Getting Started with vSphere Integrated Containers v0.4.0

I’ve been working very closely with our vSphere Integrated Container (VIC) team here at VMware recently, and am delighted to say that v0.4.0 is now available for download from GitHub. Of course, this is still not supported in production, and is still in tech preview. However for those of you interested, it gives you an opportunity to try it out and see the significant progress made by the team over the last couple of months. You can download it from bintray. This version of VIC is bringing us closer and closer to the original functionality of “Project Bonneville” for running containers as VMs (not in VMs) on vSphere. The docker API endpoint now provides almost identical functionality to running docker anywhere else, although there is still a little bit of work to do. Let’s take a closer look.

What is VIC?

VIC allows customers to run “containers as VMs” in the vSphere infrastructure, rather than “containers in a VM”. It can be deployed directly to a standalone ESXi host, or it can be deployed to vCenter Server. This has some advantages over the “container in a VM” approach which I highlighted here in my post which compared and contrasted VIC with Photon Controller.

VCH Deployment

Simply pull down the zipped archive from bintray, and extract it. I have downloaded it to a folder called /workspace on my Photon OS VM.

root@photon [ /workspace ]# tar zxvf vic_0.4.0.tar.gz

As you can see, there is a vic-machine command for Linux, Windows and Darwin (Fusion). Let’s see what the options are for building the VCH – Virtual Container Host.

The “appliance.iso” is used to deploy the VCH, and the “bootstrap.iso” is used for a minimal Linux image to bootstrap the containers before overlaying them with the chosen image. More on this shortly.

root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]# ./vic-machine-linux
 vic-machine-linux - Create and manage Virtual Container Hosts

 vic-machine-linux [global options] command [command options] [arguments...]


 create Deploy VCH
 delete Delete VCH and associated resources
 inspect Inspect VCH
 version Show VIC version information

 --help, -h show help
 --version, -v print the version

And to get more info about the “create” option, do the following:

root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]# ./vic-machine-linux create -h

I won’t display the output here. You can see it for yourself when you run the command. Further details on deployment can also be found here in the official docs. In the following create example, I am going to do the following:

  • Deploy VCH to a vCenter Server at
  • I used administrator@vsphere.local as the user, with a password of zzzzzzz
  • Use the cluster called Mgmt as the destination Resource Pool for VCH
  • Create a resource pool and a VCH (Container Host) with the name VCH01
  • The external network (where images will be pulled from by VCH01) is VMNW51
  • The bridge network to allow inter-container communication is a distributed port group called Bridge-DPG
  • The datastore where container images are to be stored is isilion-nfs-01
  • Persistent container volumes will be stored in the folder VIC on isilion-nfs-01 and will be labeled corvols.

Here is the command, and output:

root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]# ./vic-machine-linux create  --bridge-network \
Bridge-DPG  --image-datastore isilion-nfs-01 \
-t 'administrator@vsphere.local:zzzzzzz@'  \ 
--compute-resource Mgmt --external-network VMNW51 --name VCH01 \ 
--volume-store "corvols:isilion-nfs-01/VIC" 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:02Z] ### Installing VCH #### 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:02Z] Generating certificate/key pair - private key in ./VCH01-key.pem 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:03Z] Validating supplied configuration 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:03Z] Firewall status: DISABLED on /CNA-DC/host/Mgmt/ 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:03Z] Firewall configuration OK on hosts: 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:03Z]   /CNA-DC/host/Mgmt/ 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z] License check OK on hosts: 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z]   /CNA-DC/host/Mgmt/ 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z] DRS check OK on: 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z]   /CNA-DC/host/Mgmt/Resources 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z] Creating Resource Pool VCH01 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z] Datastore path is [isilion-nfs-01] VIC 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z] Creating appliance on target 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z] Network role client is sharing NIC with external 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:04Z] Network role management is sharing NIC with external 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:05Z] Uploading images for container 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:05Z]      bootstrap.iso 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:05Z]      appliance.iso 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:10Z] Registering VCH as a vSphere extension 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:16Z] Waiting for IP information 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:40Z] Waiting for major appliance components to launch 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:40Z] Initialization of appliance successful 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:40Z] Log server: 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:40Z] DOCKER_HOST= 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:40Z] Connect to docker: 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:40Z] docker -H --tls info 
INFO[2016-07-14T08:03:40Z] Installer completed successfully 
root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]#

