The ability to preserve a Virtual Machine's "virtual hardware personality" during an export has been around since the release of vSphere and vCloud Director 5.1 also known as a Lossless OVF Export. However, when it comes time to import that Virtual Machine back into your environment, will it be a "lossless" import? For vSphere, the answer is yes as long as you click on the "Accept extra configuration options" during the import of your OVF/OVA in the vSphere Web Client.

whitelist-vmx-settings-vcloud-director
For vCloud Director however, the answer is sadly no. If you try to import an OVF/OVA that contains additional VM advanced settings, vCloud Director will automatically strip away these parameters before importing the Virtual Machine. As annoying as this is for end users, there is a very good reason why this happens.

In a public cloud you do not know who your users are and whether they have malicious intentions. Since the "Extra Configuration" of a Virtual Machine can not be validated, the safest way to guard against this type of a security risk is by sanitizing the content prior to upload.

Although I have known about this default behavior in vCloud Director for some time now, it was only in a recent meeting with some of our internal folks managing our OneCloud environment did I realize how annoying this behavior was for "private" clouds as well. I was looking to import an existing OVF that contains several VM Advanced settings, but realized this would not be supported due to the sanitization of the OVF.

The other issue is that vApps within OneCloud are also exported/re-imported into other vCloud Director environments. Even if our Cloud Administrator were to make a one time exception and manually add these these VM Advanced Settings, they would automatically be stripped away the next time they were re-imported into another environment. After our meeting, I thought there had to be a better way! (at least I hope)

Disclaimer: This may or may not be officially supported by VMware, please use at your own risk.

In doing a quick bit of research, it turns out this is actually a pretty elegant solution that allows you to create a "Whitelist" of trusted VM advanced settings that would be accepted as part of the import process in vCloud Director. To configure this "Whitelist", you will need to add a new category called ExtraConfigWhitelist into the vCloud Director Database for each and every VM advanced setting that you wish to allow.

To demonstrate this functionality, I have the latest vCloud Director appliance (I believe this should also work on 5.1 as well) running and I would like to add the following VM advanced settings to the whitelist:

  • scsi0:0.virtualSSD
  • scsi0:1.virtualSSD
  • scsi0:2.virtualSSD
  • disk.enableUUID

Before starting, you will need to SSH to our vCloud Director instance and stop the VCD service by running the following command:

/etc/init.d/vmware-vcloud stop

Next, you will need to switch over to the "oracle" user by running the following command:

su - oracle

Login to the VCD Database. For the VCD appliance I am using sqplus and the default username/password:

sqlplus vcloud/VCloud

Once you have logged in, you will need to insert the following rows into the "config" table of VCD Database:

INSERT INTO config (config_id, cat, name, value, sortorder) VALUES (seq_config.NextVal, 'ExtraConfigWhitelist', 'scsi0:0.virtualSSD', 'true', 0);
INSERT INTO config (config_id, cat, name, value, sortorder) VALUES (seq_config.NextVal, 'ExtraConfigWhitelist', 'scsi0:1.virtualSSD', 'true', 0);
INSERT INTO config (config_id, cat, name, value, sortorder) VALUES (seq_config.NextVal, 'ExtraConfigWhitelist', 'scsi0:2.virtualSSD', 'true', 0);
INSERT INTO config (config_id, cat, name, value, sortorder) VALUES (seq_config.NextVal, 'ExtraConfigWhitelist', 'disk.enableUUID', 'true', 0);

Note: The syntax used here is for an Oracle database. You may need to tweak it if you are using MS SQL Server.

Finally, for the changes to go live you just need to start up your VCD instance:

/etc/init.d/vmware-vcloud start

Once the VCD service has returned, you can now import any OVF/OVA that contains a list of approved VM advanced settings and VCD will ensure these settings are preserved as part of the import. I hope this solution is something our OneCloud team will consider as it solves my immediate problem but I also think this can greatly benefit the overall use base, especially those building out content.

Note: Even though this "whitelist" option is available, I would still recommend you carefully determine which VM advanced setting is required for your environment and minimize the size of the list as much as possible from an operational perspective, especially when it comes to new installation or upgrades.

One thought on “Configuring a "Whitelist" for VM advanced settings in vCloud Director

  1. WOW, thanks for the ExtraConfigWhiteList parameter and notes on VCD! We were scratching our heads wondering why some things kept getting stripped out of a .vmx file when the VM got powered on. However, “bios440.filename” appears to have an issue. We added the appropriate info to the VCD SQL database but every time the VM is powered on it says it can’t find the .rom file even though the ROM is in the .vmx directory. Is there something wrong with our ExtraConfigWhiteList values?

    used: (‘ExtraConfigWhitelist’, ‘bios440.filename’, ‘SE3840.ROM’, 0)

Thanks for the comment!