You Cannot Use open-vm-tools to Customize VMs

Homer Simpson: Kids: there’s three ways to do things; the right way, the wrong way and the Max Power way!
Bart: Isn’t that the wrong way?
Homer Simpson: Yeah, but faster!

My biggest pet peeve with open source is that projects don’t ever solve whole problems. They get 60% of the way to solving a whole problem and then run off to chase another squirrel.

The most recent example of this is VMware’s recommendation to use the open-vm-tools packages that ship with modern distributions of Linux. Dumbest recommendation ever. Why? Because the project got to 60% of the solution and stopped, effectively solving no problems for anybody. From what appears to be a VMware employee on the open-vm-tools mailing list archives:

> On Ubuntu it is very easy to install the open-vm-tools, so I wonder
> how these differ from the VMware provided? Do they have the same
> features?

There are a few features missing in open-vm-tools, e.g. DeployPkg (for guest customization), Unity etc. Otherwise, the two are pretty much the same.

Um, no, they’re decidedly not the same. With open-vm-tools, ongoing maintenance of the Tools is much easier, but you won’t get a working VM when you clone a template, deploy with vRA/vCAC/vCD, etc. Turns out that people like having working VMs, with the right IPs and whatnot. 🙂

With legacy VMware Tools, updating is mostly broken, but we’ve been working around that for a decade so it’s figured out. And you get working VMs from a deployment! Snazzy.

DeployPkg is critical in private cloud environments, and to pretty much everything VMware is promoting lately. Could someone add it and make life easier for those of us out here actually using this stuff? Please? And maybe stop recommending this unfinished software until then?

11 thoughts on “You Cannot Use open-vm-tools to Customize VMs”

    • Interesting, though now I’d have cross-repo, cross-project pollution. They should just add it to open-vm-tools straight up. Also, the OSP Tools (the packaged ones) can’t be updated through normal RPM means. I don’t know who built them but they’re also getting it 60% right.

  1. Hi Bob,
    to be honest, deployPkg is available via repos:

    touch /etc/yum.repos.d/vmware-tools.repo
    { echo “[vmware-tools]” ; echo “name = VMware Tools”; echo “baseurl =“; echo “enabled = 1”; echo “gpgcheck = 1”; } >>/etc/yum.repos.d/vmware-tools.repo
    yum install -y open-vm-tools-deploypkg

    Problem is, I tested a template with it (and also net-tools since I read around is needed too for customization) but customization itself fails anyway. Seems you also need to edit /etc/redhat-release in CentOS and make it appear as a RedHat machine, but customization fails again…

    Add no additional time to waiste to test again, but CentOS 7 + open-vm-tools seems indeed impossible to convert to template as of today.

    • Interesting, but the OSP tools couldn’t be updated like normal RPMs. I don’t know who built them but they’re new to the whole RPM/yum thing. I might just stick with the legacy Tools for now.

  2. Thanks for documenting this issue and ways to work around some problems. We are aware of these issues and working on addressing most of these in the upcoming release of open-vm-tools.

    For guest customization with open-vm-tools, our recommendation is to refer our solution in the KB article until next release of open-vm-tools. However, we would like to understand what exact problems have you faced with the solution provided in the KB article. Please share your detailed feedback about the KB article with us, so that we can add/correct the content as appropriate.

    In order to receive an official response on an issue or to provide us direct feedback on any of these components, please use:
    – open-vm-tools mailing lists ( for open-vm-tools,
    – VMware Community ( for OSPs, and
    – leave feedback on the KB page itself for KB related issues


    • I’m glad you folks are updating the open source tools to address these issues. The OSP module isn’t a great solution, mostly because it requires additional work to keep it patched, and traditionally those OSP RPMs wouldn’t update themselves correctly (maybe that’s fixed).

      Perhaps my template could have DeployPkg installed and a post-deployment action could be to remove that RPM, since it won’t be needed anymore…

      Anyhow, thanks for the comments Ravindra. Keep on this — this is the way Tools will look in the future and we’re excited about it. If anything, my criticism is just because I’m impatient and want the whole solution NOW NOW NOW. 🙂

  3. THANK YOU! I had been (foolishly?) following VMware’s directions to use open vm tools and the deploypkg plug-in and was tearing my hair out as to why this wasn’t working. Going back to legacy VMware tools, I finally have a CentOS 7 template that I can use customizations on.

    Let’s hope the open vm tools get fixed soon, since that looks like the direction they are pushing everyone.

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