Oracle Linux, virtualization , Enterprise and Cloud Management Cloud technology musings

  • April 3, 2018

Running VirtualBox inside a VM instance in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

OK - So don't ask "Why?"... Because... I can! :) would be the answer for the most part.

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure supports nested virtualization. When you create a VM instance in OCI, and you run Oracle Linux 7 with our kernel, you can create KVM or (soon you see how...) VirtualBox VMs inside. If you create a BM instance, you can install VirtualBox or use kvm as you normally would on a local server. Since, well, it's a bare metal server - full access to the hardware and its features.

VirtualBox has some very interesting built-in features which might make it useful to run remote (even when virtualized). One example would be the embedded vRDP server. It can do great remote audio and video (enable/tune videochannel), it makes it easy to take your local VirtualBox images and run them unmodified remotely, it lets you create smaller VMs that you constantly start/stop... you can use vagrant boxes, and it opens up the whole vagrant VirtualBox environment to a remote cloud. So aside from "Because I can"... there are actual good use cases for this!

How do you go about doing this. For the most part it's pretty trivial, installation of VirtualBox in a VM in OCI is no different than how you would install it on your local desktop or server. Configuring a guest VM in VirtualBox should be done using the command line (vboxmanage) instead of installing a full remote desktop and run vnc and such. It's a lot faster to do it using the command line. And then also, if you want to run VirtualBox in Bridged mode so that you have full access to the OCI native cloud network facilities (VCN/Subnet/IP addresses, even public IPs - without NAT) there are a few minor things you need to do.

Here are some of the steps to get going: I'm not a big screenshot guy so bear with me in text for the most part.

Step 1: Create an OCI VM and create/assign an extra VNIC to pass through to your VirtualBox VM.

If you don't already have an OCI account, you can go sign up and get a $300 credit trial account here. That should give you enough to get started.

Set up your account, create a Virtual Cloud Network (VCN) with its subnets and create a VM instance in one of the availability domains/regions. To test this out I created a VM.Standard2.2 shape instance with Oracle Linux 7. Once this instance is created, you can log in with user opc and get going.

When you log into your VM instance, and from the OCI web console you will see that you have a primary VNIC attached. This might show up as ens3 or so inside your VM. In the OCI web console the VNIC has a name (typically the primary VNIC's name is the same as your instance name), it has a private IP and if you decided to have it on a public network, a public ip address as well. All this stuff will be configured out of the box for you as part of your instance creation.

Since I want to show how to use a bridged network in VirtualBox, you will need a second VNIC. You can create that at this point, or you can come back later and do it once you are ready to start your VirtualBox VM. Just go to Attached VNICs in the webconsole (or use the OCI cli) and create a VNIC on a given VCN/Subnet.

create vnic

























The important information to jot down are the mac address and the private ip address of this newly created vnic. In the example and 00:00:17:02:EB:EA  this info is needed later.

Step 2: Install and configure VirtualBox

With Oracle Linux 7 - this is a very easy process. Use yum to install VirtualBox and the dependencies for building the VirtualBox kernel modules and quickly download and install the Extension Pack and you're done:

# yum install -y kernel-uek-devel-`uname -r` gcc
# yum install -y VirtualBox-5.2
# wget https://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/5.2.8/Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-5.2.8.vbox-extpack
# vboxmanage extpack install Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-5.2.8.vbox-extpack

That's it - you now have a fully functioning VirtualBox hypervisor installed on top of Oracle Linux 7 in an OCI VM instance.

Step 3: Create your first VirtualBox guest VM

The following instructions show you how to create a VM from the command line. The nice thing with using the command line is that you can clearly see what it takes for a VM to be configured and you can easily tweak the values (memory, disk,...).

First, you likely want to create a new VM from an install ISO. So upload your installation media to your OCI VM. I uploaded my Oracle Linux 7.5 preview image which you can get here.

Create your VirtualBox VM

# vboxmanage createvm --name oci-test --ostype oracle_64 --register
# vboxmanage modifyvm oci-test --memory 4096 --vram 128 --ioapic on
# vboxmanage modifyvm oci-test --boot1 dvd --boot2 disk --boot3 none --boot4 none
# vboxmanage modifyvm oci-test --vrde on

Configure the Virtual Disk and Storage controllers (Feel free to attach an OCI Block Volume to your VM and put the VirtualBox virtual disks on that volume, of course). The example below creates a 40G virtual disk image and attaches the OL7.5 ISO as a DVD image.

# vboxmanage createhd --filename oci-test.vdi --size 40960
# vboxmanage storagectl oci-test --name "SATA Controller" --add sata --controller IntelAHCI
# vboxmanage storageattach oci-test --storagectl "SATA Controller" --port 0 --device 0 --type hdd --medium oci-test.vdi
# vboxmanage storagectl oci-test --name "IDE Controller" --add ide
# vboxmanage storageattach oci-test --storagectl "IDE Controller" --port 0 --device 0 --type dvddrive --medium /home/opc/OracleLinux-R7-U5-BETA-Server-x86_64-dvd.iso

Configure the Bridged Network Adapter to directly connect to the OCI VNIC

This is a little more involved. You have to find out which network device was created on the VM host for this secondary VNIC.

# ip addr
1: lo:  mtu 65536 qdisc noqueue state UNKNOWN
    link/loopback 00:00:00:00:00:00 brd 00:00:00:00:00:00
    inet scope host lo
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
2: ens3:  mtu 9000 qdisc mq state UP qlen 1000
    link/ether 00:00:17:02:3a:29 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global dynamic ens3
       valid_lft 73962sec preferred_lft 73962sec
3: ens4:  mtu 1500 qdisc noop state DOWN qlen 1000
    link/ether 00:00:17:02:eb:ea brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff

Bring up this network adapter without an IP address and configure the MTU to 9000 (default mtu settings for VNICs in OCI)

# ip link set dev ens4 up
# ip link set ens4 mtu 9000

Almost there... Now just create the NIC in VirtualBox and assign the mac address you recorded earlier to this NIC. It is very important to make sure you use that mac address, otherwise the networking will not allow traffic over the network. Note: don't use : for the mac address on the command line.

# vboxmanage modifyvm oci-test --nic1 bridged --bridgeadapter1 ens4 --macaddress1 00001702ebea

That's it. You now have a VirtualBox VM that can be started, will boot from install media, and be directly connected to the hosts network in OCI. There is no DHCP running on this network, so when you create your VirtualBox VM, you have to assign a static IP (use the one that was assigned as Private IP address (10.0.02 in the example above)).

Before you start your VM, open up the firewall on the host for remote RDP connections and do the same in the OCI console, modify the security list for your host primary VNIC to allow for port 3389 (RDP) traffic ingress.

# firewall-cmd --permanent --add-port=3389/tcp
# firewall-cmd --reload

Start your VM in headless mode and use your favorite RDP client on your desktop or laptop to connect to the remote VirtualBox console.

# vboxmanage startvm oci-test --type headless

If you want to experiment with remote video/audio (for instance, play a youtube video inside your VM or play a movie file), enable the vrde video channel. Use the quality parameter to modify the compression/lossy ratio (improves performance) of the mjpeg stream.

# vboxmanage modifyvm oci-test --vrdevideochannel on
# vboxmanage modifyvm oci-test --vrdevideochannelquality 70

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