Let’s face it. Virtual Machines are the future of server administration. Whether you prefer your own dedicated hardware or cloud-based resources managed by you or someone else, virtual platforms are the way to go. You get more bang for the buck out of your hardware by pooling resources for multiple tasks. VMware® and VirtualBox® make it easy. To get things started, we’re pleased to introduce three new .ova images for VMware today. You get your choice of a 15-minute install image that builds the latest Asterisk® 13 and FreePBX® 13 GPL components from source in about 15 minutes. Or you can opt for the 1-minute install images in either the Lean version or Whole Enchilada that includes 31 applications for Asterisk. Both come preconfigured with Asterisk 13.18.4 and our favorite FreePBX 13 GPL modules. You also get the added bonus of being able to run either image on a VirtualBox desktop machine.

Just download the OVA image of your choice to your desktop and fire up your virtual server. With a few mouse clicks and a couple of minutes, you’ll have a CentOS 6.9 platform in place with Incredible PBX just a single keystroke away. It doesn’t get much easier. And, you get the very latest release of Asterisk 13 compiled on the fly from source code that you can actually examine, enhance, and share… just like the GPL license says.

Choosing a Virtual Machine Platform

Making the right deployment choice for your virtual machine platform depends upon a number of factors. We initially started out with Proxmox 4 which looked promising. After all, we had used and recommended earlier releases of Proxmox for many years until some security vulnerabilities caused us to look elsewhere. Those kernel issues are now a thing of the past, but Proxmox 4 introduced some new wrinkles. First, to stay current with software fixes and updates, you have to pay the piper by signing up for the annual support license. This turned out to be a deal breaker for a couple of reasons. It was expensive since it’s based upon the number of CPUs in your platform. In the case of the hardware shown below, that turned out to be 4 CPUs (by Proxmox’s calculation) which meant the annual support license would run nearly $400 per year. That buys an enormous number of cloud-based virtual machines without having to babysit hardware at all. So we’ve reluctantly concluded that Proxmox 4 isn’t a particularly good fit for development or production use.

That narrowed the selection to VMware and VirtualBox. VMware is rock-solid and has been for more than fifteen years. VirtualBox is equally good, but typically runs on a desktop computer rather than dedicated hardware. If you don’t have the funds for a hardware purchase to support your virtualization requirements, then VirtualBox is a no-brainer. We’ll show you how to turn your VMware .ova image into a VirtualBox image for Incredible PBX at the end of today’s article. For many, however, some separation of the virtualization environment from your desktop computing environment is desirable. And, again, the choice is a no-brainer. VMware wins that one, hands down. Better yet, you can make snapshot backups of your virtual machines in seconds with a single button click. If you’ve wrestled with backups on standalone hardware with Linux, you’ll quickly appreciate the difference.

Getting Started with VMware ESXi

Many of you have VMware platforms already in place at work. For you, installing Incredible PBX 13-13 is as simple as downloading the OVA image to your desktop and importing it into your existing platform. If you’re new to VMware, here’s an easy way to get started, and the software won’t cost you a dime. VMware offers a couple of free products that will give you everything you need to run a robust VMware platform on relatively inexpensive hardware. Let’s start with the hardware.

A $600 VMware Platform for SOHO Apps

Since we released our first article about VMware two years ago, the price of our in-house server platform has gone up about 20% while the cost of hosting a server in the cloud has gone down about 50%. Crucial’s RAM prices have doubled so we switched manufacturers for this year. This should tell you where the world is headed. But let’s price things out anyway. You’re looking at all the components that make up our recommended $600 VMware hardware platform: Intel® NUC D54250WYK with a Core i5 dual-core processor, a 250GB mSATA drive, and 16GB of RAM. While you install the RAM and disk drive yourself, if you can unscrew 5 screws and have 5 minutes to spare, you can handle this.

