🌳 Evergreen tutorial

Running Amazon Linux 2023 within VirtualBox

planted on in: AL2023 and AWS.
~844 words, about a 5 min read.

This week I have been battling with getting a Laravel application deploying on #AWS Elastic Beanstalk and one of the issues I had was installing php-gRPC via pecl was taking way too long due to it compiling from source thus timing out the deploy.

My solution to that conundrum was to build the grpc.so file on my computer and create a rpm package file to install it. In order to do so I would need to be able to run Amazon Linux 2023 within VirtualBox as that is what I have installed.

Finding disk images for Amazon Linux 2 was easy however, aws have hidden away the release images for Amazon Linux 2023, most likely because they want you to use docker. In my search I came across Rotan Hanrahan's post Amazon Linux 2023 on VirtualBox from January this year and while they link to the os images for release 2023.3.20240122.0 looking at the most recent AL2023 release notes for version 2023.4.20240416 I could make an educated guess that the disk images could be found at the same url Rotan shared but with the version changed:



Rotan noted in January 2024 that aws didn't provide VirtualBox disk images. I can confirm that hasn't changed as of April 2024. This means that, at time of writing, Rotan's instructions are the best method for getting Amazon Linux 2023 booting within VirtualBox.

First you want to download the vmware .ova disk image and unpack it to obtain the .vmdk file it contains:

wget https://cdn.amazonlinux.com/al2023/os-images/2023.4.20240416.0/vmware/al2023-vmware_esx-2023.4.20240416.0-kernel-6.1-x86_64.xfs.gpt.ova
tar -xvf al2023-vmware_esx-2023.4.20240416.0-kernel-6.1-x86_64.xfs.gpt.ova

VirtualBox has tooling for converting .vmdk files into .vdi, a format it supports. This is done with the clonemedium command (in earlier versions of VirtualBox this was named clonehd) provided by the VBoxManage command line tool:

VBoxManage clonemedium al2023-vmware_esx-2023.4.20240416.0-kernel-6.1-x86_64.xfs.gpt-disk1.vmdk al2023-vmware_esx-2023.4.20240416.0-kernel-6.1-x86_64.xfs.gpt-disk1.vdi --format VDI

For first boot Amazon Linux 2023, much like its predecessor Amazon Linux 2, requires a cloud-init configuration seed.iso disk image attached as a virtual CD-ROM. For our purposes this image only needs to contain two files meta-data to set the hostname and user-data for configuring our user account.

The meta-data file can be the following one liner to set the machines hostname to al2023.

local-hostname: al2023

The user-data file contains a little more, when copying the below replace {ssh-key} with the content of your public ssh key to allow you to ssh into the vm. Note, according to the cloud-init documentation this file must begin with #cloud-config in order to be valid.

- default
- name: ec2-user
- {ssh-key}

ℹ️ You can read more about the user-data format in user data format documentation for cloud-init.

In the absence of a network-config file in the cloud-init configuration, Amazon Linux 2023 will default to DHCP on the first available interface. If you want to customise this see the cloud-init networking config documentation for details on how.

I'm on MacOS so I will be using hdiutil to create the seed.iso disk image from the above two files by placing them within a seed_config folder and running the following:

hdiutil makehybrid -o seed.iso -hfs -joliet -iso -default-volume-name cidata seed_config

On Linux you will likely have mkisofs or genisoimage available to you. For mkisofs you can cd into the seed_config folder and run the following to generate a iso image:

mkisofs -output seed.iso -volid cidata -joliet -rock user-data meta-data


With the main disk image in the right format for VirtualBox and a seed.iso for the NoCloud cloud-init first boot you can now create a new virtual machine in VirtualBox.

Amazon Linux is like Fedora and so I set the operating system as Linux Fedora (64-bit) then give the machine 2048MB RAM and two processors. Finally when setting the hard disk select "Use an existing Virtual Hard Disk File and the virtual disk file created by clonemedium should already be populated. If not click the folder icon to the right and use the add button above to do so.

Before powering the machine on for the first time open its settings and set the network adapter to "Bridged Adapter" and attach the seed.iso as an IDE storage device.


Once the machine had booted I was able to remote into it by running ssh ec2-user@al2023

At this point you will now have Amazon Linux 2023 running within VirtualBox. You can unmount the seed.iso as it's no longer needed and I recommend creating a snapshot now so you can revert back to a fresh install easily in the future without having to repeat all these steps.

Page History

This page was first added to the repository on April 26, 2024 in commit 1cd4970c. View the source on GitHub.