Deploy VMware Photon OS Instance

Photon OS, is an open-source minimalist Linux operating system from VMware that is optimized for cloud computing platforms, VMware vSphere deployments, and applications native to the cloud. Photon OS is a Linux container host optimized for vSphere and cloud-computing platforms such as Amazon Elastic Compute and Google Compute Engine. More info is available Introduction to Photon OS · VMware Photon OS 3.0 Documentation.

The ITS Private Cloud supports VMware Photon OS and offers two deployment methods: as OVF in our Public Content Library and as ISO file to proceed with manual installation. Deploying a VM via the content library is the quickest method to get a VM up and running in matter of minutes. However, customizing the operating system may get complex sometimes. To speed up the deployment and configuration, the minimal and full versions of Photon OS include the cloud-init service as a built-in component.

cloud-init is a set of Python scripts that initialize cloud instances of Linux machines to customize the instance without user interaction. The commands can set the root password, set a hostname, configure networking, write files to disk, upgrade packages, run custom scripts, and restart the system.

In the ITS Private Cloud, cloud-init has been used by the community for many years now, however it focused mostly on Ubuntu OS by implementing the Cloud-Init seed ISO data source, which creates a ISO image with both user-data and metadata files then read by cloud-init).

In this example we demonstrate the power of cloud-init’s VMware datasource using VM’s guestinfo interface with the vss-cli.

VMware guestinfo Interface

The data source is configured by setting guestinfo properties on a VM’s extra-config data listed in the following table:




A YAML or JSON document containing the cloud-init metadata.


The encoding type for guestinfo.metadata.


A YAML document containing the cloud-init user data.


The encoding type for guestinfo.userdata.


A YAML document containing the cloud-init vendor data.


The encoding type for guestinfo.userdata.

All guestinfo.*.encoding property values may be set to base64 or gzip+base64.

User data userdata.yaml

Create a userdata.yaml with all the users, packages and custom settings that you plan to use (examples are available Cloud config examples. In the following example, we instruct to create a new user vss-user, change root’s password, set timezone, hostname, fqdn, install a few packages, update existing packages and set a new MOTD providing the instance name and moref.

hostname: its-cloud-vm1
timezone: America/Toronto

  list: |
  expire: False

- name: root
  lock_passwd: true
- name: vss-user
  passwd: $6....
  groups: sudo, wheel
  lock_passwd: true
    - ssh-rsa AAAA....

  - git
  - sudo
  - bindutils

- path: /etc/motdgen.d/
  permissions: '0755'
  content: |

    INSTANCE_ID=`vmware-rpctool "info-get"`
    INSTANCE_NAME=`vmware-rpctool "info-get"`
    printf "\n"
    printf "  University of Toronto ITS Private Cloud Instance\n"
    printf "\n"
    printf "  Name:     $INSTANCE_NAME\n"
    printf "  ID:       $INSTANCE_ID\n"
    printf "\n"

package_update: true
package_upgrade: true
package_reboot_if_required: true
  delay: now
  mode: reboot
  message: Rebooting the OS
  condition: if [ -e /var/run/reboot-required ]; then exit 0; else exit 1; fi

# Optional: Cleanup guestinfo.userdata* and guestinfo.vendordata*
# uncomment the following lines to enable.
- userdata
- vendordata

final_message: "The system is finally up, after $UPTIME seconds"

passwd values can be generated either by grabbing it from /etc/passwd of an existing system or via vss-cli misc hash-string command.

Meta data metadata.yaml

Create a metadata.yaml file which includes the networking configuration and instance-id and localhost-name. More examples can be found Networking Config Version 2:

instance-id: its-cloud-vm1
local-hostname: its-cloud-vm1
  version: 2
        name: ens*
      dhcp4: yes

Instance Deployment

For this deployment we will use the from-clib method including the --extra-config option multiple times with different key=value items. This option allows to set guestinfo.* items for the OS to pick up.

Note that --folder and --network option values may vary. Virtual machines using the EIS-VSS-CGN network will only be accessible via UofT IP addresses on-campus or via the institutional VPN service UTORvpn.

vss-cli --wait compute vm mk from-clib \
--memory 1 --cpu 1 \
--source vmware-photon-ova_uefi-4.0  \
--disk 10 \
--description 'Photon server' \
--client EIS --os photon --usage Prod \
--folder group-v4122 --net EIS-VSS-CGN \
--extra-config guestinfo.metadata.encoding=gzip+base64 \
--extra-config guestinfo.userdata.encoding=gzip+base64 \
--extra-config guestinfo.userdata=$(vss-cli misc gz-b64e userdata.yaml) \
--extra-config guestinfo.metadata=$(vss-cli misc gz-b64e metadata.yaml) \
--power-on vss-photon

When the previous command completes, you should get the allocated IP address in the “warnings” section:

id                  : 6996
status              : IN_PROGRESS
task_id             : bcf49812-64f0-4cdb-a0f2-5245312572ac
message             : Request has been accepted for processing
⏳ Waiting for request 6996 to complete...
🎉 Request 6996 completed successfully:
warnings            : Fault Domain: FD4 (domain-c66),
                      Created in: VSS > Sandbox > jm (group-v4122),
                      Network adapter 1 (vmxnet3): 00:50:56:92:d9:36: VL-0253-EIS-VSS-CGN,
                      Successfully powered on.,
                      Successfully allocated 00:50:56:92:d9:36 ->
errors              :

If all went well, you should be able to login via the allocated IP address included in the email and ssh access should available:

ssh vss-user@
The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
ED25519 key fingerprint is SHA256:9QCX5IYOc....FFnemF99KaXRZVoIY.
This key is not known by any other names
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no/[fingerprint])? yes
Warning: Permanently added '' (ED25519) to the list of known hosts.
  University of Toronto ITS Private Cloud Instance

  Name:     2210P-vss-photon
  ID:       vm-589164

 21:03:06 up 9 min,  0 users,  load average: 0.00, 0.01, 0.00
tdnf update info not available yet!

There you go! We have a fully functional pre-configured virtual machine with UEFI and secure boot ready for action.

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