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",
  "ssh_password": "packer",
  "shutdown_command": "shutdown -P now"
}

» VMware-ISO Builder Configuration Reference

There are many configuration options available for the builder. In addition to the items listed here, you will want to look at the general configuration references for ISO, HTTP, Floppy, Boot, Driver, Hardware, Output, Run, Shutdown, Communicator, Tools, vmx, Export, configuration references, which are necessary for this build to succeed and can be found further down the page.

» Optional:

  • disk_additional_size ([]uint) - 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_adapter_type (string) - The adapter type of the VMware virtual disk to create. This option is for advanced usage, modify only if you know what you're doing. Some of the options you can specify are ide, sata, nvme or scsi (which uses the "lsilogic" scsi interface by default). If you specify another option, Packer will assume that you're specifying a scsi interface of that specified type. For more information, please consult Virtual Disk Manager User's Guide for desktop VMware clients. For ESXi, refer to the proper ESXi documentation.

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

  • disk_size (uint) - 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 40000 (about 40 GB).

  • disk_type_id (string) - The type of VMware virtual disk to create. This option is for advanced usage.

    For desktop VMware clients:

    Type ID Description
    0 Growable virtual disk contained in a single file (monolithic sparse).
    1 Growable virtual disk split into 2GB files (split sparse).
    2 Preallocated virtual disk contained in a single file (monolithic flat).
    3 Preallocated virtual disk split into 2GB files (split flat).
    4 Preallocated virtual disk compatible with ESX server (VMFS flat).
    5 Compressed disk optimized for streaming.

    The default is 1.

    For ESXi, this defaults to zeroedthick. The available options for ESXi are: zeroedthick, eagerzeroedthick, thin. rdm:dev, rdmp:dev, 2gbsparse are not supported. Due to default disk compaction, when using zeroedthick or eagerzeroedthick set skip_compaction to true.

    For more information, please consult the Virtual Disk Manager User's Guide for desktop VMware clients. For ESXi, refer to the proper ESXi documentation.

  • cdrom_adapter_type (string) - The adapter type (or bus) that will be used by the cdrom device. This is chosen by default based on the disk adapter type. VMware tends to lean towards ide for the cdrom device unless sata is chosen for the disk adapter and so Packer attempts to mirror this logic. This field can be specified as either ide, sata, or scsi.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • vmx_disk_template_path (string) - VMX Disk Template Path

  • 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.

» ISO Configuration

By default, Packer will symlink, download or copy image files to the Packer cache into a "hash($iso_url+$iso_checksum).$iso_target_extension" file. Packer uses hashicorp/go-getter in file mode in order to perform a download.

go-getter supports the following protocols:

  • Local files
  • Git
  • Mercurial
  • HTTP
  • Amazon S3

Examples: go-getter can guess the checksum type based on iso_checksum len.

{
 "iso_checksum": "946a6077af6f5f95a51f82fdc44051c7aa19f9cfc5f737954845a6050543d7c2",
 "iso_url": "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
}
{
 "iso_checksum_type": "file",
 "iso_checksum": "ubuntu.org/..../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso.sum",
 "iso_url": "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
}
{
 "iso_checksum_url": "./shasums.txt",
 "iso_url": "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
}
{
 "iso_checksum_type": "sha256",
 "iso_checksum_url": "./shasums.txt",
 "iso_url": "ubuntu.org/.../ubuntu-14.04.1-server-amd64.iso"
}

» Required:

  • iso_checksum (string) - The checksum for the ISO file or virtual hard drive file. The algorithm to use when computing the checksum can be optionally specified with iso_checksum_type. When iso_checksum_type is not set packer will guess the checksumming type based on iso_checksum length. iso_checksum can be also be a file or an URL, in which case iso_checksum_type must be set to file; the go-getter will download it and use the first hash found.

  • iso_url (string) - A URL to the ISO containing the installation image or virtual hard drive (VHD or VHDX) file to clone.

» Optional:

  • iso_checksum_url (string) - An URL to a checksum file containing a checksum for the ISO file. At least one of iso_checksum and iso_checksum_url must be defined. iso_checksum_url will be ignored if iso_checksum is non empty.

  • iso_checksum_type (string) - The algorithm to be used when computing the checksum of the file specified in iso_checksum. Currently, valid values are "", "none", "md5", "sha1", "sha256", "sha512" or "file". Since the validity of ISO and virtual disk files are typically crucial to a successful build, Packer performs a check of any supplied media by default. While setting "none" will cause Packer to skip this check, corruption of large files such as ISOs and virtual hard drives can occur from time to time. As such, skipping this check is not recommended. iso_checksum_type must be set to file when iso_checksum is an url.

  • iso_urls ([]string) - 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.

  • 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 and checksum as its name.

