Using packer to build a Vagrant box


So, Oracle Linux 7.4 was just released. Previously when a new version was released I downloaded it and manually installed it to see what the fuss was about (and to make sure you could actually install Oracle on it).

These days I tend to use Vagrant (as written about previously). But how do you build a Vagrant box?
You could of course do it the manual way, which means you click through the installation of the OS, then customize it to your hearts desire and finally export the VM as a Vagrant box, and that is fine. But as with all manual tasks, it gets tedious after a while.
I also tend to make the box look sort of the same every time (with the same extra packages installed and whatnot), so how do you easily automate this process?

Enter Packer, a tool to ‘Build Automated Machine Images’, as the slogan goes. Packer is built by Hashicorp (who also built Vagrant, Terraform and bunch of other awesome tools), and it helps you create identical images for a variety of different platforms using the same source configuration.

The source configuration in this case is a json file, which describes the builder (Virtualbox, Vmware, Amazon ec2 etc), and also have different types of provisioners that can be called (shell, Ansible, Chef, Puppet, Powershell) to further customize the image.

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Vagrant? Again? …Really?

(Yes. And Ansible. And Oracle…)

TL;DR. This is the repo I’ll be talking about. It can use Ansible to provision Oracle (SI/RAC), or it can just provision your infrastructure.

Like I’ve said before, I use Vagrant quite a lot and I basically have 2 configs that I use every time. One that uses an external ‘hosts.yml’ to define the hosts (ip, ram etc) and works really well for single instance type VM’s (be it for Oracle or something else).
Then I also had the config that was prepared for running RAC (based on the same configuration as we used for this)
It has a statically defined dns-setup (using bind), created shared disks and whatnot, and it’s been working fine for a long time.
What bugged me a little about the RAC config was:
1. All IP’s & the dns-setup were already defined, so if I wanted to set up 2 clusters I had to create another Vagrant config and hack the DNS config to use different IP’s and hostnames. Not a huge problem, but it bugged me a little.
2. All shared disks were created with the same size. If you wanted different sized disks there were ways around it though: you could set the size, run ‘vagrant up’, then shutdown the VM, change the config and alter the size of the disks, run ‘vagrant up’ again and repeat until you had the config you wanted.
Again, not a huge problem but I felt like it could be done differently.

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Vagrant + Ansible + Oracle

So, I finally got my act together and created the repositories I’ve been meaning to create for ages, to automatically spin up a VM running Oracle.

They are:

and uses Vagrant to provision the machine, and then Ansible to automatically provision Oracle.

The readme’s for each repository should (hopefully) be enough to get going, but in short these are the steps required:

  • Clone the repositories
  • Download the 12.2 binaries and place them in the <reponame>/swrepo directory
  • vagrant up

This will (by default) give you a VM with:

  • Oracle Linux 7.3
  • Single instance (cdb + 1 pdb)
  • Storage on either FS or ASM

If you want to test a different combination of OS version and Oracle version, just follow the instructions in the readme.

The Vagrant boxes are the same ones I talked about in this post.

If you decide to try this and have problems or just have questions, just ask here or open an issue for the corresponding repository.

Oracle Linux Vagrant boxes

I use Vagrant a lot. It is an awesome tool when it comes to quickly spin up a local VM for some testing.

All my boxes are stored on Hashicorp’s Vagrant Cloud.

I try to create one box per Oracle Linux release (starting with 6.5) and I create the box as soon as a new version is released. I use Packer to create the boxes, which makes it a really painless exercise. I’ll describe that process in later blog-post.

Vagrant supports Virtualbox by default but also a lot of other providers (VMware, AWS ec2 etc), and I build all my boxes for Virtualbox.

The boxes all come with the Oracle pre-req packages installed and a couple of other nice-to-have packages, Ansible among other things. I then usually use this to do the Oracle installations.

As for naming, I use the following standard: ol<releasenumber>
i.e: ol68, ol72 etc
In Vagrant Cloud, you can have different versions of a specific box, and I try to keep the version number to the date when the box was created (i.e 20170326). It makes it easy to see how up-to-date the specific box is. I usually don’t update a box unless there is something I’ve missed to add.

So how can you use these boxes?

Vagrant uses a ‘Vagrantfile’ to describe the VM you want to create (in terms of IP’s, number of cores, amount of RAM etc), and in its simplest form you can let Vagrant create that file for you by running the:
vagrant init <boxname> command. So if you wanted to create a VM with my latest ol73 box, you’d do this:

miksan-macbook-pro:vagrant miksan$ vagrant init oravirt/ol73
A `Vagrantfile` has been placed in this directory. You are now
ready to `vagrant up` your first virtual environment! Please read
the comments in the Vagrantfile as well as documentation on
`` for more information on using Vagrant.
miksan-macbook-pro:vagrant miksan$ grep oravirt Vagrantfile = "oravirt/ol73" <-- This tells Vagrant which box to use

The above will not have any customizations in terms of cpu’s etc.
For more customized configurations I have 2 github repos containing Vagrant configurations for both a RAC config and a single instance config. I’ll go through them in more detail in a later blogpost.
They use 2 different ways of customizing the configuration, vbox-si uses an external file called hosts.yml where you specify the ip, name etc of the VM(s) you want to create.
Vbox-rac is based on the work Alvaro Miranda and I did for this, and in that case the customization is done in the actual Vagrantfile.

Note: is deprecated and has been replaced by these 2 repositories:



These are the boxes I currently have available. They also include some Centos boxes.

Vagrant up!

racattack, meet ansible-oracle!

A while back I was approached by Jeremy Schneider, who is one of the original contributors to the racattack project and he wanted to know if I was interested in integrating ansible-oracle with the RAC Attack automation project, and of course I was!

The idea was to provide a completely hands off installation of an Oracle RAC cluster, from VM creation to a fully configured cluster, and that is what we’re happy to be able to provide.

So Alvaro Miranda and I have been working on getting racattack-ansible-oracle going. Alvaro wrote the original packer/vagrant code for the Vagrant version of Racattack and then we’ve integrated ansible-oracle with that.

The actual integration worked straight away, so we’ve been weeding out edge cases and making it as easy and flexible to use as possible.
As of now it is possible to install, &, which are the releases currently supported by ansible-oracle. As more releases are supported by ansible-oracle, they will also work with racattack-ansible-oracle.

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