[clug] Virtual Machine 'farms'?

Daniel Pittman daniel at rimspace.net
Thu Oct 15 06:28:31 MDT 2009

Alex Satrapa <grail at goldweb.com.au> writes:

> Does anyone have experience in setting up adhoc VM "farms" using VMWare or
> VirtualBox?

A little.

> I'm looking specifically for help in the area of setting up new VMs based on
> a template' (ie: specify the Ethernet address, turn off fripperies such as
> USB, CD, Floppy, turn on PXE booting), which I can then boot and take over
> using a configuration management system such as Chef.
> What advice can you give me about doing this kind of thing from your own
> virtual machine experiments?

Two bits of advice:

One, it is much easier to treat the VM as a bit of real hardware, and make
sure it boots from the network when first run.  Then you can use the same OS
deployment tools that you use for the rest of your systems to build it,
including setting up post-install chef, etc, work.

Two, non-ESX VMWare is actually pretty trivial to work with: their
configuration files are pleasantly plain-text, and tend to just work.  Season
a template configuration with a tiny bit of sed or so and you have it.

I understand that the ESXi? options support more or less the same, only using
their API, although I have not done that personally.  Um, or their Perl API.

> Are there any existing tools which make this kind of spawn-boot-use-destroy
> experimentation relatively easy?

libvirt set out explicitly to enable this.  I believe they have some VMWare
support, but they certainly have VirtualBox.  Driving their API may be easier
than driving the per-vendor API.


Now, my turn: what platform(s) are you using Chef on, and how did you manage
deployment?  We have puppet, but the limited language for node and service
definition is a source of ongoing frustration; Chef looks better...

✣ Daniel Pittman            ✉ daniel at rimspace.net            ☎ +61 401 155 707
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