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Automated Deployment of Lab Environments System (ADLES)

Project description

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Automated Deployment of Lab Environments System (ADLES)

ADLES automates the deterministic creation of virtualized environments for use in Cybersecurity and Information Technology (IT) education.

The system enables educators to easily build deterministic and portable environments for their courses, saving significant amounts of time and effort, and alleviates the requirement of possessing advanced IT knowledge.

Complete documentation can be found at ReadTheDocs.

Publication describing the system.

Getting started

# Install
pip3 install adles

# Usage
adles -h

# Specification syntax
adles --print-spec exercise
adles --print-spec infra

# Examples
adles --list-examples
adles --print-example competition


Creating an environment using ADLES:

  • Read the exercise and infrastructure specifications and examples of them.
  • Write an infrastructure specification for your platform. (Currently, VMware vSphere is the only platform supported)
  • Write an exercise specification with the environment you want created.
  • Check its syntax, run the mastering phase, make your changes, and then run the deployment phase.
# Validate spec
adles validate my-competition.yaml

# Create Master images
adles masters my-competition.yaml

# Deploy the exercise
adles deploy my-competition.yaml

# Cleanup the environment
adles cleanup my-competition.yaml

Detailed usage

usage: adles [-h] [--version] [-v] [--syslog SERVER] [--no-color]
             [--list-examples] [--print-spec NAME] [--print-example NAME]
             [-i INFRA]
             {validate,deploy,masters,package,cleanup} ...

    adles --list-examples
    adles --print-example competition | adles validate -
    adles validate examples/pentest-tutorial.yaml
    adles masters examples/experiment.yaml
    adles -v deploy examples/experiment.yaml
    adles cleanup -t masters --cleanup-nets examples/competition.yaml
    adles validate -t infra examples/infra.yaml

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --version             show program's version number and exit
  -v, --verbose         Emit debugging logs to terminal
  --syslog SERVER       Send logs to a Syslog server on port 514
  --no-color            Do not color terminal output
  -i INFRA, --infra INFRA
                        Override the infrastructure specification to be used

Print examples and specs:
  --list-examples       Prints the list of available example scenarios
  --print-spec NAME     Prints the named specification
  --print-example NAME  Prints the named example

ADLES Subcommands:
    validate            Validate the syntax of your specification
    deploy              Environment deployment phase of specification
    masters             Master creation phase of specification
    package             Create a package
    cleanup             Cleanup and remove existing environments

vSphere Utility Scripts

There are a number of utility scripts to make certain vSphere tasks bearable.

# Basic usage
vsphere --help
vsphere <script> --help
vsphere <script --version

# Running as a Python module
python -m adles.vsphere --help

Detailed usage

usage: vsphere [-h] {cleanup,clone,power,info,snapshot} ...

Single-purpose CLI scripts for interacting with vSphere

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit

vSphere scripts:
    cleanup             Cleanup and Destroy Virtual Machines (VMs) and VM
                        Folders in a vSphere environment.
    clone               Clone multiple Virtual Machines in vSphere.
    power               Power operations for Virtual Machines in vSphere.
    info                Query information about a vSphere environment and
                        objects within it.
    snapshot            Perform Snapshot operations on Virtual Machines in a
                        vSphere environment.

System requirements

Python: 3.6+

ADLES will run on any platform supported by Python. It has been tested on:

  • Windows 10 (Anniversary and Creators)
  • Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 (Including Bash on Ubuntu on Windows)
  • CentOS 7

Python packages

See for specific versions

  • pyyaml
  • colorlog
  • humanfriendly
  • tqdm
  • pyvmomi (If you are using VMware vSphere)
  • setuptools (If you are installing manually or developing)


VMware vSphere

  • vCenter Server: 6.0+
  • ESXi: 6.0+

Reporting issues and getting help

If there is a bug in ADLES or you run into issues getting it working, please open an issue on GitHub. I'm happy to help, though it may take a few days to a week for me to respond. If it's time-sensitive (I know the feeling well), feel free to contact me directly (see below).

If you have general questions, want help with using ADLES for your project or students, or just want to discuss the project, drop me a line via email (adles/, Twitter (@GhostOfGoes), or on Discord (@KnownError). The Python Discord server is a good place to ask questions or discuss the project.


