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Running Photon OS on Google Compute Engine

You can use Photon OS as a virtual machine on Google Compute Engine (GCE). You can download Photon OS, as an OVA or ISO file, and install the Photon OS distribution on vSphere. After you install Photon OS, you can deploy a containerized application in Docker with a single command.

1 - Prerequisites for Running Photon OS on GCE

Before you use Photon OS within GCE, verify that you have the following resources:

  1. Google Compute Engine account
  2. GCE tools
  3. Photon OS Image

Google Compute Engine Account

Working with GCE requires a Google Compute Engine account with valid payment information. Keep in mind that, if you try the examples in this document, you will be charged by Google. The GCE-ready version of Photon OS is free to use.

GCE Tools

GCE is a service that lets you run virtual machines on Google’s infrastructure. You can customize the virtual machine as much as you want, and you can even install your own custom operating system image. Or, you can adopt one of the public images provided by Google. For any operating system to work with GCE, it must match Google’s infrastructure needs. Google provides tools that VM instances require to work correctly on GCE:

  • Google startup scripts: You can provide some startup script to configure your instances at startup.
  • Google Daemon: Google Daemon creates new accounts and configures ssh to accept public keys using the metadata server.
  • Google Cloud SDK: Command line tools to manage your images, instances and other objects on GCE.

Perform the following tasks to make Photon OS work on GCE:

  1. Install Google Compute Engine Image packages
  2. Install Google Cloud SDK
  3. Change GPT partition table to MBR
  4. Update the Grub config for new MBR and serial console output
  5. Update ssh configuration
  6. Delete ssh host keys
  7. Set the time zone to UTC
  8. Use the Google NTP server
  9. Delete the hostname file.
  10. Add Google hosts /etc/hosts
  11. Set MTU to 1460. SSH will not work without it.
  12. Create /etc/ssh/sshd_not_to_be_run with just the contents “GOOGLE\n”.

For more information see Importing Boot Disk Images to Compute Engine.

For information about upgrading the Photon OS Linux kernel see Upgrading the Kernel Version Requires Grub Changes for AWS and GCE Images

Photon OS Image

VMware recommends that administrators use the Photon OS image for Google Compute Engine (GCE) to create Photon OS instances on GCE. Photon OS bundles the Google startup scripts, daemon, and cloud SDK into a GCE-ready image that has been modified to meet the configuration requirements of GCE. You can download the Photon OS image for GCE from the following URL:

For instructions, see Downloading Photon OS.

Optionally you can customize Photon OS to work with GCE.

Creating Photon image for GCE

Perform the following tasks:

  1. Prepare Photon Disk

    1. Install Photon Minimal on Fusion/Workstation and install some required packages.
    mount /dev/cdrom /media/cdrom
    tdnf install python2-libs ntp sudo wget tar which gptfdisk sed findutils grep gzip -y
  2. Convert GPT to MBR and update Grub

    Photon installer installs GPT partition table by default but GCE only accepts an MBR (msdos) type partition table. So, you must convert GPT to MBR and update grub. Use the following commands to update the grub:

    # Change partition table to MBR from GPT
    sgdisk -m 1:2 /dev/sda
    grub2-install /dev/sda
    # Enable serial console on grub for GCE.
    cat << EOF >> /etc/default/grub
    GRUB_SERIAL_COMMAND="serial --speed=38400 --unit=0 --word=8 --parity=no --stop=1"
    # Create new grub.cfg based on the settings in /etc/default/grub
    grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg
  3. Install Google Cloud SDK and GCE Packages

    tdnf install -y google-compute-engine google-compute-engine-services
    cp /usr/lib/systemd/system/google* /lib/systemd/system/
    cd /lib/systemd/system/
    # Create links in to auto-start these scripts and services.
    for i in ../google*; do  ln -s $i `basename $i`; done
    cd /tmp/; wget
    tar -xf google-cloud-sdk.tar.gz
    cd google-cloud-sdk
  4. Update /etc/hosts file with GCE values as follows:

    echo " metadata" >> /etc/hosts
  5. Remove all servers from ntp.conf and add Google’s ntp server.

    sed -i -e "/server/d" /etc/ntp.conf
    cat /etc/ntp.conf
    echo "server" >> /etc/ntp.conf
    # Create ntpd.service to auto starting ntp server.
    cat << EOF >> /lib/systemd/system/ntpd.service
    Description=Network Time Service
    ExecStart=/usr/sbin/ntpd -g -u ntp:ntp
    # Add link in to auto start this service.
    cd /lib/systemd/system/
    ln -s ../ntpd.service ntpd.service
  6. Set UTC timezone

    ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/UTC /etc/localtime
  7. Update /etc/resolv.conf

    echo "nameserver" >> /etc/resolv.conf
  8. Remove ssh host keys and add script to regenerate them at boot time.

    rm /etc/ssh/ssh_host_*
    # Depending on the installation, you may need to purge the following keys
    rm /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key*
    rm /etc/ssh/ssh_host_dsa_key*
    rm /etc/ssh/ssh_host_ecdsa_key*
    sed -i -e "/exit 0/d" /etc/rc.local
    echo "[ -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_key ] && echo 'Keys found.' || ssh-keygen -A" >> /etc/rc.local
    echo "exit 0" >> /etc/rc.local
    printf "GOOGLE\n" > /etc/ssh/sshd_not_to_be_run
    # Edit sshd_config and ssh_config as per instructions on [this link](
  9. Change MTU to 1460 for network interface.

     # Create a startup service in systemd that will change MTU and then exit
    cat << EOF >> /lib/systemd/system/eth0.service
    Description=Network interface initialization
    ExecStart=/bin/ifconfig eth0 mtu 1460 up
    # Make this service auto-start at boot.
    cd /lib/systemd/system/
    ln -s ../eth0.service eth0.service
  10. Pack and upload to GCE.

    Shut down the Photon VM and copy its disk to THE tmp folder.

    # You will need to install Google Cloud SDK on host machine to upload the image and play with GCE.
    cp Virtual\ Machines.localized/photon.vmwarevm/Virtual\ Disk.vmdk /tmp/disk.vmdk
    cd /tmp
    # GCE needs disk to be named as disk.raw with raw format.
    qemu-img convert -f vmdk -O raw disk.vmdk disk.raw
    # ONLY GNU tar will work to create acceptable tar.gz file for GCE. MAC's default tar is BSDTar which will not work. 
    # On Mac OS X ensure that you have gtar "GNU Tar" installed. exmaple: gtar -Szcf photon.tar.gz disk.raw 
    gtar -Szcf photon.tar.gz disk.raw 
    # Upload
    gsutil cp photon.tar.gz gs://photon-bucket
    # Create image
    gcloud compute --project "<project name>" images create "photon-beta-vYYYYMMDD" --description "Photon Beta" --source-uri
    # Create instance on GCE of photon image
    gcloud compute --project "photon" instances create "photon" --zone "us-central1-f" --machine-type "n1-standard-1" --network "default" --maintenance-policy "MIGRATE" --scopes "" "" --image "" --boot-disk-type "pd-standard" --boot-disk-device-name "photon"

2 - Installing Photon OS on Google Compute Engine

After you download the Photon OS image for GCE, log into GCE and install Photon OS.

Perform the following steps:

  1. Create a New Bucket

    Create a new bucket to store your Photon OS image for GCE.


  2. Upload the Photon OS Image

    While viewing the bucket that created, click the Upload files button, navigate to your Photon OS image and click the Choose button.

    When the upload finishes, you can see the Photon OS compressed image in the file list for the bucket that you created.


  3. Create a New Image

    To create a new image, click on Images in the Compute category in the left panel and then click on the New Image button.

    Enter a name for the image in the Name field and change the Source to Cloud Storage file using the pull-down menu. Then, in the Cloud Storage file field, enter the bucket name and filename as the path to the Photon OS image for GCE. In this example, where the bucket was named photon_storage, the path is as follows:


    The new image form autopopulates the gs:// file path prefix.*

    Click the Create button to create your image. You must be able to see the Images catalog and your Photon OS image at the top of the list.

  4. Create a New Instance

    To create an instance, check the box next to the Photon OS image and click the Create Instance button.

    On the Create a new instance form, provide a name for this instance, confirm the zone into which this instance is to be deployed and, before clicking Create, check the Allow HTTP traffic and Allow HTTPS traffic options.

    Note: The firewall rules in this example are optional. You can configure the ports according to your requirements.


    When the instance is created you will be returned to your list of VM instances. If you click on the instance, the status page for the instance will allow you to SSH into your Photon OS environment using the SSH button at the top of the panel.

    At this point, your instance is running and you are ready to start the Docker engine and run a container workload. For more information, see Deploying a Containerized Application in Photon OS.