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

» Http directory configuration

Packer will create an http server serving http_directory when it is set, a random free port will be selected and the architecture of the directory referenced will be available in your builder.

Example usage from a builder:

wget http://{{ .HTTPIP }}:{{ .HTTPPort }}/foo/bar/preseed.cfg

» Optional:

  • 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 (int) - 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.

  • http_port_max (int) - HTTP Port Max

» Floppy configuration

A floppy can be made available for your build. 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. The summary size of the listed files must not exceed 1.44 MB. The supported ways to move large files into the OS are using http_directory or the file provisioner.

» Optional:

  • floppy_files ([]string) - A list of files to place onto a floppy disk that is attached when the VM is booted. 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 ([]string) - 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. The maximum summary size of all files in the listed directories are the same as in floppy_files.

  • floppy_label (string) - Floppy Label

» Shutdown configuration

» Optional:

  • shutdown_command (string) - The command to use to gracefully shut down the machine once all provisioning is complete. By default this is an empty string, which tells Packer to just forcefully shut down the machine. This setting can be safely omitted if for example, a shutdown command to gracefully halt the machine is configured inside a provisioning script. If one or more scripts require a reboot it is suggested to leave this blank (since reboots may fail) and instead specify the final shutdown command in your last script.

  • shutdown_timeout (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - The amount of time to wait after executing the shutdown_command for the virtual machine to actually shut down. If the machine doesn't shut down in this time it is considered an error. By default, the time out is "5m" (five minutes).

» Driver configuration

» Optional:

  • 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.

  • 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_datastore (string) - The path to the datastore where the VM will be stored on the ESXi machine.

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

  • 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.

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

  • remote_port (int) - The SSH port of the remote machine

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

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

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

  • skip_validate_credentials (bool) - 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.

» Hardware configuration

» Optional:

  • cpus (int) - The number of cpus to use when building the VM.

  • memory (int) - The amount of memory to use when building the VM in megabytes.

  • cores (int) - The number of cores per socket to use when building the VM. This corresponds to the cpuid.coresPerSocket option in the .vmx file.

  • network (string) - This is the network type that the virtual machine will be created with. This can be one of the generic values that map to a device such as hostonly, nat, or bridged. If the network is not one of these values, then it is assumed to be a VMware network device. (VMnet0..x)

  • network_adapter_type (string) - This is the ethernet adapter type the the virtual machine will be created with. By default the e1000 network adapter type will be used by Packer. For more information, please consult Choosing a network adapter for your virtual machine for desktop VMware clients. For ESXi, refer to the proper ESXi documentation.

  • sound (bool) - Specify whether to enable VMware's virtual soundcard device when building the VM. Defaults to false.

  • usb (bool) - Enable VMware's USB bus when building the guest VM. Defaults to false. To enable usage of the XHCI bus for USB 3 (5 Gbit/s), one can use the vmx_data option to enable it by specifying true for the usb_xhci.present property.

  • serial (string) - This specifies a serial port to add to the VM. It has a format of Type:option1,option2,.... The field Type can be one of the following values: FILE, DEVICE, PIPE, AUTO, or NONE.

    • FILE:path(,yield) - Specifies the path to the local file to be used as the serial port.

      • yield (bool) - This is an optional boolean that specifies whether the vm should yield the cpu when polling the port. By default, the builder will assume this as FALSE.

    • DEVICE:path(,yield) - Specifies the path to the local device to be   used as the serial port. If path is empty, then default to the first serial port.

      • yield (bool) - This is an optional boolean that specifies whether the vm should yield the cpu when polling the port. By default, the builder will assume this as FALSE.

    • PIPE:path,endpoint,host(,yield) - Specifies to use the named-pipe "path" as a serial port. This has a few options that determine how the VM should use the named-pipe.

      • endpoint (string) - Chooses the type of the VM-end, which can be either a client or server.
      • host (string) - Chooses the type of the host-end, which can be either app (application) or vm (another virtual-machine).
      • yield (bool) - This is an optional boolean that specifies whether the vm should yield the cpu when polling the port. By default, the builder will assume this as FALSE.

    • AUTO:(yield) - Specifies to use auto-detection to determine the serial port to use. This has one option to determine how the VM should support the serial port.

      • yield (bool) - This is an optional boolean that specifies whether the vm should yield the cpu when polling the port. By default, the builder will assume this as FALSE.

    • NONE - Specifies to not use a serial port. (default)

  • parallel (string) - This specifies a parallel port to add to the VM. It has the format of Type:option1,option2,.... Type can be one of the following values: FILE, DEVICE, AUTO, or NONE.

