Over the holiday break, I spent some time cleaning up some of the development virtual machines in our ghettoDatacenter. I came across the VMware Auto Deploy appliance that I deployed awhile back ago. I did not think I had a use for it since we already have an automated deployment system using PXE and kickstart. Auto Deploy was launched relatively recently from the VMware Flings lab. It was originally slated for release as part of vSphere 4.1 but during the transition from the BETA to RC, it was dropped and never made it into the GA release of vSphere 4.1

I decided to give the documentation one last read before deleting and to my surprise, I stumbled across an interesting gem, vibddi. vibddi (pronounced vib d-d-i) stands for VIB (vSphere Instalaltion Bundle) Disk Dump Image, which is actually a Perl utility that was created to help customize ESXi images more easily.

If you ever had a need to customize an ESXi image and inject custom drivers or configurations, you know it can be long and complex process. There are many tutorials on the internet including a recent post by Eric Sloof on injecting drivers into an ESXi installer. vibddi is meant to expedite the process and make it much simpler to inject custom drivers into an ESXi image.

****Disclaimer Since this tool is not very well documented and it is most likely not officially supported by VMware, please use test and validate the images generated prior to using in an production environment Disclaimer****

To run vibddi, you need to use sudo. Here are the available options:

[vi-admin@autodeploy ~]$ sudo vibddi -h
Password:

vibddi: Query and update vibs on a VMvisor dd image or device

Usage:
vibddi -h --- Print this

vibddi -i -q --- Query vibs installed on the image

vibddi -i -c --- Check bootbank filesystems on the image

vibddi -i -v [ -g ] [ -n ] --- Update the image with a single vib

vibddi -i -m -b [ -p ] [ -g ] [ -n ] --- Update the image with an online bulletin

vibddi -i -o [ -g ] [ -n ] --- Update the image with an offline bundle

vibddi -i -e [ -a ] --- Export boot modules from the image

vibddi -i -t --- Add/Remove a VMkernel option

vibddi -i -x --- Transform image to ThinESX format

vibddi -i -l --- Install a license file (vmware.lic) on the image

vibddi -d -q --- Query vibs installed on the device

vibddi -d -c --- Check bootbank filesystems on the device

vibddi -d -v [ -n ] --- Update the device with a single vib

vibddi -d -m -b [ -p ] [ -n ] --- Update the device with an online bulletin

vibddi -d -o [ -n ] --- Update the device with an offline bundle

vibddi -d -e [ -a ] --- Export boot modules from the device

vibddi -d -t --- Add/Remove a VMkernel option

vibddi -d -x --- Transform image to ThinESX format

vibddi -f -k --- Add a customized kickstart file to the ThinESX/Recovery CD ISO

Where:
VMvisor-dd - The VMvisor dd image that is going to be customized

VMvisor-dev - The VMvisor device that is going to be updated

vib-path - The local file path to the vib

metadata-URL - The URL to the metadata.zip file (Ex. http://www.oem.com/depot/metadata.zip)

bulletin-ID - The bulletin ID to install

bundle-path - The local file path to the offline bundle

proxy (OPTIONAL) - Proxy used to download vib, for update operation only

-g (OPTIONAL) - Generate customized ThinESX/Recovery CD ISOs

-n (OPTIONAL) - Bypass signature check, for update operation only

export-path - Directory to export boot modules

alternate-conf (OPTIONAL) - Alternate export configuration file

kernel-opt - VMkernel option

license-path - vmware.lic file (Format: 00000-00000-00000-00000-00000)

iso-path - The local file path to the ThinESX/Recovery CD ISO

kickstart-path - The local file path to the kickstart file

Here are a few examples of using the vibddi tool:
Mount ESXi 4.1 ISO to extract the DD image:

[vi-admin@autodeploy scratch]$ sudo mount -o loop VMware-VMvisor-Installer-4.1.0-260247.x86_64.iso /mnt/iso/

Unzip the DD image and extract to current directory:

[vi-admin@autodeploy scratch]$ sudo bunzip2 -c /mnt/iso/imagedd.bz2 > imagedd

You now should have the DD image called imagedd located in your current working directory.You can name the file anything you want, but I'm using the suggested name as noted in the Auto Deploy documentation.

To list vibs installed on the image, you'll use the following command:

sudo vibddi -i [imagedd] -q

Here is an example of the vibs installed with default installation of ESXi 4.1:

To inject the image with an offline bundle, you'll use the following command:

sudo vibddi -i [imagedd] -o [offline_bundle] -n

Note: The -n flag should be used when performing updates as it bypasses the signature checks, else you will get an error.

