SATA Wanted

Many of the public CentOS Vagrant boxes are configured with only an IDE controller. I assume this is for compatibility reasons. The SATA controller on VirtualBox performs better, so that is what I want.

Serial ATA (SATA)

Like a real SATA controller, Oracle VM VirtualBox’s virtual SATA controller operates faster and also consumes fewer CPU resources than the virtual IDE controller. Also, this enables you to connect up to 30 virtual hard disks to one machine instead of just three, when compared to the Oracle VM VirtualBox IDE controller with a DVD drive attached.

Getting started

To start the process of building your Vagrant box using Packer, create a working directory. Within that directory create the Packer template. The Packer template, which I named centos-7.7-x86_64.json, is a file that describes how to build the image.

Packer Template

Within the JSON file we define the builder type virtualbox-iso. This builder will create a new image from an ISO file. Here is where we can define the hard_drive_interface as SCSI.

hard_drive_interface (string) - The type of controller that the primary hard drive is attached to, defaults to ide. When set to sata, the drive is attached to an AHCI SATA controller. When set to scsi, the drive is attached to an LsiLogic SCSI controller.


The information about the Packer template configuration options are detailed in the docs.

  "builders": [
      "type": "virtualbox-iso",
      "guest_os_type": "RedHat_64",
      "iso_url": "{{user `mirror`}}/7/isos/x86_64/CentOS-7-x86_64-NetInstall-1908.iso",
      "iso_checksum": "{{user `iso_checksum`}}",
      "iso_checksum_type": "{{user `iso_checksum_type`}}",
      "output_directory": "output-centos-7.7-x86_64-{{build_type}}",
      "vm_name": "packer-centos-7.7-x86_64",
      "disk_size": "{{user `disk_size`}}",
      "hard_drive_discard": "{{user `hard_drive_discard`}}",
      "hard_drive_nonrotational": "{{user `hard_drive_nonrotational`}}",
      "headless": "{{user `headless`}}",
      "hard_drive_interface": "{{user `hard_drive_interface`}}",
      "http_directory": "http",
      "boot_wait": "5s",
      "boot_command": [
        "linux inst.ks=http://{{.HTTPIP}}:{{.HTTPPort}}/ks.cfg biosdevname=0 net.ifnames=0",
      "ssh_timeout": "{{user `ssh_timeout`}}",
      "ssh_username": "vagrant",
      "ssh_password": "vagrant",
      "ssh_pty": true,
      "shutdown_command": "sudo systemctl poweroff",
      "vboxmanage": [
        ["modifyvm", "{{.Name}}", "--memory", "{{user `memory`}}"],
        ["modifyvm", "{{.Name}}", "--cpus", "{{user `cpus`}}"],
        ["modifyvm", "{{.Name}}", "--nic1", "nat", "--nictype1", "virtio"]
  "provisioners": [
      "type": "shell",
      "scripts": [
  "post-processors": [
      "type": "vagrant",
      "compression_level": "{{user `compression_level`}}",
      "output": "centos-7.7-x86_64-{{.Provider}}.box"
  "variables": {
    "compression_level": "6",
    "cpus": "1",
    "disk_size": "8000",
    "hard_drive_discard": "true",
    "hard_drive_interface": "sata",
    "hard_drive_nonrotational": "true",
    "headless": "true",
    "iso_checksum": "6ffa7ad44e8716e4cd6a5c3a85ba5675a935fc0448c260f43b12311356ba85ad",
    "iso_checksum_type": "sha256",
    "memory": "512",
    "mirror": "",
    "ssh_timeout": "60m"

Validate the contents of the json file packer validate <template>.

➜  packer validate .\centos-7.7-x86_64.json
Template validated successfully.

CentOS kickstart file

Documentation and example kickstart files can be found online. This file will install CentOS with configuration to fit my needs.

  • Install a minimal set of packages
  • Disable firewall and SELinux
  • Add and configure the Vagrant user

Warning: Recommended for local development and lab use only. This kickstart file is insecure by default.

