Made of Bugs

Configuring Dnsmasq With VMware Workstation

I love VMware workstation. I keep VMs around for basically every version of every major Linux distribution, and use them heavily for all kinds of kernel testing and development.

This post is a quick writeup of my networking setup with VMware Workstation, using dnsmasq to assign my VMs addresses and provide a DNS server to resolve VM addresses.

The objective

I want to be able to resolve my VM's hostnames so that I can ssh to them, or run other network services and access them from the host. I could just assign static addresses and put them in /etc/hosts, but that's totally lame, and liable to be a source of error and frustration, because I have dozens of VMs, and add and remove them frequently.

We're going to set things up so that when VMs get addresses from DHCP, their hostnames automatically become resolvable, using the .vmware domain. To do this, we're going to set up a piece of software called dnsmasq, which is a flexible DNS and DHCP server, designed for basically exactly this purpose.

The setup

Because I use my VMs for local testing, I just keep most of them on a local NAT on my machine. I configure that virtual network inside VMware as follows (run vmware-netconfig, or follow the appropriate menus):

Note how I disable "Use local DHCP service to distribute IP addresses to VMs" – we're going to set up dnsmasq to prove DHCP, so we don't want it fighting with VMware's.

Notice that the subnet I'm using here is 172.16.37.* – if you choose a different one, you'll need to adjust accordingly later.

Configuring dnsmasq

Then, I install dnsmasq, and configure /etc/dnsmasq.conf as follows:

listen-address=172.16.37.1
listen-address=127.0.0.1
no-dhcp-interface=lo

server=192.168.1.1
local=/vmware/

no-hosts
no-resolv

domain=vmware
dhcp-fqdn

dhcp-range=172.16.37.3,172.16.37.200,12h
dhcp-authoritative
dhcp-option=option:router,172.16.37.2

Here's what each of those lines mean, in order:

listen-address=172.16.37.1
listen-address=127.0.0.1
no-dhcp-interface=lo

We don't want dnsmasq serving DHCP or DNS to the outside world or other virtual networks, so we only tell it to listen on the local interface – so that we can talk to it from the host – and to the virtual network we set up in the previous step. We don't want it serving DHCP to localhost, though, so we tell it not to.

server=192.168.1.1
local=/vmware/

Here we tell dnsmasq how to forward DNS requests to the outside world. We're going to be using dnsmasq as our primary nameserver, and having it forward requests for things it doesn't understand to a real DNS server. In my case, that's my LAN's router, at 192.168.1.1. The local line tells dnsmasq that the .vmware domain is local, and it should never forward requests to resolve things in that domain.

If I needed something more complicated, it might be possible to use the resolv-file option or similar, but I don't, personally.

no-hosts
no-resolv

These options tell dnsmasq not to look at resolv.conf or /etc/hosts when resolving names – we want it only to resolve VMs itself, and to forward everything else.

domain=vmware
dhcp-fqdn

This tells dnsmasq to assign the .vmware domain to hosts it hands out DHCP to, so that we can resolve VMs in the .vmware domain.

dhcp-range=172.16.37.3,172.16.37.200,12h
dhcp-authoritative

And finally, we configure the DHCP server. We give it a range of addresses to assign on the subnet we created earlier. I stop at .200, so that I can leave the last few open for static IPs if I need for some reason, and we start at .3.1 is the host, and .2 is the address of VMware's router. dhcp-authoritative enables some optimizations when dnsmasq knows it is the only DHCP server around.

dhcp-option=option:router,172.16.37.2

Finally, we need dhcp-option to tell DHCP clients to use the VMware-provided router at .2 as their gateway, instead of using the host, at .1. We could configure the host to be a NAT server using Linux's NAT, but that's outside the scope of this document.

Configuring the host

Now, we need to configure the host to use dnsmasq as our DNS server. This is a simple matter of telling the host to use 127.0.0.1 as our DNS server, and to add .vmware to our search path. If we're editing resolv.conf directly, it would look like:

search vmware
nameserver 127.0.0.1

Configuring guests

We need to configure our guests to send a hostname along with their DHCP requests, so that dnsmasq can add them to its address table. How to do this varies by OS, but most modern OSes do it automatically. If they don't, here are a few hints:

For RHEL-based distros, edit /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-INTERFACE, and add a line like

 DHCP_HOSTNAME=centos-5-amd64

For most other Linux distributions, you can often edit dhclient.conf (usually in /etc/ or /etc/dhclient/) to include:

 send host-name "centos-5-amd64";

Or, with a recent dhclient,

 send host-name "<hostname>";

will make it look up the machine's actual hostname.

Conclusions

That's all there is to it. This is a pretty simple setup, but hopefully someone else will find this useful. If you need dnsmasq to do something more subtle, the documentation is mostly quite good.