How do you use Jumpstart?

Jumpstart is the technology within Solaris that allows a system to be remotely installed across a network. This feature has been in the OS for a long, long time, dating to the start of Solaris 2.0, I believe. With Jumpstart, the system to be installed, the Jumpstart client, contacts a Jumpstart server to be installed across the network. This is a huge simplification, since there are nuances to how to set all of this up. Your best bet is to check the Solaris 10 Installation Guide: Network Based Installations and the Solaris 10 Installation Guide: Custom Jumpstart and Advanced Installations.

Jumpstart makes use of rules to decide how to install a particular system, based on its architecture, network connectivity, hostname, disk and memory capacity, or any of a number of other parameters. The rules select a profile that determines what will be installed on that system and where it will come from. Scripts can be inserted before and after the installation for further customization. To help manage the profiles and post-installation customization, Mike Ramchand has produced a fabulous tool, the Jumpstart Enterprise Toolkit (JET).

My Questions for You

As a long time Solaris admin, I have been a fan of Jumpstart for years and years. As an SE visiting many cool companies, I have seen people do really interesting things with Jumptstart. I want to capture how people use Jumpstart in the real world - not just the world of those who create the product. I know that people come up with new and unique ways of using the tools that we create in ways we would never imagine.

For example, I once installed 600 systems with SunOS 4.1.4 in less than a week using Jumpstart - remember that Jumpstart never supported SunOS 4.1.4.

But, I am not just looking for the weird stories. I want to know what Jumpstart features you use. I'll follow this up with extra, detailed questions around Jumpstart Flash, WAN Boot, DHCP vs. RARP. But I want to start with just some basics about Jumpstart.

Lacking a polling mechanism here at, you can just enter your responses as a comment. Or you can answer these questions at SurveyMonkey here. Or drop me a note at scott.dickson at

  1. How do you install Solaris systems in your environment?
    1. I use Jumpstart
    2. I use DVD or CD media
    3. I do something else - please tell me about it
  2. Do you have a system for automating your jumpstart configurations?
    1. Yes, we have written our own
    2. Yes, we use JET
    3. Yes, we use xVM OpCenter
    4. No, we do interactive installations via Jumpstart. We just use Jumpstart to get the bits to the client.
  3. What system architectures do you support with Jumpstart?
    1. SPARC
    2. x86
  4. Do you use a sysidcfg file to answer the system identification questions - hostname, network, IP address, naming service, etc?
    1. No, I answer these interactively
    2. Yes, I hand-craft a sysidcfg file
    3. Yes, but it is created via the Jumpstart automation tools
  5. Do you use WANboot? I'll follow up with more questions on this at a later time.
    1. What's Wanboot?
    2. I have heard of it, but have never used it
    3. We rely on Wanboot
  6. Do you use Jumpstart Flash? More questions on this later, too
    1. Never heard of it
    2. We sometimes use Flash
    3. We live and breathe Flash
  7. What sort of rules do you include in your rules file?
    1. We do interactive installations and don't use a rules file
    2. We use the rules files generated by our automation tools, like JET
    3. We have a common rules file for all Jumpstarts based on hostname
    4. We use not only hostnames but also other parameters to determine which rule to use for installation
  8. Do you use begin scripts?
    1. No
    2. We use them to create derived profiles for installation
    3. We use them some other way
  9. Do you use finish scripts
    1. No
    2. We use the finish scripts created by our automation
    3. We use finish scripts to do some minor cleanup
    4. We do extensive post-installation customization via finish scripts. If so, please tell me about it.
  10. Do you customize the list of packages to be installed via Jumpstart?
    1. No
    2. Somewhat
    3. Not only do we customize the list of packages, but we create custom packages for our installation

Your "5: Do you use WANboot?" needs a middle-ground. We do use wanboot, but we don't rely on it. Wanboot can be very useful for some parts of the network, but I prefer jumpstart when possible.

Posted by Mads on April 29, 2009 at 09:58 AM EDT #

Our SPARC shop exclusively uses wanboot and Jumpstart with flash archives for all Solaris installations, plus disaster recovery.

We dynamically create the JS profile using a custom begin script, triggered by a generic rules file. Finish is mostly for minor cleanup.

We keep manually modified sysidcfg files for our hosts, applied by the wanboot configuration. There's a generic sysidcfg for unspecified systems.

We live and breathe Flash archives. We use finish scripts mostly for minor cleanup. We don't customize packages in JS, this is done in the flar.

We have several concerns about flash archives, especially with the advent of U6 10/08. The inability to mix U6 and pre-U6 miniroots and archives is a minor but seemingly avoidable problem. Why couldn't backwards compatibility be maintained?

More important is the inability (or lack of support) to create a flash archive with non-global zones defined -- even if you exclude the zonepaths, and even if the NGZ's are not running.

That's the biggest problem, and the reason we are still standardized on U5.

Another roadblock to the adoption of U6 is the issue of flash archives from a ZFS root pool. I hear this is being addressed however.

Generally speaking, it seems as if flash archive capability is not being well-maintained, in favor of the new installation and update code for NV. I'm all for the new stuff, but the old stuff should be maintained -- and IMHO functionality should be maintained between all updates of the 5.10 minor release.

Thanks a bunch. -cheers, CSB

Posted by Solaris Admin on April 29, 2009 at 03:28 PM EDT #

When will Flash(TM) and ZFS work?

Honestly, after inventing ZFS, Flash(TM) is the best thing since sliced bread. Whoever came up with creating compressed images of a Solaris system to use as a standard install image was a genius.

I also recently learned that JumpStart(TM) will be EOLed in favor of the OpenSolaris's "automated installer", which, judging by his architecture, is even more complex than JumpStart(TM) is; and considering that JumpStart is one of the hardest things on Solaris to master, that raises some serious concerns.

To top it all off, I am extremely concerned about the fact that JumpStart(TM)'s replacement currently does not support OS imaging, and I saw no plans to support such functionality.

While installing systems remotely is certainly an advantage, package-by-package install ala GNU/Linux is really for amateurs, and it's slow; it's nowhere near as fast and as slick as Flash(TM).

And that's exactly what's missing in the new installer.

Posted by UX-admin on May 01, 2009 at 11:56 PM EDT #

I used to work for a large Solaris shop. And I looked after the jumpstart infrastructure for a year.
1. We used jumpstart exclusively
2. We used home grown finish scripts to automate tasks
3. SPARC only. In big companies, usually DHCP is taken care of by windows team and it's considered troublesome to communicate between unix team and windows tem.
4. Yes, sysidcfg is used and created by a menu driven script
5. We use customized WANBoot miniroots, for both installation and system maintenance.
6. We use limited Flash Archives.
7. Mostly hostname based
8. We use begin scripts, with limited functions.
9. We use finish scripts extensively. Such as os hardening, boot disk mirroring, extra software installation etc. etc.
10. We use customized package list. Extra 3rd party software packages are installed via finish scripts.

As far as I understand one of the things that holds back WANBoot on ZFS is WANBoot only supports flash archive. It wasn't a big deal to deliver package installation over NFS over WANBoot, at least in a "trusted" intranet (I did it by myself). So I supposed Sun can do that too.

Posted by Sean Liu on May 11, 2009 at 03:45 AM EDT #

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