# RHEL7 - Vagrant lab system
# Install OS instead of upgrade
# Keyboard layouts
keyboard 'us'
# After installation reboot
# Root password
rootpw --plaintext vagrant
# Use text mode install
firstboot --disable
# Setup network interface
network --device=eth0 --bootproto=dhcp --onboot=yes --activate
# Install from an installation tree on a remote server
# Required when using a miniml ISO
url --mirrorlist=$releasever&arch=$basearch&repo=os
# Set repo to
repo --name="CentOS" --baseurl=$releasever/os/$basearch/ --cost=100
repo --name="Updates" --baseurl=$releasever/updates/$basearch/ --cost=100
repo --name="epel" --baseurl= --cost=100
# System language
lang en_US.UTF-8
# Logging
logging --level=debug
# System timezone
timezone --utc Etc/UTC
# Firewall
firewall --disable
# SELinux
selinux --permissive
# Accept EULA
eula --agreed
# Services
services --enabled=ntpd,ntpdate
# Add Vagrant user
user --name=vagrant --plaintext  --password=vagrant --groups=vagrant,wheel
# System bootloader configuration
bootloader --location=mbr
# Clear the Master Boot Record
# Partition clearing information
clearpart --all --initlabel
# Automatically create partition, LVM
autopart --type=lvm

%packages --ignoremissing --excludedocs
# mandatory packages in the @core group
# default packages in the @core group


# Apply Vagrant public key.
echo "Applying Vagrant public key"
sudo mkdir -p /home/vagrant/.ssh
sudo curl -fsSLo /home/vagrant/.ssh/authorized_keys

# Change owner and group on SSH authorized keys file for vagrant user
sudo chown -R vagrant:vagrant /home/vagrant/.ssh
sudo chmod 700 /home/vagrant/.ssh
sudo chmod 600 /home/vagrant/.ssh/authorized_keys

# Configure Vagrant for no password sudo
echo "Configuring Vagrant for passwordless sudo"
sudo cat > /etc/sudoers.d/vagrant <<'EOF'
Defaults:vagrant !requiretty

# Change permissions on vagrant sudo file
sudo chmod 440 /etc/sudoers.d/vagrant

Project directory

The project directory should resemble the outline below.

 ┃ ┣ 📂http
 ┃ ┗ 📜ks.cfg
 ┣ 📂scripts
 ┃ ┣ 📜
 ┃ ┣ 📜
 ┃ ┗ 📜
 ┣ 📜.gitignore
 ┗ 📜centos-7.7-x86_64.json

Building the box

Once everything is in place run packer build <template>.

➜  packer build centos-7.7-x86_64.json
virtualbox-iso output will be in this color.

truncated output

==> virtualbox-iso: Running post-processor: vagrant
==> virtualbox-iso (vagrant): Creating Vagrant box for 'virtualbox' provider
    virtualbox-iso (vagrant): Copying from artifact: output-centos-7.7-x86_64-virtualbox-iso\packer-centos-7.7-x86_64-disk001.vmdk
    virtualbox-iso (vagrant): Copying from artifact: output-centos-7.7-x86_64-virtualbox-iso\packer-centos-7.7-x86_64.ovf
    virtualbox-iso (vagrant): Renaming the OVF to box.ovf...
    virtualbox-iso (vagrant): Compressing: Vagrantfile
    virtualbox-iso (vagrant): Compressing: box.ovf
    virtualbox-iso (vagrant): Compressing: metadata.json
    virtualbox-iso (vagrant): Compressing: packer-centos-7.7-x86_64-disk001.vmdk
Build 'virtualbox-iso' finished.

==> Builds finished. The artifacts of successful builds are:
--> virtualbox-iso: 'virtualbox' provider box:


The packer_cache directory contains the ISO files used for building the image. The *.box file is the output image. These are large files that do not need to be tracked via Git. It’s recommended to exclude these items in your .gitignore file.

# Cache objects

# For built boxes