    • FILE:path - Specifies the path to the local file to be used for the parallel port.
    • DEVICE:path - Specifies the path to the local device to be used for the parallel port.
    • AUTO:direction - Specifies to use auto-detection to determine the parallel port. Direction can be BI to specify bidirectional communication or UNI to specify unidirectional communication.
    • NONE - Specifies to not use a parallel port. (default)

» Output configuration

» Optional:

  • 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.

» Run configuration

» Optional:

  • headless (bool) - 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.

  • vnc_bind_address (string) - 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_port_min (int) - 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.

  • vnc_port_max (int) - VNC Port Max

  • vnc_disable_password (bool) - Don't auto-generate a VNC password that is used to secure the VNC communication with the VM. This must be set to true if building on ESXi 6.5 and 6.7 with VNC enabled. Defaults to false.

» Tools configuration

» Optional:

  • 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.

» VMX configuration

» Optional:

  • vmx_data (map[string]string) - Arbitrary key/values to enter into the virtual machine VMX file. This is for advanced users who want to set properties that aren't yet supported by the builder.

  • vmx_data_post (map[string]string) - 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 (bool) - 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.

  • 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.

» Export configuration

» Optional:

  • 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.

  • ovftool_options ([]string) - 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. Currently, exporting the build VM (with ovftool) is only supported when building on ESXi e.g. when remote_type is set to esx5. See the Building on a Remote vSphere Hypervisor section below for more info.

  • skip_export (bool) - 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. Currently, exporting the build VM is only supported when building on ESXi e.g. when remote_type is set to esx5. See the Building on a Remote vSphere Hypervisor section below for more info.

  • keep_registered (bool) - Set this to true if you would like to keep the VM registered with the remote ESXi server. If you do not need to export the vm, then also set skip_export: true in order to avoid an unnecessary step of using ovftool to export the vm. Defaults to false.

  • skip_compaction (bool) - VMware-created disks are defragmented and compacted at the end of the build process using vmware-vdiskmanager or vmkfstools in ESXi. 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. Default to true for ESXi when disk_type_id is not explicitly defined and false otherwise.

» Communicator configuration

» Optional common fields:

  • communicator (string) - Packer currently supports three kinds of communicators:

    • none - No communicator will be used. If this is set, most provisioners also can't be used.
    • ssh - An SSH connection will be established to the machine. This is usually the default.
    • winrm - A WinRM connection will be established.

    In addition to the above, some builders have custom communicators they can use. For example, the Docker builder has a "docker" communicator that uses docker exec and docker cp to execute scripts and copy files.

  • pause_before_connecting (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - We recommend that you enable SSH or WinRM as the very last step in your guest's bootstrap script, but sometimes you may have a race condition where you need Packer to wait before attempting to connect to your guest.

    If you end up in this situation, you can use the template option pause_before_connecting. By default, there is no pause. For example:

    {
       "communicator": "ssh",
       "ssh_username": "myuser",
       "pause_before_connecting": "10m"
     }
    

    In this example, Packer will check whether it can connect, as normal. But once a connection attempt is successful, it will disconnect and then wait 10 minutes before connecting to the guest and beginning provisioning.

» Optional SSH fields:

  • ssh_host (string) - The address to SSH to. This usually is automatically configured by the builder.

  • ssh_port (int) - The port to connect to SSH. This defaults to 22.

  • ssh_username (string) - The username to connect to SSH with. Required if using SSH.

  • ssh_password (string) - A plaintext password to use to authenticate with SSH.

  • ssh_keypair_name (string) - If specified, this is the key that will be used for SSH with the machine. The key must match a key pair name loaded up into Amazon EC2. By default, this is blank, and Packer will generate a temporary keypair unless ssh_password is used. ssh_private_key_file or ssh_agent_auth must be specified when ssh_keypair_name is utilized.

  • temporary_key_pair_name (string) - The name of the temporary key pair to generate. By default, Packer generates a name that looks like packer_<UUID>, where <UUID> is a 36 character unique identifier.

  • ssh_clear_authorized_keys (bool) - If true, Packer will attempt to remove its temporary key from ~/.ssh/authorized_keys and /root/.ssh/authorized_keys. This is a mostly cosmetic option, since Packer will delete the temporary private key from the host system regardless of whether this is set to true (unless the user has set the -debug flag). Defaults to "false"; currently only works on guests with sed installed.

  • ssh_private_key_file (string) - Path to a PEM encoded private key file to use to authenticate with SSH. The ~ can be used in path and will be expanded to the home directory of current user.

  • ssh_pty (bool) - If true, a PTY will be requested for the SSH connection. This defaults to false.

  • ssh_timeout (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - The time to wait for SSH to become available. Packer uses this to determine when the machine has booted so this is usually quite long. Example value: 10m.

