VBoxHeadless - Running Virtual Machines With VirtualBox 4.2 On A Headless OpenSUSE 12.2 Server

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme
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This guide explains how you can run virtual machines with VirtualBox 4.2 on a headless OpenSUSE 12.2 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 12.2 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 4.2 on our OpenSUSE 12.2 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 3.4.6-2.10-desktop #1 SMP PREEMPT Thu Jul 26 09:36:26 UTC 2012 (641c197) 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 4.2 as follows (by installing the kernel-desktop/kernel-server package again, we make sure that we have the latest version installed):

# zypper install kernel-desktop kernel-desktop-devel kernel-source kernel-syms Xerces-c gcc make

If the kernel gets updated, you will be told to reboot the system - in this case run:

# reboot

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

$ su

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 (there's no repo file for OpenSUSE 12.2 because the repo file for 11.4 works on 12.2 as well):

# cd /etc/zypp/repos.d/
# wget http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/rpm/opensuse/11.4/virtualbox.repo

We can now simply install VirtualBox 4.1 as follows:

# zypper install VirtualBox-4.2

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 4.2 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/4.2.0/Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-4.2.0-80737.vbox-extpack
# sudo VBoxManage extpack install Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-4.2.0-80737.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.


# 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/ch08.html.

I will now create an Ubuntu 12.04 Server VM with 512MB memory and a 10GB hard drive from the Ubuntu 12.04 Server iso image (which I have stored in /home/ubuntu-12.04-server-amd64.iso):

$ VBoxManage createvm --name "Ubuntu 12.04 Server" --register
$ VBoxManage modifyvm "Ubuntu 12.04 Server" --memory 512 --acpi on --boot1 dvd --nic1 bridged --bridgeadapter1 eth0
$ VBoxManage createhd --filename Ubuntu_12_04_Server.vdi --size 10000
$ VBoxManage storagectl "Ubuntu 12.04 Server" --name "IDE Controller" --add ide
$ VBoxManage storageattach "Ubuntu 12.04 Server" --storagectl "IDE Controller" --port 0 --device 0 --type hdd --medium Ubuntu_12_04_Server.vdi
$ VBoxManage storageattach "Ubuntu 12.04 Server" --storagectl "IDE Controller" --port 1 --device 0 --type dvddrive --medium /home/ubuntu-12.04-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 12.04 Server"

(Replace Ubuntu 12.04 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 12.04 Server" poweroff

To pause a VM, run

$ VBoxManage controlvm "Ubuntu 12.04 Server" pause

To reset a VM, run

$ VBoxManage controlvm "Ubuntu 12.04 Server" reset

To learn more about VBoxHeadless, take a look at

$ VBoxHeadless --help

and at http://www.virtualbox.org/manual/ch07.html#vboxheadless.

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By: Falko Timme