From the last pieces of output, I have the necessary docker API endpoint to allow me to begin creating containers. Let’s look at what has taken place in vCenter at this point. First, we can see the new VCH resource pool and appliance:

VCH resourcesAnd next if we examine the virtual hardware of the VCH, we can see how the appliance.iso is utilitized, along with the fact that the VCH has access to the external network (VMNW51) for downloading images from docker repos, and access to the container/bridge network:

VCH hardwareDocker Containers

dockerOK – so everything is now in place for us to start creating “containers as VMs” using standard docker commands against the docker endpoint provided by the VCH. Let’s begin with some basic docker query commands such as “info” and “ps”. These can be revisited at any point to get additional details about the state of the containers and images that have been deployed in your vSphere environment. Let’s first display the “info” output immediately followed by the “ps” output.

root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]#  docker -H --tls info
Containers: 0
 Running: 0
 Paused: 0
 Stopped: 0
Images: 0
Storage Driver: vSphere Integrated Containers Backend Engine
vSphere Integrated Containers Backend Engine: RUNNING
Execution Driver: vSphere Integrated Containers Backend Engine
 Volume: ds://://@isilion-nfs-01/%5Bisilion-nfs-01%5D%20VIC
 Network: bridge
Kernel Version: 4.4.8-esx
Operating System: VMware Photon/Linux
OSType: linux
Architecture: x86_64
CPUs: 1
Total Memory: 1.958 GiB
Name: VCH01
ID: vSphere Integrated Containers
Docker Root Dir:
Debug mode (client): false
Debug mode (server): false
WARNING: No memory limit support
WARNING: No swap limit support
WARNING: No kernel memory limit support
WARNING: No cpu cfs quota support
WARNING: No cpu cfs period support
WARNING: No cpu shares support
WARNING: No cpuset support
WARNING: IPv4 forwarding is disabled
WARNING: bridge-nf-call-iptables is disabled
WARNING: bridge-nf-call-ip6tables is disabled
root@photon-NaTv5i8IA [ /workspace/vic ]#

root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]#  docker -H --tls ps -a
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS\
              PORTS               NAMES
root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]#

So not a lot going on at the moment. Let’s deploy our very first (simple) container – busybox:

root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]# docker -H --tls run -it busybox
Unable to find image 'busybox:latest' locally
latest: Pulling from library/busybox
a3ed95caeb02: Pull complete
8ddc19f16526: Pull complete
Digest: sha256:65ce39ce3eb0997074a460adfb568d0b9f0f6a4392d97b6035630c9d7bf92402
Status: Downloaded newer image for library/busybox:latest
/ # ls
bin etc lib mnt root sbin tmp var
dev home lost+found proc run sys usr
/ # ls /etc
group hostname hosts localtime passwd resolv.conf shadow
/ #

This has dropped me into a shell on the image “busybox”. This is a bit of a simple image, but what it has confirmed is that the VCH was able to pull images from docker, and it has successfully launched a “container as a VM” also.

Congratulations! You have deployed your first container “as a VM”.

Let’s now go back to vCenter, and examine things from there. The first thing we notice is that in the VCH resource pool, we have our new container in the inventory:

containerAnd now if we examine the virtual hardware of that container, we can find the location of the image on the image datastore, the fact that it is connected to the container/bridge network, and that the CD is connected to the “bootstrap.iso” image that we saw in the VCH folder on initial deployment.

container vHWAnd now if I return to the photon OS CLI (open a new shell), then I can run additional docker commands such as “ps” to examine the state:

root@photon [ /workspace ]#  docker -H --tls ps -a
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE               COMMAND             CREATED             STATUS \
             PORTS               NAMES
045e56ad498c        busybox             "sh"                20 minutes ago      Running\
root@photon [ /workspace ]# 

And we can see our running container. Now there are a lot of other things that we can do, but this is hopefully enough to get you started with v0.4.0.

