Provisioning a Development Box with Vagrant

I try to automate just about every repetitive thing that I do on a computer. Seriously, it’s bordering on being a disorder. I just hate spending hours doing the same thing over and over again that a computer can do in minutes while I go make a cup of coffee.

Vagrant is perfect for me then, because it allows me to set up a consistent, repeatable development environment once and then boot into a clean version whenever I want within minutes. It’s a little more work up front, but it really pays off in the long run.

What are we doing here?

I’m going to walk through the process of creating the necessary files to automatically provision fresh development environments using Vagrant. For this example, I’m going to set up a LAMP stack along with a bunch of development tooling. It will be called, rather unimaginatively, vagrant-lamp-dev. You can find all of the files in my github repo.


In order to follow along, you’ll need a few things. If you don’t already have this stuff installed on your system, follow the instructions at the provided links to get it installed.


The Vagrantfile is where you set up the basic aspects of the virtual machine. This is where you define things such as what base box to use, the system resources for the VM, host name, etc.

The basic structure of the Vagrantfile will (almost) always be

Vagrant.configure(“2”) do |config|
  # Config goes here

The only exception to that is if you are trying to do some configuration that needs to be compatible with early versions of Vagrant in which case you would need a “1” instead of the “2”. This is just a block that contains your configuration settings.

The first thing that I will do is specify the base box that my environment will be provisioned on top of. In this case, I will specify Ubuntu 14.04 Server 64-bit. You can find a list of available boxes on the Hashi Corp website. = "ubuntu/trusty64"

Next we’ll set up the hostname and networking for the VM.

config.vm.hostname = "vagrant-lamp-dev" :private_network, ip: ""
config.hostsupdater.aliases = %w(
config.hostsupdater.remove_on_suspend = true

The first line in this block just sets the hostname to “vagrant-lamp-dev”. The next line configures a private network IP address. Why did I choose “”? Because there’s nothing else on my network with that IP address. Your mileage may vary. It is possible to configure a public network IP address that would allow access from other devices on your network, but I’ll assume that’s not a desired behavior here.

If you have Vagrant-HostsUpdater installed, the next two lines configure an entry to your local machine’s hosts file so that when you enter vagrant.wp into a browser, you will be directed to the configured IP address. The remove_on_suspend setting removes the hosts file entry each time you exit the VM.

Next, we’ll configure some settings for the VM.

config.vm.provider :virtualbox do |v|
  v.customize ["modifyvm", :id, "--memory", 1024]
  v.customize ["modifyvm", :id, "--natdnshostresolver1", "on"]
  v.customize ["modifyvm", :id, "--natdnsproxy1", "on"]

The first line here just sets up the block for the Virtualbox specific config settings. The first line inside the block specifies a memory allocation of 1Gb. The next two lines in the config are used to resolve slow network issues and are pretty much boilerplate in Vagrantfiles.

Finally, lets specify where to look for the provisioning file that will do the rest of the work. I will be using the shell provisioning method, but you can get more advanced and use Puppet or Chef also. For this exercise I will add a file called to the same directory as the Vagrantfile.

config.vm.provision :shell, :path => ""

That’s it! Now you have a fully functioning Vagrantfile. Next up is the interesting stuff.

To borrow an expression from the MTV masterpiece “Cribs”, this is where the magic happens. This is just a shell script that gets run after the VM is set up. I’m going to keep it relatively simple here, but it would be wise to use conditionals throughout to skip redundant operations if you re-provision at some point after you first build the VM.

The first thing I want to do is install a bunch of packages to provide the functionality that I need.

apt_package_list = (
 # lots of packages — see [github](
apt-get update --assume-yes
apt-get install --assume-yes ${apt_package_list[@]}
apt-get clean

First we build an array of all of the packages that we want to install. It’s a pretty extensive list, so I’ve left it out from this article. Next we update the package lists, install all of the packages in the array, then clean up the apt cache.

Make sure npm is up to date and install the npm update checker.

npm install -g npm
npm install -g npm-check-updates

I use Bower, so that’s next up on the list.

npm install -g bower

I’m a recent Gulp convert, so Gulp and all of the typical plugins I use are coming up next.

npm install -g gulp
npm install -g gulp-util
npm install -g gulp-sass
npm install -g gulp-autoprefixer
npm install -g gulp-coffee

That’s it! Now everything is in place to launch the VM.


Now cd into the directory with the Vagrantfile and run

vagrant up

This would be a good time to go get a coffee and a snack or deal with your email backlog. There is a lot of downloading and installing to be done, so it will take a while.

When everything is done, you will be able to navigate to and see the Apache default page in your browser. You can ssh into the VM with the command

vagrant ssh


There’s a lot more to Vagrant than what was covered here. I would recommend looking through the docs on the Vagrant website and playing around with other features. Happy coding!