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This post is about a fully documented but easy to miss feature of vagrant, which is the evaluation of the Vagrantfiles when a vagrant ‘box’ is started. As you can see, I wrote ‘Vagrantfiles’, which is plural. I (very naively) thought that the Vagrantfile in the directory where you want to start the ‘box’ determines the specifics of the vagrant ‘box’.

This begins with me trying to create a vagrant virtualbox VM using packer, where I specify a Vagrantfile during the packer build. I normally don’t spend a lot of thought on that, and just put in a very simple Vagrantfile, essentially just defining the box and setting memory and cpu amounts.

In this case, I decided to put in the Vagrantfile that I wanted to use for this special purpose ‘box’ as the Vagrantfile for the packer build, which has some ruby in it which adds a disk:

data1_disk = "data1.vdi"
if !File.exist?(data1_disk)
  vb.customize [ 'createhd', '--filename', data1_disk, '--size', 20480 ]
end
vb.customize [ 'storageattach', :id, '--storagectl', 'SATA Controller', '--port', 2, '--device', 0, '--type', 'hdd', '--medium', data1_disk ]

My (wrong) assumption was that this Vagrantfile was kept as a validation or template.

After the box was created, I tested running it, and therefore I copied the Vagrantfile including the above addition of checking for a file, if it doesn’t exist creating it, and then attaching the disk to the VM. However, this did fail with an error in the provisioning stage that a disk was already added, and therefore could not be added again.

I didn’t understand the error when I first encountered it, so I investigated the issue by removing the box (vagrant destroy), and commenting out the disk addition code (the above 5 lines) from the Vagrantfile, and then run the box addition again (vagrant up). Much to my surprise, it did add the disk for which I explicitly removed the code that provided that functionality.

This severely puzzled me.

After going over the vagrant documentation and searching for the error messages, I found out that the Vagrantfile embedded with the ‘box’ is actually used, and parsed, along with the user specified Vagrantfile, and the contents of both are merged before a vagrant ‘box’ is started. This Vagrantfile can be seen in the directory which holds the zipped boxes after downloading from app.vagrantup.com. On my Mac this is ‘~/.vagrant.d/boxes/{box name}/{version}/{provider}/Vagrantfile’.

This perfectly explained what I witnessed: because the disk creation steps are in the ’embedded’ Vagrantfile, it will simply be executed, even if it’s not in the normal Vagrantfile. And of course it threw an error when the disk creation steps were added to the normal Vagrantfile, because then these steps were executed twice, which would show at the vb.customize ‘storageattach’ execution, because that is not protected by a check, so the second occurrence would be tried and fails.

This was really my ignorance, and maybe a bit the documentation not being overly verbose about the existence of more than one Vagrantfile. It also gives great opportunities: lots of steps or logic that would normally be in the Vagrantfile could be put in the embedded Vagrantfile so that regular Vagrantfile can be kept really simple.

Conclusion is that if you create vagrant boxes yourself, when you want to perform provisioning steps against a vagrant box that simply need to be done, you might as well put them in the embedded Vagrantfile.

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There are many situations where you want to use a very specific configuration of the Oracle database, for example when a client has an issue and is still on EL5, or gets disk errors on a filesystem that is ext3, or is using ASM and gets weird IO patterns. Other examples are: you want to test the newest PSU to see if responds differently to an issue you are working on, or you want to test a combination of the Oracle database version 11.2.0.3 and grid infrastructure 12.1.0.2.

Of course you can just go and install a virtual machine, install all the different bits and pieces. Doing so manually kills vast amounts of time. By doing that, you will end up with a lot of virtual machines, for which at a certain point in time you have to make a decision to remove some of these.

Also a lot of people use a (virtual) machine with a couple of database versions installed, and test on these. In that case you sometimes have to ignore details like filesystemASM, or specific PSU level, it’s hard to keep that updated, but when a client case is in a lower version, in general you don’t go back in PSU level (although not impossible). One thing I ran into frequently is that it’s easy to get caught in side effects because of changes and settings made for earlier test cases (often underscore parameters).

