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

Background information

In this topic, a Linux instance is used. For information about how to install Packer in Windows, visit Install Packer.

Step 1: Install Packer

  1. Connect to a Linux Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instance.
  2. Run the cd /usr/local/bin command to access the /usr/local/bin directory.
    Note The /usr/local/bin directory is a directory that stores environment variables. You can install Packer to this directory or a 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 Packer package.
  5. Run the packer -v command to verify the installation status of Packer.
    • If Packer is installed, the Packer version number is returned.
    • If Packer is not properly installed, the command not found error message is returned.

Step 2: Define a Packer template

If you want to use Packer to create a custom image, you must create a template file in the JSON format. In the template file, 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. In this example, a Shell provisioner is used to define a Packer template.

Create a JSON file named alicloud in the Linux instance and copy the following content 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 pair.
Note To prevent 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 pair.
secret_key Your AccessKey secret. For more information, see Create an AccessKey pair.
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 instance 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 type of the provisioner used to create the custom image. For more information, visit Provisioners.

Step 3: Use Packer to create a custom image

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.
A command output similar to the following one indicates that a custom image that has ApsaraDB for Redis deployed is created:
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