Removing VCH

To tidy up, you can follow this procedure. First stop and remove the containers, then remove the VCH:

root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]# docker -H --tls stop 045e56ad498c
root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]# docker -H --tls rm 045e56ad498c
root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]# docker -H --tls ps -a
root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]# ./vic-machine-linux delete \
-t 'administrator@vsphere.local:VMware123!@' \
--compute-resource Mgmt --name VCH01
INFO[2016-07-14T09:20:55Z] ### Removing VCH ####
INFO[2016-07-14T09:20:55Z] Removing VMs
INFO[2016-07-14T09:20:55Z] Removing images
INFO[2016-07-14T09:20:55Z] Removing volumes
INFO[2016-07-14T09:20:56Z] Removing appliance VM network devices
INFO[2016-07-14T09:20:58Z] Removing VCH vSphere extension
INFO[2016-07-14T09:21:02Z] Removing Resource Pool VCH01
INFO[2016-07-14T09:21:02Z] Completed successfully
root@photon [ /workspace/vic ]#

For more details on using vSphere Integrated Containers v0.4.0 see the user guide on github here and command usage guide on github here.

And if you are coming to VMworld 2016, you should definitely check out the various sessions, labs and demos on Cloud Native Apps (CNA).

  1. Hello Cormac,

    I have tried to deploy VCH as you described, however i have found an problem which i cannot solve, and even worse – I cannot find a clue how to.

    Heres my input for “create”

    /vic-machine-linux create –target X.X.X.X –image-datastore /DC_Name/Folder/Datastore_Name/ -name vch01 –user administrator@vsphere.local –password XXXX –compute-resource /DC_Name/host/Cluster_Name/Resources/RP_VCH –bridge-network dvs_Mgmt –volume-store “DC_Name/Folder/Datastore_Name/”

    Everything looks ok, it appears that Datastore is found (when i just put the Name, i found it cannot find it, so i had to provide full path)

    Until … :

    ERRO[2016-07-10T12:44:47Z] ——————–
    ERRO[2016-07-10T12:44:47Z] datastore hostname came back empty
    ERRO[2016-07-10T12:44:47Z] Create cannot continue: configuration validation failed
    ERRO[2016-07-10T12:44:47Z] ——————–
    ERRO[2016-07-10T12:44:47Z] vic-machine-linux failed: validation of configuration failed

    Perhaps you have encoutered the same?

    • all i can think of is that you have some “special” chars in the datastore name. this is a known issue that was not fixed in v0.4.0. could that be the case?

      • its something like DS_03.

        I will try to change name to something easier and move this particular DS out of Folder (into “Root”)

        Could you be so kind and provide me a link for that known issue? I`m totally new into VIC/Photon, and even the Git, so moving back and forth is real horror for ex-wintel guy … 🙂 but its my step out of comfort zone so..

        Thank you!

  2. Cormac, I’m a bit confused – I have my first VCH deployed just fine but I can’t do a ‘pull’ – I get ‘error while pulling image [path] getsockopt: connection refused’. This is presumably because I’m behind a proxy – man I’ve googled this one to death and can’t seem to figure out how to get the VCH to use a proxy – I edited /etc/sysconfig/proxy with what I thought were the right variables but with no change – even if I did fix it this way I’d have to make that change to every VCH I ever make right, I don’t think I could ‘burn’ it into the vApp – not easily. Anyway do you have any ideas please?

      • Thanks Cormac, I’m infrastructure designer for BT TV/BT Sport over in the UK and we’re super-keen to get involved with VIC as soon as we can, hence this PoC. We have a dedicated account team and have a PS engagement with you guys – perhaps I could book some of your time to skype or whatever if that helps?



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