Awesome Open Source
Awesome Open Source


Contents TL;DR | Overview | Getting started | Usage | Next steps | Contributing | Resources

This repository contains common Packer helper tools and sample templates for Docker, IIS, SQL Server and Visual Studio on Windows and Ubuntu, building virtual machine images and Vagrant boxes for VirtualBox, Hyper-V, Azure and AWS, provisioned with Chef.


  • Vagrant boxes ready to use for virtualizing hosting and development scenarios.
  • Virtual workstations for automating the configuration of your development environments.
  • Blogs with an overview of the why, how and what of Packer.


Contents Operating systems | Hosting | Development

Note This section covers the details of the published Vagrant boxes this repository builds. See the Getting started section to build your own virtual machine images. See virtual workstations for samples of automating the configuration of your development environments using them and these blogs for more background and motivation.

This repository contains Packer sample template for the following virtualization scenarios:

The virtual machine images and Vagrant boxes are built for VirtualBox, Hyper-V, Azure and AWS, and are provisioned using Chef.

Note All the components, including the core operating systems, share the following characteristics:

  • They are based on their publicly available versions. You might need to provide your own license(s) (for example, a valid Windows or Visual Studio license) to start or keep using them after their evaluation periods expire.
  • They are installed using their latest available versions. The latest patches (for example, all the Windows Updates) are applied as well.
  • Unless noted otherwise, they are installed using the default configuration options.

Operating systems

The following Vagrant boxes can be used for generic experiments on the respective platforms. They contain the core operating system with the minimum configuration required to make Vagrant work, and some of the commonly used tools installed and options configured for easier provisioning. All the other Vagrant boxes below are based on these configurations as well.


Windows Server
Windows 10


Ubuntu Server
Ubuntu Desktop


The following Vagrant boxes can be used for hosting scenarios. They contain the respective hosting tools with the default configuration are based on the core operating systems.


Docker Windows
Docker Linux


SQL Server


The following Vagrant boxes can be used for development scenarios including setting up virtual workstations. They contain the respective development tools with the common configuration and are based on the core operating systems.

Visual Studio

Getting started

Note The rest of this document covers the details of building virtual machine images and Vagrant boxes, and assumes that you are familiar with the basics of Packer and Vagrant. If that's not the case, it's recommended that you take a quick look at the getting started guides.

Note Building the Packer templates have been tested on Windows hosts only, but they are supposed to run on any other platform as well, given that the actual virtualization provider (e.g. VirtualBox) supports it. Let me know if you encounter any issues and I'm glad to help.

Follow the steps below to install the required tools:

  1. Install the .NET Core SDK with Cake Build.
  2. Install Packer and Vagrant.
  3. Install the tools for the virtualization provider you want to use.
  4. Install Docker.
  5. Install Chef Workstation.

You are now ready to build a virtual machine image and a Vagrant box.

Note It is recommended to set up caching for Packer, so you can reuse the downloaded resources (e.g. OS ISOs) across different builds. Make sure you have a bunch of free disk space for the cache and the build artifacts.


Contents Building base images | Building images for distribution | Chaining builds further | Testing | Cleaning up

This repository uses some custom wrapper scripts using Cake to generate the Packer templates and the related resources (e.g. the unattended install configuration) required to build the virtual machine images. Besides supporting easier automation, this approach helps with reusing parts of the templates and the related resources, and makes chaining builds and creating new configurations quite easy.

Building base images

Clone this repo including the submodules, and navigate to the root directory of the clone in your shell. Type the following command to list all the available templates you can build:

$ dotnet cake [--target=info]

The output will be contain the section info with the list of the templates:

ws2019s-virtualbox-core: Info
ws2019s-virtualbox-vagrant: Info
ws2019s-hyperv-core: Info
ws2019s-hyperv-vagrant: Info
w102004e-virtualbox-core: Info
w102004e-virtualbox-vagrant: Info
w102004e-hyperv-core: Info
w102004e-hyperv-vagrant: Info
ws2019s-iis-virtualbox-core: Info
ws2019s-iis-virtualbox-vagrant: Info
ws2019s-iis-hyperv-core: Info
ws2019s-iis-hyperv-vagrant: Info

You can filter this further to list only the templates for a given virtual machine image type. For example, to list the templates based on the Windows Server 2019 Standard image, invoke the info command with the ws2019s argument:

$ dotnet cake [--target=info] --configuration=ws2019s

You can use this filtering with all the dotnet cake commands below as well. It selects all the templates which contain the specified argument as a substring, so you can filter for components (ws2019s, w102004e, iis, etc.) or providers (virtualbox, hyperv, azure, amazon) easily.