This blogpost introduces my project ‘vagrant-builder’ which allows you to build a virtual machine with Oracle and optionally clusterware installed in any version you specify. The provisioning will download all software and patches (except for the 12.2.0.1 media, which needs to be provided in the ‘files’ directory) fully automatic for you. These are the options:

Linux version:
Oracle linux version 5, 6 or 7 (limited by boxes build by the box-cutter project).
The Actual versions currently existing are ol5.11, ol6.6/7/8, ol7.0/1/2/3. I am awaiting the boxcutter project to produce ol6.9 and ol7.4.

Filesystems:
Filesystem types for u01 and for oradata (when no ASM is used): xfs, ext4, ext3.

Kernel:
Oracle linux 5: latest redhat kernel, latest UEK2 kernel.
Oracle linux 6: any exadata kernel version (if made available on public-yum), latest redhat/UEK2/UEK3/UEK4 kernel.
Oracle linux 7: latest redhat kernel, latest UEK3 or UEK 4 kernel.

ASM:
No ASM install.
12.2.0.1 no patches, PSU: 170620, 170718, 170814
12.1.0.2 no patches, PSU: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 160119, 160419, 160719, 161019, 170117, 170418, 170718, 170814
11.2.0.4 no patches, PSU: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 160119, 160419, 160719, 161019, 170117, 170418, 170718, 170814

Database:
No database install.
12.2.0.1 no patches, PSU: 170620, 170718, 170814
12.1.0.2 no patches, PSU: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 160119, 160419, 160719, 161019, 170117, 170418, 170718, 170814
11.2.0.4 no patches, PSU: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 160119, 160419, 160719, 161019, 170117, 170418, 170718, 170814
11.2.0.3 PSU 15 only.
11.2.0.2 PSU 12 only.

Database:
By specifying a database name, a database will be created with that name. Of course the dictionary part of the patching will be applied to the database!

How does this work? This works using the combination of the following pieces of software:
– Virtualbox
– Vagrant
– Ansible
Plus the vagrant-builder repository: https://gitlab.com/FritsHoogland/vagrant-builder

If you don’t have Virtualbox, Vagrant or Ansible installed, follow the installation procedure in this blog article; it’s a bit older, so versions of the software components will be higher, you should simply install the latest versions. There is quite an important caveat (sadly): Ansible in principle does not run on windows. You can made it working on windows by using Cygwin, but officially it doesn’t support windows. If you can get the provisioning using Ansible to fully work on windows please share how you did that.

Once you got all the software components installed, another thing you might want to do first is to move your default virtual box directory to a place where you got enough space to hold virtual machines.

Then, clone the vagrant-builder repository into a directory (git clone https://gitlab.com/FritsHoogland/vagrant-builder.git myvm, for example), go into that directory and edit the Vagrantfile to set:
– hostonly_network_ip_address
– mos username & password
– database_name (if you want a database)
– linux (choose one by removing the hash sign in front of it)
– kernel
– asm_version (set a version if you want clusterware “siha” and ASM, if a database_version is set and asm_version is empty, you get a filesystem based database)
– database_version (set a version if you want the database software to be installed)
– vm_cpus (number of CPUs visible/made available to the VM)
– vm_memory (amount of memory made available ot the VM)
– vm_hostname (if you want multiple VMs, you need multiple vm_hostnames set!)
– perl_l4cache_workaround (if you got a newer CPU with a level 4 cache, set this to Y (yes), otherwise set this to N (no))

Save the changes, and startup the virtual machine: ‘vagrant up’. This will pull the operating system image, add a disk for the database, startup linux, setup and configure linux, download the database and grid software version (except for version 12.2.0.1, for which the installation media needs to be staged in the files dictory), install it, download the patches, install these and create a database, without manual intervention.

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