Today, we chose (1) the Intel NUC D54250WYK1 Intel 4th Gen Core i5-4250U Processor with Power Cord with (2) Timetec Hynix IC 16GB Kit(2x8GB) DDR3 1600MHz PC3-12800 Non ECC Unbuffered 1.35V CL11 2Rx8 Dual Rank 204 Pin SODIMM Laptop Notebook Computer Memory Ram Module Upgrade(16GB Kit(2x8GB)) and (3) Samsung 850 EVO – 250GB – mSATA Internal SSD (MZ-M5E250BW).1 Amazon pricing was competitive, and you can’t beat their shipping and return policies. The Intel NUC now is $365, the 16GB of RAM now is $115, and the 250GB mSATA drive now is $107 bringing the total delivered price to $587 plus tax. Yes, there are newer generation Intel NUCs, but this one has been rock-solid reliable and some installation quirks have accompanied the newer hardware so we don’t recommend moving up. When the components arrive, simply remove the four screws from the bottom feet of the computer, and the case opens easily. Next, unscrew the screw from the bottom of the motherboard that holds the SSD drive in place securely. Snap in the mSATA drive and the two memory sticks, replace the screws, and you’re in business.

A Free VMware Platform for SOHO Apps

Before you can download either of the components for the free VMware ESXi platform, you’ll need to sign up for a free account at my.vmware.com. Once you’re signed up, log in and go to the ESXi 6 Download Center and sign up for a free ESXi license key:

  1. Write down your assigned License Key
  2. Manually download the VMware vSphere Hypervisor 6.0 Update 2 ISO
  3. Manually download the VMware vSphere Client 6.0 Update 2

Next, burn the ISO to a CD/DVD and boot your dedicated VM hardware platform with it. Follow the instructions to complete the install. Next install the vSphere Client on a Windows computer. Don’t forget to add your ESXi License Key when you complete the installation. Once the ESXi server is up and running, you can stick the hardware on a shelf somewhere out of the way. You will rarely interact with it. That’s all handled using the VMware vSphere Client on your Windows Desktop. Yes, there is now a web client as well. Don’t forget to apply your License Key once VMware ESXi is up: Virtual Machines -> Licensing -> Apply License.

Upgrading to VMware ESXi 6.5

We still prefer to do a manual upgrade from 6.0 to 6.5, but you can skip this step and download the 6.5 ISO above if you prefer. If you choose to do it the old-fashioned way, log into your VMware server as root once 6.0 is up and running. Then issue the following commands (lines 2 and 3 below should be part of the same single command):

esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient
esxcli software profile update -p ESXi-6.5.0-4564106-standard -d https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-depot-index.xml

Deploying OVA Templates with vSphere Client

Deploying an Incredible PBX OVA template takes about two minutes, but first you need to download any or all of the Incredible PBX 13-13 OVA templates from SourceForge onto your Windows Desktop.

Once the Incredible PBX OVA templates are on your desktop, here are the deployment steps:

1. Login to the vSphere Client on your Windows Desktop using the root account you set up when you installed ESXi. Choose File, Deploy OVF Template.

2. Select the desired Incredible PBX .ova template from your desktop PC.

3. Click Next.

4. Give the new Virtual Machine a name.

5. IMPORTANT: Choose Thin Provision option and click Next.

6. Review your entries and click Next to create the new Virtual Machine.

7. It only takes a couple minutes to create the new Virtual Machine.

8. The Main Client window will redisplay and your new VM should now be shown in the left panel. (1) Click on it. (2) Then click the Green start icon. (3) Then click the Console Window icon.

9. When the VM’s Console Window opens, click in the window in the black area. Log into your virtual machine as root using the default password: password.

10. If you’re using the IncrediblePBX-13.13.ova template, complete the Incredible PBX by running: ./IncrediblePBX-13-13.sh. If you’re using either of the 1-minute .ova templates, you will automatically be walked through the short installation procedure. Following the automatic reboot, just log in a second time as root and the install will complete.

