At Dockercon this week, the Cloud-Native Apps team at VMware introduced two new Tech Previews: VMware AppCatalyst and Project Bonneville. In addition, I also found out today that Fabio Rapposelli who works over in the CNA team has also released a Vagrant Plugin for VMware Catalyst as well. Having spent a couple of days playing with AppCatalyst before it was released, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show how to quickly get started with AppCatalyst but also to try out the new Vagrant Plugin that had just been released.

Before jumping in, What exactly is VMware AppCatalyst? It is a slimmed down desktop Hypervisor based on VMware Fusion that has been optimized for Developers who want to be able to quickly spin up Virtual Machines to run Docker Containers. Included with AppCatalyst is also VMware Photon, an open-source lightweight Linux container host that is used to quickly instantiate new VMs that are ready for running and building Docker Containers. Instead of a traditional GUI like VMware Fusion, AppCatalyst's is consumed completely via a REST API or CLI, which is also ideal for integrating with other 3rd Party Automation tools like Vagrant. Best of all, both VMware AppCatalyst & AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin is completely Free!


  • Mac OS X 10.9.4 or 10.10
  • VMware Fusion must not be running

Quick INFO:

  • The AppCatalyst configuration file is located in ~/.appcatalyst.conf (if you wish to change system defaults)
  • The CLI to AppCatalyst is located at /opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst
  • The daemon for the AppCatalyst REST API is located at /opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst-daemon
  • SSH keys to the Photon VM is located in /opt/vmware/appcatalyst/etc/appcatalyst_insecure_ssh_key
  • Additional AppCatalyst Documentation can be found here

Exploring Appcatalyst CLI:

Step 1 - Download and install VMware AppCatalyst from here

Step 2 - Once AppCatalyst has been installed, you can explore the CLI and view the list of operations by running the following command:


Step 3 - To create our first VM using AppCatalyst, run the following command:

/opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst vm create vGhetto1

Note: You will see that all VMs created by AppCatalyst will be stored in /Users/[USER]/Documents/AppCatalyst and you can change this by editing DEFAULT_VM_PATH in AppCatalyst configuration file

Step 4 - To power on our VM, run the following command:

/opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst vmpower on vGhetto1

Note: If you run into problems powering on your VM, there is a good chance that you may still have a VM that is running in VMware Fusion (also check docker-machine in case you are using that to power off any VMs provisioned using that tool)

Step 5 - Once the VM is powered on, we will probably want to retrieve the IP Address which could take a few seconds to be displayed by running the following command:

/opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst guest getip vGhetto1

Step 6 - Once we have the IP Address of our VM, we can then SSH to it using the SSH keys included with AppCatalyst by running the following command:

ssh -i /opt/vmware/appcatalyst/etc/appcatalyst_insecure_ssh_key [email protected]

At this point, you have successfully deployed a VM based on VMware Photon image using the AppCatalyst's CLI. You can now login and start running and building Docker Containers as Docker is already pre-installed on Photon. Next we will take look at using the AppCatalyst API.

Exploring Appcatalyst API:

UPDATE (01/22/16) - For the complete cheatsheet of using AppCatalyst API using cURL, check out this article here for more examples.

Step 1 - To use the AppCatalyst REST API, you will need to run the AppCatalyst Daemon by running the following command:


Note: You can also run the AppCatalyst daemon in the background by adding '&' to the command

Step 2 - You can easily view the AppCatalyst API by opening a browser to http://localhost:8080 (assuming you did not change the port) which is built using Swagger. You can explore and even test the API using this interface if you have not worked with a Swagger interface before.

Step 3 - Lets quickly test the GET /vms operation which will list the VMs that are being managed by AppCatalyst. We will be using cURL by running the following command:

curl http://localhost:8080/api/vms

As long as the AppCatalyst daemon is running, you will be able to interact with the REST API using a variety of methods including the examples I have shown above.

Note: A known issue is that VMs powered on using the AppCatalyst API can not be managed by the CLI until they have been powered down using the API. Hopefully this issue will be resolved in a future update.

Exploring Appcatalyst Vagrant Plugin:

Step 1 - Ensure you have Vagrant already installed on your system, if not you can download it here.

Step 2 - Install the Vagrant Plugin by running the following command:

vagrant plugin install vagrant-vmware-appcatalyst

Step 3 -  You can either run "vagrant init" or manually create a file name Vagrant file that contains the following:

The above Vagrant file will create two VMs called gantry-test-{1,2} using the VMware Photon Box hosted on Atlas by HashiCorp.

Step 4 (Optional) - If you decide to use the example above with VMware Photon Box, you will need to install an additional Vagrant Plugin for managing Photon Guest by running the following command:

vagrant plugin install vagrant-guests-photon

Step 5 - Ensure that the AppCatalyst daemon is running before proceeding with the next step as the Vagrant Plugin uses the AppCatalyst REST API.

Step 6 - To start the deployment, run the following command:

vagrant up --provider=vmware_appcatalyst

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.11.20 PM
Step 7 - To login to one of the VMs that have been created by Vagrant, simply run the following command and specify the name of the VM to SSH to:

vagrant ssh gantry-test-1

Step 8 - Finally, we can also confirm that the VMs created by the AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin is also visible using just the AppCatalyst REST API and we can perform another "GET" operation to verify the two VMs that we had just created.

Hopefully this quick primer has been useful in getting you introduced and started with VMware AppCatalyst as well as the new AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin. If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to leave a comment in the VMware AppCatalyst Forum and for feedback/questions on AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin, you can file issues here.

5 thoughts on “Quickly getting started with VMware AppCatalyst & AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin

    • Dan,

      Thanks for the comment. Yea, it was merely an example and hopefully folks would change the home directory but I’ve gone ahead and removed the two lines. I did run into hostname issue but wasn’t sure if it was my setup, good to know it’s an issue

  1. Thanx for the nice introduction to vagrant and vmware appcatalist.

    small remark at step 6:
    vagrant up –provide=vmware_appcatalyst
    should read:
    vagrant up –provider=vmware_appcatalyst

Thanks for the comment!

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