Contributors are more than welcome! See the contribution guide to get started, and checkout the TODO list and GitHub issues for a full list of tasks and bugs.


  • Christopher Goes (@GhostOfGoes)
  • Daniel Conte de Leon (dcontedeleon)

Goals and TODO

The overall goal of ADLES is to create a easy to use and rock-solid system that allows instructors and students teaching using virtual environments to automate their workloads.

Long-term, I’d like to see the creation of a open-source repository, similar to Hashicorp’s Atlas and Docker’s Hub, where educators can share packages and contribute to improving cyber education globally.

Full list of TODOs are in documentation/ and the GitHub issues.


This project is licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0. See LICENSE for the full license text, and NOTICES for attributions to external projects that this project uses code from.

Project History

The system began as a proof of concept implementation of my Master's thesis research at the University of Idaho in Fall of 2016. It was originally designed to run on the RADICL lab.


All notable changes to this project will be documented in this file.

The format is based on Keep a Changelog and this project adheres to Semantic Versioning.

[1.4.0] - 2019-09-04

Notable changes

  • New CLI command syntax, run adles --help for details or checkout the Usage section in the README
  • Consolidated the vSphere helper scripts (e.g. vm-power) into a single command, vsphere . For usage, run vsphere --help.
  • ADLES now requires Python 3.6+. It is included or easily installable on any modern Linux distribution, Windows, and OSX.


  • The CLI can now be invoked a Python module (e.g. python -m adles, python -m adles.vsphere)
  • Added two new specification fields to all spec types: spec-type and spec-version
  • New argument: --syslog. Configures saving of log output to the specified Syslog server.
  • Added progress bars to the cloning, power, and snapshot vSphere helper commands
  • Support the NO_COLOR environment variable (per
  • New dependencies: tqdm and humanfriendly
  • Debian package (See the GitHub releases page)


  • Failing to import an optional dependency will now log an error instead of raising an exception and terminating execution.
  • Logs will not longer emit to a syslog server by default. Syslog server will now only be used if the parameter is set.
  • Behind the scenes changes to commandline argument parsing that will make adding future functionality easier and enable usage of other third-party libraries that use argparse.
  • Lots of code cleanup and formatting
  • Bumped dependency versions
  • Various other minor changes, see the Git pull request diff for all the changes


  • Dropped support for Python < 3.6
  • Removed Libvirt and HyperV interfaces
  • Removed dependency: netaddr


  • Added Tox for test running and linting
  • Added .editorconfig
  • Added .gitattributes
  • Reorganized some documentation
  • Removed CodeClimate
  • Moved the remaining examples in the project root into examples/
  • Added unit tests to Travis CI

[1.3.6] - 2017-12-19


  • Fixed issue with any of the commandline scripts where just entering the script name (e.g "adles") on the commandline would error, instead of printing help as a user would expect.
  • Fixed vm_snapshots script outputting to the wrong log file.


  • Under-the-hood improvements to how arguments are parsed and keyboard interrupts are handled.

[1.3.5] - 2017-12-13


  • Move package dependencies into from requirements.txt.

[1.3.4] - 2017-12-13


  • Man page on Linux systems!

[1.3.3] - 2017-11-25


  • The ability to relocate a VM to a new host and/or datastore to the VM class.
  • The ability to change the mode of a VM HDD to the VM class.


  • Cleaned up docstrings in

[1.3.2] - 2017-11-25


  • The ability to resize a HDD to the VM class.

[1.3.1] - 2017-11-24


  • Fixed bug where interfaces (and their dependencies) would be imported, even if they were not being used. This caused the "pip install docker" error.


  • Minor improvements to logging.

[1.3.0] - 2017-07-02


  • An interface for libvirt (LibvirtInterface).
  • LibcloudInterface that is inherited by LibvirtInterface and CloudInterface.
  • Libvirt to infrastructure-specification.
  • libvirt to optional-requirements.


  • Significant changes to class heirarachy. All interfaces now inherit from Interface and class its init method. There is a separate PlatformInterface that has most of the functionality Interface did, and this is what is now called from main().
  • Tweaked some boilerplate code in the interfaces.
  • Updated parser.
  • Formatting tweaks.
  • Moved apache-libcloud to requirements.

[1.2.0] - 2017-07-02

Initial stab at cloud interface using Apache libcloud (quickly superseded by 1.3.0, so ignore this version).

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