Here is an example of injecting the Cisco Nexus 1000 Virtual Ethernet Module offline bundle as part of the default ESXi 4.1 installation:

We can confirm the Cisco VEM is part of the default image by running the query command again:

To inject the image with a single VIB, you'll use the following command:

sudo vibddi -i [imagedd] -v [vib] -n

Here is an example injecting the Cisco Nexus 1000 Virtual Ethernet Module VIB as part of the default ESXi 4.1 installation:

To inject VMkernel boot parameters, you'll use the following command:

sudo vibddi -i [imagedd] -t [vmkernel_option]

Note: Here is a list of a few VMkernel options documented by Dave Mishchenko. The -t argument only accepts one VMkernel option at a time. If you want to updated more than one option, you will need to run the command for each VMkernel option.

With a default installation of ESXi 4.1, there are no VMkernel options defined. To see whether or not these have been defined, you will need to login to Tech Support Mode and view boot.cfg:

~ # cat bootbank/boot.cfg
kernel=b.z
kernelopt=
modules=k.z --- s.z --- c.z --- oem.tgz --- license.tgz --- m.z --- state.tgz --- vpxa.vgz --- aam.vgz
build=4.1.0-260247
updated=1
bootstate=0

Here is an example of injecting the following two VMkernel options: noACPI and nopowerManagement:

To inject a license file, you'll use the following command:

sudo vibddi -i [imagedd] -l [license_file]

Note: The license file must contain a single entry using the following format - 00000-00000-00000-00000-00000

Here is an example of injecting license file:

To inject a custom kickstart configuration, you'll use the following command:

sudo vibddi -f [esxi-iso-path] -k [kickstart_file]

Here is an example of injecting a custom kickstart file:

Note: This actually injects a custom ks.cfg into the ESXi .iso which can then be used to deploy an ESXi host including the custom configurations found in the kickstart file. A brand new .iso will be created in the current working directory which includes the timestamp of kickstart injection as part of its filename.

We now can loop mount the new .iso and verify the custom kickstart has been injected:

Note: I'm using the sample ks.cfg found on Kendrick Colemans's site.

You can also extract certain items from the DD image, you'll use the following command:

sudo vibddi -i [imagedd] -e [export-path]

Here is an example of extracting the entire DD image to a temporarily directory:

To check the bootbank filesystem, you'll use the following command:

sudo vibddi -i [imagedd] -c

Here is an example of verifying bootbank filesystem:

Once the imagedd has been updated with all the drivers, you will need to compress the image back to .bz2 using bzip2. From here, you will have two options: A) copy the modified imagedd.bz2 over to your PXE/TFTP server used for automated kickstart installation B) Create a new ESXi .iso, there are a bunch of tutorials online such as here and here.

If you need to troubleshoot or would like to view the process of vibddi, you can take a look at the logs stored in /var/log/vibddi.log. You can also see the injection process which includes both informational and debugging logs in /var/log/esxupdate.log.

As you can see, this tool is extremely useful for injecting and customizing ESXi images. Hopefully one day VMware will officially release this tool and make it available on both UNIX/Linux and Windows platform so that everyone can benefit. For now, if you want to use vibddi, you will need to download and use Auto Deploy appliance. Looks like I'll be keeping this appliance around 😉

11 thoughts on “How to inject custom drivers into an ESXi 4.1 image using vibddi?

  1. The tutorials for repackaging reference ESX35 or 40… The file structure is different for 4.1. I am completely able to inject what I need using auto deploy, but am unable to re-create an ISO for use on my servers. Any insight?

  2. Thank you for this great tutorial!
    @Logan: I just used windows ISO-TOOLS like ultraiso to replace the files imagedd.bz2 & imagedd.md5 and save it to a new iso file.

  3. @Logan Spencer,

    I checked both tutorials and I think it is sufficient to do the following (iso is mounted on /mnt/iso) . I edited the imagedd file in /mnt/edit

    cd /mnt/edit
    #bzip the file again
    bzip2 -cv imagedd > imagedd.bz2
    mkdir /mnt/newiso
    #copy the dvd
    cp -R /mnt/iso/ /mnt/newiso/
    cd /mnt/newiso/iso/
    #copy the bunzip
    cp /mnt/edit/imagedd.bz2 /mnt/newiso/iso/
    #created the md5 file. I saw that it has another name in the original file so I copied the name from the original md5 file
    echo “$(echo $(md5sum imagedd.bz2)| cut -f1 -d’ ‘) VMware-VMvisor-big-4.1.0-348481-x86_64.dd.bz2” > imagedd.md5
    cd /mnt/newiso/iso/
    mkisofs -o ../VMware-VMvisor-ICustom-4.1.0.update1-348481.x86_64.iso -b isolinux.bin -c boot.catalog -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 -boot-info-table ./

    You should then have an iso in /mnt/newiso . I made this on the auto deploy appliance so you don’t need to download another vm to do this

Thanks for the comment!