How to Run Packer Pipelines on Jenkins: Part 1 - Traditional Jenkins

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Blog Series: How to Run Packer Pipelines on Jenkins

In my day job, I’ve had to setup Packer Pipelines on Jenkins multiple times for multiple clients. That’s when I learned that not every Jenkins setup is the same, so I created the How to Run Packer Pipelines on Jenkins blog series where you will learn how to setup a Packer Pipeline in the most common Jenkins configurations. Here is the list of all the blogs in the series.

Why you need Packer Pipelines on Jenkins

Have you tried using Packer to create Operating System (OS) templates? Don’t you hate how do you need to keep your laptop unlocked and it takes forever to run?

While it is easy to run Packer on your workstation to create OS templates, it usually takes a long time to run. That’s why it is best to use Packer inside of an automation server such as Jenkins, on a separate machine.

In this blog entry, you will learn how to setup a Packer Pipeline in a traditional Jenkins installation.

How to integrate Jenkins with Packer

No matter what Jenkins configuration you have, you can integrate Jenkins with Packer using the following 5 steps:

  1. Install Jenkins.
  2. Install Packer binary on Jenkins node or Jenkins agent.
  3. Write Packer and Jenkins Pipeline code and put it in a Git repository.
  4. Setup Jenkins Pipeline Job using Pipeline code from Git repository.
  5. Run pipeline.

The details will vary based on your configuration but they will follow the same principles.

Run Packer Pipelines Inside Traditional Jenkins Installation

This blog will focus on the simplest, though perhaps not the most robust, installation of Jenkins. This is how most people will likely be introduced to Jenkins, so it makes sense to start here. The following is a diagram describing what we are trying to setup:

Jenkins Pipeline Diagram

Jenkins Pipeline Diagram

Basically, in the same machine, we will be installing Jenkins, Packer, Docker, and run the Jenkins Pipeline that will use Packer to create a container image with Docker. You can do this in your own workstation or on a separate VM or server.

Now, to install everything that we need, click on the links below and follow the instructions for your platform:

a. Packer Code Explained

NOTE: All the code that we will be using today is in my GitHub repo. So you can follow along or try to replicate this yourself.

Instead of building a Virtual Machine (VM) template, we will be using Packer to build a container image using Docker. We use Docker instead of a Cloud Provider (AWS, Azure, or GCP) account because Docker is free and can be downloaded in your workstation. Besides, the same Packer principles apply to building Docker Images as to building VM images.

The Packer code that we will be using here is from the Packer - Docker - Build an Image Tutorial. Here is the code:

packer {
  required_plugins {
    docker = {
      version = ">= 0.0.7"
      source = ""

source "docker" "ubuntu" {
  image  = "ubuntu:xenial"
  commit = true

build {
  name    = "learn-packer"
  sources = [

Here is a quick breakdown of what it does:

b: Packer Pipeline Explained

Now that we have everything setup, let’s take a look at the Jenkinsfile.groovy file, which contains the pipeline code that will be used in Jenkins:

pipeline {
  agent any

  stages {
    stage('Packer - Build Ubuntu Image on vSphere') {
      steps {
        sh """
        cd jenkins-tutorial
        packer init .
        packer build -force .

Basically, it does the following:

Now that we understand both the Packer and the Jenkins Pipeline code, let’s move on to configuring Jenkins and actually running the pipeline.

c: Setting up Packer Pipeline on Jenkins

Now, open Jenkins, login, and do the following:

Creating Jenkins Pipeline

Creating Jenkins Pipeline

Configuring Jenkins Pipeline

Configuring Jenkins Pipeline

d: Running the Packer Pipeline

Now that everything is ready, go ahead and click on Build Now, to trigger the pipeline.

Then, click the Job Number (i.e. #1), then click on Console Output to see the job logs.

Pipeline Logs

Pipeline Logs

If you see the ubuntu image with the xenial tag, as shown above, then, CONGRATULATIONS!!! You have successfully used Jenkins to build a Container Image for Docker using Packer!!!

e: (Optional) Fix command not found error on Jenkins on macOS

If you are using Jenkins on macOS, you may be getting the packer: command not found or docker: command not found. This means that the PATH variable in Jenkins is not including /usr/local/bin which is where both packer and docker are normally installed.

To fix the error, we need to update the PATH environment variable and add the /usr/local/bin folder, which you can do as follows:

Updating PATH Variable

Updating PATH Variable

Now, if you try building the pipeline again, the job will be able to find both the packer and docker binaries and be able to run both commands successfully.


Now that you have setup a Packer Pipeline inside Jenkins, you should be able to write pretty much any Packer code and build images using the pipeline you ran today with minor modifications.

Now, installing and setting up Jenkins and Jenkins nodes is a pretty manual process. If you mess it up, you have start over from scratch, which is a time consuming process. In Part 2 of the How to Run Packer Pipelines on Jenkins blog series, we teach you how to deploy Jenkins with Docker, which can save you lots of time and headaches.

If you found this content useful, please feel free to share it with your colleagues or anyone who might need it.

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