This is an introductory lab, and is frankly very similar to the one on Azure docs, but it will serve as a good starting point for the group of labs.

Install Packer

Follow Hashicorp’s instructions for installing the binary:

(As with all Hashicorp binaries this is an intentionally manual process. Allowing the admin full visibility and control over the versioning throughout the whole configuration management stack is part of the company ethos.)

Run which packer and packer --version to confirm all is good.

which packer

packer --version

Personally I use a script to accelerate the installation. Feel free to download a copy using:

curl -sSL --output && chmod 755

Create the resource group for the image

The process needs a pre-existing resource group. We’ll name it packer_image.

az group create --name packer_images --location westeurope --output yaml
id: /subscriptions/2d31be49-d959-4415-bb65-8aec2c90ba62/resourceGroups/packer_images
location: westeurope
managedBy: null
name: packer_images
  provisioningState: Succeeded
tags: null
type: null

Create the service principal

You will need a service principal to create the images using Packer. If you have one already for Terraform then you can reuse it. Capture the output from the following command as the value will transpose directly into the top of the packer template.

The packer image generation process will create a temporary folder so the service principal needs sufficient permissions to do so.

subId=$(az account show --output tsv --query id)
az ad sp create-for-rbac --role="Contributor" --scopes="/subscriptions/$subId" --name "$name" --output json
  "appId": "6c0c9e20-9541-4591-bd9e-893e21099c72",
  "displayName": "packer-2d31be49-d999-4415-bb65-8aec2c90ba62-sp",
  "name": "http://packer-2d31be49-d999-4415-bb65-8aec2c90ba62-sp",
  "password": "0858048e-c8c2-4d70-ad28-5fe0dd073201",
  "tenant": "f246eeb7-b820-1971-a083-9e100e084ed0"

Capture the output of this command for the next step!

Create the packer template

Create a file called myFirstImage.json with the following template, and then configure the correct values for the service principal.

  "builders": [{
    "type": "azure-arm",

    "client_id": "<appId>",
    "client_secret": "<password>",
    "tenant_id": "<tenant>",
    "subscription_id": "<subscription_id>",

    "managed_image_resource_group_name": "packer_images",
    "managed_image_name": "myFirstImage",

    "os_type": "Linux",
    "image_publisher": "Canonical",
    "image_offer": "UbuntuServer",
    "image_sku": "16.04-LTS",

    "azure_tags": {
        "dept": "Testing",
        "task": "Image Deployment"

    "location": "westeurope",
    "vm_size": "Standard_B1s"
  "provisioners": [
      "execute_command": "chmod +x ;  sudo -E sh ''",
      "inline": [
        "apt-get update",
        "apt-get upgrade -y",

        "/usr/sbin/waagent -force -deprovision+user && export HISTSIZE=0 && sync"
      "inline_shebang": "/bin/sh -x",
      "type": "shell"

The first two commands in that inline array will update the operating system, and then the last command will generalise the virtual machine into an image.

(This is the essentially the same template in the Packer documentation on Azure docs.)

If you want a different location, size, or platform image then you may find the following example commands useful:

az account list-locations --output table
az vm list-sizes --location westeurope --output table
az vm image list-publishers --location westeurope --output table
az vm image list-offers --publisher SUSE --location westeurope --output table
az vm image list-skus --publisher SUSE --offer SLES --location westeurope --output table

Run the build

Run packer locally to build the image:

packer build myFirstImage.json

The command will show progress with output to screen. Once complete, it will be an image resource type, ready to use for a deployment.

az resource list --resource-group packer_images --output table
Name                ResourceGroup    Location    Type                      Status
------------------  ---------------  ----------  ------------------------  --------
configManagementVm  packer_images    westeurope  Microsoft.Compute/images

az image list --resource-group packer_images --output table
Location    Name                ProvisioningState    ResourceGroup
----------  ------------------  -------------------  ---------------
westeurope  configManagementVm  Succeeded            packer_images

▲ Index Lab 2: Audit ►

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