Packer is a lightweight open source tool for creating images and runs on commonly used mainstream operating systems such as Windows, Linux, and macOS. This topic describes how to install and use Packer to create a custom image.

Background information

A Linux instance is used in these examples. For more information about how to install Packer in Windows, visit Packer documentation.

Step 1. Install Packer

  1. Connect to a Linux instance.
  2. Run the cd /usr/local/bin command to access the /usr/local/bin directory.
    Note The /usr/local/bin directory is an environment variable directory. You can install Packer to this directory or the directory that is added to environment variables.
  3. Run the wget command to download the Packer package.
    You can go to the Download Packer page to download other versions of Packer packages.
  4. Run the unzip command to decompress the package.
  5. Run the packer -v command to verify the installation status of Packer.
    • If the Packer version number is returned, Packer is installed.
    • If the command not found error is returned, Packer is not installed properly.

Step 2. Define a Packer template

If you want to use Packer to create a custom image, you must create a template in the JSON format. In the template, you must specify the image builder and provisioner. For more information, visit Alicloud Image Builder and Provisioners. Packer provides a variety of provisioners that allow you to configure the content generation mode for custom images. A Shell provisioner is used to define a Packer template in the following example.

Create a JSON file named alicloud in the Linux instance and paste the following information to the file:
     "variables": {
       "access_key": "{{env `ALICLOUD_ACCESS_KEY`}}",
       "secret_key": "{{env `ALICLOUD_SECRET_KEY`}}"
     "builders": [{
       "access_key":"{{user `access_key`}}",
       "secret_key":"{{user `secret_key`}}",
     "provisioners": [{
       "type": "shell",
       "inline": [
         "sleep 30",
         "yum install redis.x86_64 -y"
The following table describes the parameters that you must specify.
Parameter Description
access_key Your AccessKey ID. For more information, see Create an AccessKey.
Note To avoid disclosing the AccessKey pair of your Alibaba Cloud account, we recommend that you create a RAM user and use the credentials of the RAM user to create an AccessKey pair. For more information, see Create a RAM user and Create an AccessKey.
secret_key Your AccessKey secret. For more information, see Create an AccessKey.
region The region of the temporary instance used to create the custom image.
image_name The name of the custom image.
source_image The name of the source image used to create the custom image. You can obtain the name from the public image list of Alibaba Cloud.
instance_type The type of the temporary instance used to create the custom image.
internet_charge_type The billing method for network usage of the temporary instance used to create the custom image.
provisioners The provisioner used to create the custom image. For more information, visit Provisioners.

Step 3. Create a custom image by using Packer

Perform the following operations to create a custom image by using the Packer template file that you specified:

  1. Run the export ALICLOUD_ACCESS_KEY=<Your AccessKey ID> command to import your AccessKey ID.
  2. Run the export ALICLOUD_SECRET_KEY=<Your AccessKey secret> command to import your AccessKey secret.
  3. Run the packer build alicloud.json command to create a custom image.
The command output is as follows. The following section describes how to create a custom image that contains ApsaraDB for Redis:
alicloud-ecs output will be in this color.
==> alicloud-ecs: Prevalidating alicloud image name...
alicloud-ecs: Found image ID: centos_7_02_64_20G_alibase_20170818.vhd
==> alicloud-ecs: Start creating temporary keypair: packer_59e44f40-c8d6-0ee3-7fd8-b1ba08ea94b8
==> alicloud-ecs: Start creating alicloud vpc
==> alicloud-ecs: Provisioning with shell script: /var/folders/3q/w38xx_js6cl6k5mwkrqsnw7w0000gn/T/packer-shell257466182
alicloud-ecs: Loaded plugins: fastestmirror
alicloud-ecs: Total                                              1.3 MB/s | 650 kB 00:00
alicloud-ecs: Running transaction check
==> alicloud-ecs: Deleting temporary keypair...
Build 'alicloud-ecs' finished.
==> Builds finished. The artifacts of successful builds are:
--> alicloud-ecs: Alicloud images were created:
cn-beijing: m-2ze12578be1oa4ovs6r9

What to do next

Create an ECS instance by using a custom image