11. To add the 31 Incredible PBX applications for Asterisk to Lean, run: /root/Enchilada-upgrade.sh.

12. To add Incredible Fax support with HylaFax and AvantFax, run: /root/incrediblefax13.sh.

13. Set up the proper time zone for your server: /root/timezone-setup.

14. Next, reset your root password and make it very secure: passwd.

15. Finally reset your admin password for web access to your server: /root/admin-pw-change.

16. Reset Enchilada passwords at any time by running: /root/update-passwords.

Press Ctrl-Alt to get your mouse and keyboard out of the console window.

Installing the vSphere Web Client

If you’re lucky, you may not have a Windows machine. The downside is that the vSphere Client described above only works on the Windows platform. After a good bit of searching, we finally uncovered a simple way to install the latest (experimental) vSphere Web Client. It is pure HTML5 with no Flash code! While still a work in progress, VMware has made two full years of development progress, and it shows. Most of the feature set of vSphere Client now is available from the convenience of your browser. Just point it to the IP address of your VMware server like this: https://ip-address/ui/.

Here’s how to install the vSphere Web Client:

1. Log into the console of your ESXi server as root using your root password.

2. Press F2 to Customized System.

3. Choose Troubleshooting Options.

4. Choose Enable SSH.

5. Using a Terminal window on a Mac or Linux machine or using Putty with Windows, log into the IP address of your ESXi server as root.

6. Issue the following commands to install the latest vSphere Web Client vib and disable http firewall blockage:

esxcli software vib install -v http://download3.vmware.com/software/vmw-tools/esxui/esxui-signed-7119706.vib
esxcli network firewall ruleset set -e true -r httpClient

7. Using a web browser, login to the web client as root at https://ESXi-server-IP-address/ui/

8. Should you ever wish to remove the web client from your server:

esxcli software vib remove -n esx-ui

9. You may wish to disable SSH access when you’re finished. Just repeat steps 1-4 above.

Here’s what a typical Incredible PBX Virtual Machine looks like in the web client once you’ve added the VMware Tools to your virtual machine as documented below. There’s even a Console window.

Under the Virtual Machines tab, you now can manage and add new VMs directly.

Installing VMware Tools in a Virtual Machine

If you plan to manage your virtual machines using the vSphere Web Client and a browser, then you definitely will want to install the VMware Tools in each of your virtual machines.

For ESXi 6.0, your only choice is VMwareTools. Here’s how to install:

1. Start up your VM and login as root.

2. From the Windows vSphere Client, right click on virtual machine you started.

3. Choose Guest:Install VMware Tools.

4. Return to the Linux CLI of your virtual machine and issue the following commands. Accept all of the defaults in the installation script when it is run in the final step below:

mkdir /mnt/cdrom
mount /dev/cdrom /mnt/cdrom
ls /mnt/cdrom
cd /tmp
tar -zxvf /mnt/cdrom/VMwareTools*
umount /mnt/cdrom
cd vmware-tools-distrib

For ESXi 6.5, we prefer the new GPL VMware open-vm-tools. Here’s how to install:

1. Start up your VM and login to the VM as root using SSH or Putty.

2. From the Linux CLI, issue the following commands:

yum -y install --enablerepo=epel open-vm-tools

Special thanks to John Borhek (@unsichtbarre on the PIAF Forum) for the VMware lessons. 🙂

Using VMware .ova Images with VirtualBox

Let’s face it. Not everyone wants to shell out $600 for VMware hardware when you’ve got a beefy Windows PC or Mac sitting on your desktop that whirs away doing almost nothing for many hours each day. The simple solution is to run Incredible PBX 13-13 as a virtual machine under VirtualBox. If you need help setting VirtualBox up, start with this Nerd Vittles tutorial. Next, download any or all of the .ova images from SourceForge and rename them from filename.ova to filename.tar.gz. Use 7-ZIP to decompress the archive on your Windows PC. On a Mac, just double-click on the renamed file to decompress it into a separate folder. You now will have several files including an .ovf image of Incredible PBX. Now do the following:

1. Start up VirtualBox on your desktop.

2. Choose File:Import Appliance and select your Incredible PBX OVF template by clicking on the File Dialog icon. Click Continue when done.