  • ssh_agent_auth (bool) - If true, the local SSH agent will be used to authenticate connections to the source instance. No temporary keypair will be created, and the values of ssh_password and ssh_private_key_file will be ignored. To use this option with a key pair already configured in the source AMI, leave the ssh_keypair_name blank. To associate an existing key pair in AWS with the source instance, set the ssh_keypair_name field to the name of the key pair.

  • ssh_disable_agent_forwarding (bool) - If true, SSH agent forwarding will be disabled. Defaults to false.

  • ssh_handshake_attempts (int) - The number of handshakes to attempt with SSH once it can connect. This defaults to 10.

  • ssh_bastion_host (string) - A bastion host to use for the actual SSH connection.

  • ssh_bastion_port (int) - The port of the bastion host. Defaults to 22.

  • ssh_bastion_agent_auth (bool) - If true, the local SSH agent will be used to authenticate with the bastion host. Defaults to false.

  • ssh_bastion_username (string) - The username to connect to the bastion host.

  • ssh_bastion_password (string) - The password to use to authenticate with the bastion host.

  • ssh_bastion_private_key_file (string) - Path to a PEM encoded private key file to use to authenticate with the bastion host. The ~ can be used in path and will be expanded to the home directory of current user.

  • ssh_file_transfer_method (string) - scp or sftp - How to transfer files, Secure copy (default) or SSH File Transfer Protocol.

  • ssh_proxy_host (string) - A SOCKS proxy host to use for SSH connection

  • ssh_proxy_port (int) - A port of the SOCKS proxy. Defaults to 1080.

  • ssh_proxy_username (string) - The optional username to authenticate with the proxy server.

  • ssh_proxy_password (string) - The optional password to use to authenticate with the proxy server.

  • ssh_keep_alive_interval (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - How often to send "keep alive" messages to the server. Set to a negative value (-1s) to disable. Example value: 10s. Defaults to 5s.

  • ssh_read_write_timeout (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - The amount of time to wait for a remote command to end. This might be useful if, for example, packer hangs on a connection after a reboot. Example: 5m. Disabled by default.

  • ssh_remote_tunnels ([]string) -

  • ssh_local_tunnels ([]string) -

» Optional WinRM fields:

  • winrm_username (string) - The username to use to connect to WinRM.

  • winrm_password (string) - The password to use to connect to WinRM.

  • winrm_host (string) - The address for WinRM to connect to.

    NOTE: If using an Amazon EBS builder, you can specify the interface WinRM connects to via ssh_interface

  • winrm_port (int) - The WinRM port to connect to. This defaults to 5985 for plain unencrypted connection and 5986 for SSL when winrm_use_ssl is set to true.

  • winrm_timeout (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - The amount of time to wait for WinRM to become available. This defaults to 30m since setting up a Windows machine generally takes a long time.

  • winrm_use_ssl (bool) - If true, use HTTPS for WinRM.

  • winrm_insecure (bool) - If true, do not check server certificate chain and host name.

  • winrm_use_ntlm (bool) - If true, NTLMv2 authentication (with session security) will be used for WinRM, rather than default (basic authentication), removing the requirement for basic authentication to be enabled within the target guest. Further reading for remote connection authentication can be found here.

» Boot Configuration

The boot configuration is very important: boot_command 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 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.

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>.

  • <XXXOn> <XXXOff> - 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.

  • {{ .HTTPIP }} {{ .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.

Example boot command. This is actually a working boot command used to start an CentOS 6.4 installer:

"boot_command": [
   "<tab><wait>",
   " ks=http://{{ .HTTPIP }}:{{ .HTTPPort }}/centos6-ks.cfg<enter>"
]

The example shown below is 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.

The boot command "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. You can tune this delay on a per-builder basis by specifying "boot_key_interval" in your Packer template.

» Optional:

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

  • boot_key_interval (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - Time in ms to wait between each key press

  • boot_keygroup_interval (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - Time to wait after sending a group of key pressses. 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, a sensible default value is picked depending on the builder type.

  • boot_wait (duration string | ex: "1h5m2s") - 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.

  • boot_command ([]string) - 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.

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

» 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.

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.

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.

» VNC port discovery

Packer needs to decide on a port to use for VNC when building remotely. To find an open port, we try to connect to ports in the range of vnc_port_min to vnc_port_max. If we notice something is listening on a port in the range, we try to connect to the next one, and so on until we find a port that has nothing listening on it. If you have many clients building on the ESXi host, there might be competition for the VNC ports. You can adjust how long packer waits for a connection timeout by setting PACKER_ESXI_VNC_PROBE_TIMEOUT. This defaults to 15 seconds. Set this shorter if vnc connections are refused, and set it longer if Packer can't find an open port. This is intended as an advanced configuration option. Please make sure your firewall settings are correct before adjusting.

» 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>"
    }
  ]
}