The output will contain only the matching templates:

ws2019s-virtualbox-core: Info
ws2019s-virtualbox-vagrant: Info
ws2019s-hyperv-core: Info
ws2019s-hyperv-vagrant: Info

This means that this configuration supports building native base images (virtualbox-core, hyperv-core) mainly for reusing them in other configurations, and also, Vagrant boxes for distribution (virtualbox-vagrant, hyperv-vagrant). Under the hood, the vagrant configurations will simply start from the output of the core ones, so build times can be reduced significantly.

Now, invoke the restore command with the name of the template you want to build to create the resources required by Packer. For example, for VirtualBox, type the following command:

$ dotnet cake --target=restore --configuration=ws2019s-virtualbox-core

This will create the folder build/ws2019s/virtualbox-core in the root of your clone with all the files required to invoke the Packer build. This setup is self-contained, so you can adjust the parameters manually in template.json or the other resources and / or even copy it to a different machine and simply invoke packer build template.json there. Most of the time though, you just simply want to build as it is, as the templates are already preconfigured with some reasonable defaults. This can be done of course with the build script as well:

$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-virtualbox-core

This will trigger the Packer build process, which usually requires only patience. Depending on the selected configuration, a few minutes or hours later, the build output will be created, in this case in the build/ws2019s/virtualbox-core/output directory in the root of your clone. Virtual machine images like this can be directly used with the respective virtualization provider on the host machine.

Building images for distribution

As mentioned above, based on Packer's support for starting builds from some virtualization providers' native image format, builds can reuse the output of a previous build. To build and image which can be distributed (e.g. after applying Sysprep as well), type the following command:

$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-virtualbox-vagrant

Note that this will include restoring the build folder with the template and the related resources automatically, and then invoking the build process in a single step. It will also reuse the output of the ws2019s-virtualbox-core build, so it does not need to do the same steps for a Vagrant box the original build already included (e.g. the core OS installation itself, installing Windows updates, etc.). Once the build completes, the Vagrant box will be available in the build/ws2019s/virtualbox-vagrant/output folder.

The same approach works for Hyper-V as well:

$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-hyperv-core
$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-hyperv-vagrant

As you can expect, for these samples the build artifacts will be created in the builds/ws2019s folder as well, this time under the hyperv-vagrant/output subfolder. You can use the standard options to distribute them to be consumed in Vagrant.

Chaining builds further

Similarly to the process above, you can use build chaining to build more complex boxes. For example, the configuration for Windows Server 2019 Standard with IIS can be built like this:

$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-virtualbox-core
$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-iis-virtualbox-core
$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-iis-virtualbox-vagrant

As in the previous ws2019s sample, for this configuration the ws2019s-iis-virtualbox-core build will start from the output of ws2019s-virtualbox-core instead of starting with the core OS installation. Chanining builds like this has no limitations, so you can use this approach to build images with any number of components very effectively.

Note that the script can invoke the build of the dependencies automatically, so for the previous example you can simply type:

$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-iis-virtualbox-vagrant

This will in turn invoke the restore and build stages for the ws2019s-virtualbox-core and ws2019s-iis-virtualbox-core images as well. By default, restore and build is skipped if the output from a previous build exists. You can force the build to run again using the rebuild command instead, which will clean the build directories first.

Again, this works for Hyper-V as well:

$ dotnet cake --target=build --configuration=ws2019s-iis-hyperv-vagrant

Similarly, this will in turn build the ws2019s-hyperv-core and ws2019s-iis-hyperv-core images first if they are missing.


To help testing the build results, the reposiory contains a simple Vagrantfile to create virtual machines using directly the build outputs. You can play around with the Vagrant CLI yourself, or let the build script manage it for you.

For example, to test the ws2019s configuration, from the root of your clone you can type the following command to use the box files in the build\ws2019s folder:

$ dotnet cake --target=test --configuration=ws2019s-virtualbox-vagrant

This will import the locally built Vagrant box temporarily with the name ws2019s-build and will use that to spin up a new virtual machine. After outputting some basic diagnostics information, it destroys the newly created virtual machine and removes the temporary Vagrant box.

Cleaning up

Though the build folders are excluded by default from the repository, they can consume significant disk space. You can manually delete the folders, but the build script provides support for this as well:

$ dotnet cake --target=clean --configuration=ws2019s-iis-virtualbox-vagrant

Using the filtering, to clean up the artifacts of all the VirtualBox builds, you can type:

$ dotnet cake --target=clean --configuration=virtualbox

Omitting this parameter will apply the command to all the templates, so the following command will clean up everything:

$ dotnet cake --target=clean

Note The clean command removes only the Packer build templates and artifacts, the eventually imported Vagrant boxes and virtual machines are taken care of the test command.

Next steps

Take a look at the repository of virtual workstations to easily automate and share your development environment configurations using the Vagrant boxes above.


Feedback, issues or pull requests are welcome and are greatly appreciated. Check out the milestones for the list of planned releases.


This repository could not exist without the following great technologies:

This repository borrows awesome ideas and solutions from the following sources:

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