3. In the Appliance Settings dialog, be sure "Reinitialize MAC Address of all network cards" is checked. Click Import.

4. Once the virtual machine is created, select it and click Settings. Name the VM in the General tab as desired. Check Enable I/O APIC in the System tab. Set Video Memory to 16MB in the Display tab. Enable Audio and choose your sound card in the Audio tab. Enable Network and choose Bridged Network for Adapter 1 in the Network tab. Click OK to save your changes.

5. Click the Start icon to fire up your virtual machine. Then follow the VMware instructions above to complete the setup for the .ova template you chose.

That should be enough tutorial for today. Enjoy your new virtual machine platforms. Now spend a little time getting to know Incredible PBX. Have a Merry Christmas!

Continue Reading: Configuring Extensions, Trunks & Routes

Don’t Miss: Incredible PBX Application User’s Guide covering the 31 Whole Enchilada apps

Originally published: Monday, December 18, 2017  Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2018

Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of users just like you. You won’t have to wait long for an answer to your question.

Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


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RentPBX, a long-time partner and supporter of PIAF project, is offering generous discounts for Nerd Vittles readers. For all of your Incredible PBX hosting needs, sign up at www.RentPBX.com and use code NOGOTCHAS to get the special pricing. The code will lower the price to $14.99/month, originally $24.99/month. It’s less than 50¢/day.

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This article has 7 comments

  1. The SourceForge download link in this article is bad: https://sourceforge.net/projects/pbxinaflash/files/IncrediblePBX13-13%20for%20VMware/

    [WM: All of SourceForge is down this morning. Try again after the West Coast gets out of bed. 😉 ]

  2. SourceForge has returned to the living.

  3. Do not throw in the towel on Proxmox…..Please.
    You do not need a subscription and there is a non-subscription repository maintained by Proxmox.

    deb http://download.proxmox.com/debian/pve stretch pve-no-subscription

    I am using with HA Cluster and ceph with great results.

    [WM: We confess that we haven’t used Proxmox in a couple of years. The reason was because Proxmox intentionally crippled the non-subscription repository at the time we were testing it. This led to all sorts of issues in maintaining a functioning server so we threw in the towel. Once developers start doing these sorts of things to encourage payment of registration fees, we tend to never look back. So… our apologies if they’ve cleaned up their act, but leopards rarely change their spots.]

  4. I agree with James Young. Proxmox does have "no subscription repository."
    However, proxmox provides support with subscription, but does not limit you in anyway if you use the no-subscription repository. As a moral duty, one must get subscription to support the project. It is one of the most powerful products and very stable. The beuty is, even if you upgraded from proxmox 3.x or 4.x to 5.x, you can restore a openvz image (vzdump file) in 5,x and it will restore the openvz VM in lxc wiuthout any problem.
    Even they need to survive and fund the project, that is helping so many people. With that thought, one must contribute towards to project from time to time.

  5. ESXi 6.5 is out and includes the HTML5 ui builtin

  6. Ward, have you tried any Qotom hardware? Like this one https://www.aliexpress.com/item/QOTOM-Q355G4-2017-New-fanless-X86-4-LAN-Micro-Computer-I5-5250U-Dual-core-onboard-1080P/32800711474.html
    Pfsense forums are raving about using it as pfsense router but you can easily virtualize and run simultaneously pfsense and PBX. I took a plunge in November and got it from China via aliexpress. The shipping took ages (3 weeks) but the hardware is very well built, completely pasively cooled with metal case whose top serves as a heat sink. I currently use it simultaneously as a TV PC (it’s conveniently located under my TV) running Mac OS, and in vitualbox it serves as a router (4ports are very handy for it) and I’m also testing Asterisk 15+FPBX 14 install on it in a second virtualbox instance.

  7. Greetings!

    This is great! Could you also look into publishing docker images? That would be awesome!

    A good example albeit on openvpn : https://hub.docker.com/r/kylemanna/openvpn/ – with 64M pulls.

    I hope you’d consider releasing docker images soon. 🙂