Build a headless virtualisation server
Use VirtualBox on a headless server to create and manage remote virtual machines that can be accessed from anywhere
You can reuse an older VM from another machine by importing it into VirtualBox on your server. You’ll need to find the relevant machine in the Machines folder in the VirtualBox directory and copy it over to the new directory. Once that’s done, import it like this:
$ VBoxManage registervm Machines/ examplevm/examplevm.xml
Now we can start the virtual machine from the headless server using the very useful VBoxHeadless tool:
$ VBoxHeadless --startvm “Fedora 17”
This will also start a VRDP service so that you can remotely access the virtual machine from a networked computer.
You’ll notice that the output from the startvm command will comment on what port it’s listening on, in our case 3389. Some RDP clients might automatically see it, but otherwise if you put in the IP address followed by the port into the client, it should pick it up.
Step 14 Headless options
There are some useful VBoxHeadless commands you can use to control the running VM:
$ VBoxManage controlvm “Fedora 17” poweroff $ VBoxManage controlvm “Fedora 17” pause $ VBoxManage controlvm “Fedora 17” reset
The commands are fairly straightforward: they power off, pause and reset the VM.
While managing a headless server from the command line may be good enough for some, the existence of a graphical, web-based management system is useful for everyone. PHPVirtualBox is exactly that. We need to do some prep before we start, though. Make sure you’re root on your server and add a new user:
$ useradd -m vbox -G vboxusers
Create a password for the new user:
$ passwd vbox
Finally, edit the file at /etc/default/virtualbox and enter the following:
This makes sure that the web interface runs as user vbox.
For PHPVirtualBox, we need a web server that supports PHP. If you don’t already have one set up, you should install Apache 2 and PHP 5 on your system. If you’re using different versions of Apache and PHP, the tutorial will still work, though.
Now we can download PHPVirtualBox. Move to /var/www and download the latest version of the file:
$ wget http://phpvirtualbox. googlecode.com/files/ phpvirtualbox-4.1-10.zip
Check the website for the latest version
Once downloaded, unzip the software and move it:
$ unzip phpvirtualbox-4.1-10.zip $ mv phpvirtualbox-4.1-10 phpvirtualbox
Move to this new directory and then create the config.php file from the example:
$ cp config.php-example config.php
Open up config.php in a text editor and add the details you need for the web server:
/* Username / Password for system user that runs VirtualBox */ var $username = ‘vbox’; var $password = ‘password’;
Afterwards, restart the server and you should be ready to go.
To get to your newly installted interface, enter your server’s IP address followed by /phpvirtualbox: for example, 192.168.1.254/phpvirtualbox. From here you’ll need to log in using the default user admin, with the password ‘admin’ as well. Once logged in, you can change this password.
Much like the standard VirtualBox UI, you can add and modify VMs with a series of menus that guide you through creating a hard drive and adding an installation medium. It will also give the same working prompts to let you know how long it will take when performing tasks.
You have some limited use of the actual VMs thanks to the console view, although it’s not as good as using the RDP method from earlier in the tutorial. Simply launch the VM from the web browser and click Console. You can also launch from the web browser and connect via VRDP.
Pretty much anything you can do in the standard graphical interface is available in the web interface – including attaching and detaching drives, and importing virtual machines from other places. Of course, you don’t have to abandon the command line if there are specific operations you want to do from there.
You now have a fully operational, and fully featured, headless virtualisation server. There’s plenty more you can do with this setup, which you will be able to discover over time, but for now you should notice no difference from using it locally.