Howto build VyOS 1.2 ISO image and VMWare .OVF

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I have been interested in getting VyOS to run as a Google Cloud Compete instance for quite sometime. Unfortunately, the current version of VyOS 1.1.x is based upon Debian 6 which just does not work (unless you jump through many more hoops then I am willing to jump through), so I became curious to see if this would be possible with VyOS 1.2. As I began my investigation into what it would take to compile VyOS 1.2 I noticed that all the documentation was present, but it was not that easy to use (IMHO) and I discovered several "gotchas". The purpose of this HowTo is provide a complete set of instructions on how to compile VyOS 1.2 and point out some of the issues I encounter so that others can do what I did easier and faster.

This HowTo assumes you are familiar with installing Linux and are comfortable working in the Linux shell/command line.


--Max Abramowitz.

Building VyOS 1.2

Create Build Machine

The first step is to download and build a Debian 8 build machine. You can download Debian 8 "Jesse" from:

Lookout.png Most of the build process can be done from the Linux shell. However, troubleshooting the qemu build process requires vncviewer which requires a graphical desktop environment. The screenshot below show the settings using in my testing.
VyOS build machine initial software configuration

Preliminary Build Machine Configuration

Before installing software you will want to perform some basic configuration of your build machine. Install sudo, add your user account to the sudo group, install open-vm-tools (if your build machine is a VMware virtual machine and install your preferred text editor). Below are the configuration commands I used (these commands were run as root user):

apt-get install sudo
adduser <username> sudo
apt-get install open-vm-tools
apt-get install emacs
Lookout.png - For some reason the left mouse button does not work with Debian under VMware (at least out of the box). There are a couple of articles on the Internet about this. I was able to login and get a terminal window open using a combination of the keyboard and the right mouse button. Once open-vm-tools was installed the left mouse started working.

Installing sudo and adding your user account to the sudo group is not strictly necessary and it does mean that you can do the build process from a non-root / non-priviledged account, which is a security best practice

Installing Required Software Components

Install the basic softare needed:

sudo apt-get install git autoconf automake dpkg-dev syslinux genisoimage qemu jq libz-dev zip python3 live-build pbuilder devscripts python3-pystache

There are a few components you will have to download from the Internet in order to build VyOS 1.2:

  • HashiCorp Packer - tool to build automated machine images
  • VMWare open-vmdk
  • VMWare ovftool


Download Packer ( Upload to server. Unzip. Copy to a bin directory.

sudo cp packer /usr/local/bin/

VMWare open-vmdk

git clone
cd open-vmdk/
sudo make install

VMWare ovftool

You will need a VMWare account to download VMWare ovftool. Goto Click Software Download. Download the VMware OVF tool for Linux 64-bit. Upload the bundle to your build machine.

chmod 755 VMware-ovftool-4.2.0-4586971-lin.x86_64.bundle
sudo ./VMware-ovftool-4.2.0-4586971-lin.x86_64.bundle
Follow the prompts to complete the installation

Building .ISO Image & VMware .OVF Files

At this point all the software for building an ISO image should be installed on your build system and you can proceed with downloading the source code and building an ISO image

 git clone
 cd vyos-build
 sudo make iso

Go get a cup of coffee. Once the build process is complete the .iso file will be in the build folder

Building qemu image

At this point you have a working .iso image and we can proceed with building the qemu image. Before we build the qemu image you will need to create a private SSL key.

Create privatekey.pem
mkdir key
openssl genrsa -des3 -out key/privatekey.pem 2048
Install VNC Viewer

As mentioned previously, you will need a VNC viewer client to monitor the qemu build process. I used the synaptic package manage to install Tight VNC Viwer.


Part of the process of building a qemu image is to boot VyOS, install it in a qemu virtual machine and configure the vm to use DHCP, remove the hardware id for the interface and enable SSH. This is done with packer and a set of boot commands. The boot commands are set/configured in the packer.json file. The packer.json file is located in the scripts directory. The boot commands in the packer.json file relies on somewhat arbitrary timings. My initial experience was that the default timings in the packer.json file did not work with my build machine (the timings were not long enough and the qemu build process failed). I needed to modify the packer.json file and adjust the timings of the boot commands to work with my build environment.

Look at the packer.json file. There is a section labelled "boot_command": under that section are the key commands sent to the qemu vm during the install/configuration process. The documentation for the boot commands can be found at (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

The most relevant boot command for your purposes is the <wait> command:

wait 1 second.
wait 5 seconds.
wait 10 seconds.
wait some arbitrary time. Examples:
<wait15s> - wait 15 seconds.
<wait10m> - wait 10 minutes.
<wait1m30s> - wait 1 minute 30 seconds.

Note: - the default delay between keypresses is 100ms.

Actually building qemu image

Open vnc viewer on your build machine.

sudo make qemu

You will see:

qemu-image: Starting VM, booting from CD-ROM
qemu-image: The VM will be run headless, without a GUI. If you want to
qemu-image: view the screen of the VM, connect via VNC without a password to
qemu-image: vnc://

Type in your VNC viewer client (replace xx with whatever shows up on your build. It changes each time.) This will allow you to monitor the Packer boot commands and determine if you need to make any modifications. If your VNC viewer is configured to use a password or encryption, then turn it OFF.

The qemu build process will take a while (about 10 minutes). Good time to clean up the kitchen, respond to an email, make a cup of coffee, etc.

Build VMWare image


sudo make vmware

The VMware build is fairly quick. When complete the VMware files are located in packer_build/vmware.