VBoxHeadless - Running Virtual Machines With VirtualBox 3.1.x On A Headless OpenSUSE 11.2 Server

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Author: Falko Timme
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Last edited 02/02/2010

This guide explains how you can run virtual machines with Sun VirtualBox 3.1.x on a headless OpenSUSE 11.2 server. Normally you use the VirtualBox GUI to manage your virtual machines, but a server does not have a desktop environment. Fortunately, VirtualBox comes with a tool called VBoxHeadless that allows you to connect to the virtual machines over a remote desktop connection, so there's no need for the VirtualBox GUI.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

I have tested this on an OpenSUSE 11.2 server (host system) with the IP address where I'm logged in as a normal user (user name admin in this example) instead of as root.

If you only have a root account, but no normal user account, create one as follows (user admin, group admin)...

# groupadd admin
# useradd -d /home/admin -m -g admin -s /bin/bash admin

... create a password for the new user...

# passwd admin

... and log in as that user.


2 Installing VirtualBox

To install VirtualBox 3.1.x on our OpenSUSE 11.2 server, we need root privileges, therefore we run

$ su

First we have to find out what kernel we have installed:

# uname -a

server1:/home/admin # uname -a
Linux server1 #1 SMP PREEMPT 2009-10-26 15:49:03 +0100 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
server1:/home/admin #

As you see I have the kernel-desktop package installed - if you have the kernel-server package installed, replace desktop with server in the following command.

We install the dependencies for VirtualBox 3.1.x as follows (by installing the kernel-desktop/kernel-server package again, we make sure that we have the latest version installed):

# yast -i kernel-desktop kernel-desktop-devel kernel-source kernel-syms Xerces-c gcc make

If the kernel gets updated, YaST will tell you that you must reboot the system - in this case run:

# reboot

Log in as the normal user again and then become root:

$ su

Next download and register Sun's public rpm key:

# wget -q http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian/sun_vbox.asc -O- | rpm --import -

Now we enable the VirtualBox OpenSUSE repository on our system:

# cd /etc/zypp/repos.d/
# wget http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/rpm/opensuse/11.2/virtualbox.repo

We can now simply install VirtualBox 3.1.x as follows:

# yast -i VirtualBox-3.1

Afterwards make sure that the vboxdrv kernel module is loaded:

# modprobe vboxdrv

The following command makes sure that the vboxdrv kernel module gets loaded automatically whenever you boot the system:

# insserv vboxdrv

Now we must add the user that will run VirtualBox (admin in this example) to the vboxusers group:

# /usr/sbin/usermod -G vboxusers admin

VirtualBox is now installed and ready to be used.


# exit

to leave the root account and become a normal user (admin) again.


3 Using VirtualBox On The Command Line

3.1 Creating A VM

To create a VM on the command line, we can use the VBoxManage command. See

$ VBoxManage --help

for a list of available switches and (highly recommended!) take a look at http://www.virtualbox.org/manual/UserManual.html#vboxmanage.

I will now create an Ubuntu 9.10 Server VM with 256MB memory and a 10GB hard drive from the Ubuntu 9.10 Server iso image (which I have stored in /home/ubuntu-9.10-server-amd64.iso):

$ VBoxManage createvm --name "Ubuntu 9.10 Server" --register
$ VBoxManage modifyvm "Ubuntu 9.10 Server" --memory 256 --acpi on --boot1 dvd --nic1 bridged --bridgeadapter1 eth0
$ VBoxManage createhd --filename Ubuntu_9_10_Server.vdi --size 10000 --register
$ VBoxManage storagectl "Ubuntu 9.10 Server" --name "IDE Controller" --add ide
$ VBoxManage storageattach "Ubuntu 9.10 Server" --storagectl "IDE Controller" --port 0 --device 0 --type hdd --medium Ubuntu_9_10_Server.vdi
$ VBoxManage storageattach "Ubuntu 9.10 Server" --storagectl "IDE Controller" --port 1 --device 0 --type dvddrive --medium /home/ubuntu-9.10-server-amd64.iso


3.2 Importing An Existing VM

Let's assume you have a VM called examplevm that you want to reuse on this host. On the old host, you should have a directory Machines/examplevm in the VirtualBox directory; Machines/examplevm should contain the examplevm.xml file. Copy the examplevm directory (including the examplevm.xml file) to your new Machines directory (if your user name is admin, this is /home/admin/.VirtualBox/Machines - the result should be /home/admin/.VirtualBox/Machines/examplevm/examplevm.xml).

In addition to that copy the examplevm.vdi file from the old VDI directory to the new one (e.g. /home/admin/.VirtualBox/VDI/examplevm.vdi).

Afterwards, you must register the imported VM:

$ VBoxManage registervm Machines/examplevm/examplevm.xml


3.3 Starting A VM With VBoxHeadless

Regardless of if you create a new VM or import and old one, you can start it with the command:

$ VBoxHeadless --startvm "Ubuntu 9.10 Server"

(Replace Ubuntu 9.10 Server with the name of your VM.)

VBoxHeadless will start the VM and a VRDP (VirtualBox Remote Desktop Protocol) server which allows you to see the VM's output remotely on another machine.

To stop a VM, run

$ VBoxManage controlvm "Ubuntu 9.10 Server" poweroff

To pause a VM, run

$ VBoxManage controlvm "Ubuntu 9.10 Server" pause

To reset a VM, run

$ VBoxManage controlvm "Ubuntu 9.10 Server" reset

To learn more about VBoxHeadless, take a look at

$ VBoxHeadless --help

and at http://www.virtualbox.org/manual/UserManual.html.

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From: Anonymous at: 2010-02-15 01:53:13

It is fairly pointless to describe how to install VirtualBox on a server if you are not going to explain how to set it up as a service that is started on boot and stopped/saved on halt/reboot.