VBoxHeadless - Running Virtual Machines With VirtualBox 4.0 On A Headless OpenSUSE 11.3 Server
Author: Falko Timme
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Last edited 12/23/2010
This guide explains how you can run virtual machines with VirtualBox 4.0 on a headless OpenSUSE 11.3 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 11.3 server (host system) with the IP address 192.168.0.100 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 4.0 on our OpenSUSE 11.3 server, we need root privileges, therefore we run
First we have to find out what kernel we have installed:
# uname -a
server1:/home/admin # uname -a
Linux server1 2.6.34-12-desktop #1 SMP PREEMPT 2010-06-29 02:39:08 +0200 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
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 4.0 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:
Log in as the normal user again and then become root:
Next download and register the VirtualBox public rpm key:
# wget -q http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/debian/oracle_vbox.asc
# rpm --import oracle_vbox.asc
Now we enable the VirtualBox OpenSUSE repository on our system:
# cd /etc/zypp/repos.d/
# wget http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/rpm/opensuse/11.3/virtualbox.repo
We can now simply install VirtualBox 4.0 as follows:
# yast -i VirtualBox-4.0
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
Starting with version 4.0, VirtualBox has introduced so called "extension packs" and has outsourced some functionality like remote desktop connection support (VRDP) that was part of VirtualBox packages before version 4.0 into these extension packs. Because we need remote desktop connections to control our virtual machines, we need to install the appropriate extension pack now. Go to http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads, and you will find a link to the following extension pack:
VirtualBox 4.0 Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack
Support for USB 2.0 devices, VirtualBox RDP and PXE boot for Intel cards
Download and install the extension pack as follows:
# cd /tmp
# wget http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/4.0.0/Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-4.0.0-69151.vbox-extpack
# VBoxManage extpack install Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-4.0.0-69151.vbox-extpack
(Make sure you grab the latest version from the VirtualBox web site.)
Now we must add the user that will run VirtualBox (admin in this example) to the vboxusers group:
# /usr/sbin/usermod -G vboxusers admin
(You might have to log out and back in to make this change effective.)
VirtualBox is now installed and ready to be used.
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 10.10 Server VM with 256MB memory and a 10GB hard drive from the Ubuntu 10.10 Server iso image (which I have stored in /home/ubuntu-10.10-server-amd64.iso):
$ VBoxManage createvm --name "Ubuntu 10.10 Server" --register
$ VBoxManage modifyvm "Ubuntu 10.10 Server" --memory 256 --acpi on --boot1 dvd --nic1 bridged --bridgeadapter1 eth0
$ VBoxManage createhd --filename Ubuntu_10_10_Server.vdi --size 10000
$ VBoxManage storagectl "Ubuntu 10.10 Server" --name "IDE Controller" --add ide
$ VBoxManage storageattach "Ubuntu 10.10 Server" --storagectl "IDE Controller" --port 0 --device 0 --type hdd --medium Ubuntu_10_10_Server.vdi
$ VBoxManage storageattach "Ubuntu 10.10 Server" --storagectl "IDE Controller" --port 1 --device 0 --type dvddrive --medium /home/ubuntu-10.10-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 10.10 Server"
(Replace Ubuntu 10.10 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 10.10 Server" poweroff
To pause a VM, run
$ VBoxManage controlvm "Ubuntu 10.10 Server" pause
To reset a VM, run
$ VBoxManage controlvm "Ubuntu 10.10 Server" reset
To learn more about VBoxHeadless, take a look at
$ VBoxHeadless --help