Development workstation build: Packer/Vagrant/Virtualbox for an IIS/MSSQL environment

There are lot of other blog posts out there detailing this (see end of post for links), but I wanted to share my experience.

I started this project with the mandate as follows:
Find a way to make onboarding new developers simple and easy, plus we'd like a way to ensure that development environments are kept up to date.
Seems like a good first task to get familiar with the systems!  The old process involved a lot of guesswork & fiddling, and generally took a few days at minimum.  There's an obvious business case to be made - especially when they plan on hiring ~15 developers this year (minimum 30 man-days of productivity lost, not counting the waste associated w. inconsistent environments).

I started with a few misconceptions, but eventually we had conversations around what should we be doing, rather than what do you want me to do.  One of the senior developers mentioned how a VM would go a long way to bringing stability, and after a chat everyone agreed.  Further, a VM would be easy to distribute amongst the team (separate locations).  It was a dramatic departure from tradition, but there was a good case to be made.  Further, the work I'd already done could be mostly repurposed into this new venture.

The environment was a standard .NET stack - IIS & SQL Server and a few supporting pieces.  I found some great templates to get me started, plus some great articles that held my hand through the first run.  We had tried boxstarter for the original attempt, but met with some difficulties around domain security policies.

So here we are.  There are two pieces to this:  

  1. The new developer has a bare workstation that needs some pieces installed/configured & code repo cloned.
  2. We need a VM that runs our IIS/MSSQL in a Server OS and links to our local code repo (builds dump into the local repo), plus we have some way to redirect DNS calls to *.domain.local.

I'll outline the two parts and post more detail/actual scripts later...


I would note that the whole process is somewhat flawed because we are not utilizing the same tooling to deploy this into production, but it's better than nothing.

Part1: Populating the bare workstation

  • PowerShell script that creates directories, downloads config files/scripts from S3 (prompts dev for their S3 key/secret)
  • PowerShell script that installs applications (Visual Studio, supporting apps e.g. Resharper & 7zip), plus sets up DNSagent (for *.domain.local resolution to our VM)
  • PowerShell script that automatically sets up a local SSH key & uploads it to Bitbucket (and prompts the dev for their Bitbucket user/pass), then pulls down a clone of the repo
  • PowerShell script that does the 'initial build' of the codebase, calls the VM to restart services

Part2: Create the VM

  • Packer script that builds the VM from an ISO (incl. autounattend.xml), install some apps, runs some initial setup scripts
  • Packer script that takes the ISO-build output and runs some further configuration scripts (IIS, SQL, dev database import), then re-arms the trial period and exports the VM
  • Vagrant template that sets up VirtualBox shared folders & networking
  • (not done yet) Some sort of script the developer runs on their end to get VirtualBox configured and ready for 'vagrant up'

Helpful links


  • http://www.developer.com/net/virtualize-your-windows-development-environments-with-vagrant-packer-and-chocolatey-part-1.html
  • http://www.developer.com/net/virtualize-your-windows-development-environments-with-vagrant-packer-and-chocolatey-part-2.html
  • https://www.packer.io/
  • https://github.com/packer-community/packer-windows-plugins
  • https://github.com/dylanmei/packer-windows-templates
  • https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/scriptcenter/Reset-SQL-SA-Password-15fb488d
  • https://chocolatey.org/packages/MsSqlServer2014Express

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