Sunday Dec 19, 2010

Configuring Bootable AI in Solaris 11 Express

This is the first of several blogs around bootable AI, the ability with the Solaris 11 Express automated installer to boot directly from the AI ISO, fetch an installation manifest, and act on it, without having to set up an AI install server. Most of this focuses on the manifest, so it applies to AI booted from the network and from the ISO. However, I do not plan to go into creating and configuring the AI network services, at least not right now.  I think that other folks have talked about this already.

Solaris 11 Express includes the Automated Installer as the tool for performing automated network system installations. Using AI, it is possible to install a customized load of Solaris 11 Express, across the network, without manual intervention. AI allows you to specify which repositories to use, which packages to install from the repositories, and how to handle the initial system configuration (like sysidcfg) for the system.

Generally speaking, AI relies on a network automated install service to answer requests from a client trying to install it self. This is sort of like the jumpstart approach. The client starts to boot, looks around to see who on the network can help out, fetches what it needs from that network server, and goes ahead with the installation.

But, getting the base install information from the network isn't always feasible or even the most expeditious path. So, AI has a feature called "Bootable AI". I've blogged about this before, when it first came out in OpenSolaris.

The idea of bootable AI is that rather than rely on a network service to fetch the needed information to boot, you boot from the AI media instead. During the boot process, you can be prompted for a URL where an installation manifest can be found. The client fetches this manifest and carries on, just as it would from the AI service. The upside to this is that no AI service has to be installed on the network. The downside is that it does require at least one interaction if you want to specify a non-default manifest.

The manifest is the XML specification of how and what to install on the system. There is quite a lot that can be done in terms of selecting which disks to use, how to partition them, etc. Check the Oracle Solaris 11 Express Automated Installer Guide for detailed information on this.

In this note, I am going to show you how to put together some of the key parts of the manifest. My main goal is to then use this with bootable AI, but the same manifest can be installed with an install service in an AI server.

Locating a default manifest

How to get started? The simplest way to make a manifest is to start with the default manifest, delivered in the AI iso, and modify it to suit your needs. A default manifest is located in auto_install/default.xml in the AI ISO. Copy this and modify it as needed.

Selecting "Server Install" packages

When Solaris 11 Express is installed via the LiveCD or via the default manifest in AI, a full, desktop version of Solaris is installed. Often, however, when you use AI, you would prefer to have the smaller server installation provided by the text installer. Since the manifest specifies which top-level packages to install, this is easily accomplished.

In the default manifest, look for the software_data section with the install action. This section specifies what packages are to be installed. The two packages listed here are group packages, sort of like package clusters in Solaris 10. entire and babel_install are the packages that, when installed, provide the environment installed from the LiveCD. In order to get a reduced installation like that from the text installer, replace babel_install with server_install. If there are other packages that you want to add to the installation (for example the iSCSI packages referenced in the comments), you can add them here.

Change this section:

<software_data action="install" type="IPS">
        <name>pkg:/entire</name>
        <name>pkg:/babel_install</name>

to this section:

<software_data action="install" type="IPS">
        <name>pkg:/entire</name>
        <name>pkg:/server_install</name>

Uninstalling the appropriate packages

The server_install package bundle has dependencies of the packages that make up the reduced server installation. By installing it, we get all of the other packages that come with it. That's part of the coolness of IPS. However, we also want to preserve the ability to uninstall or modify individual components of that overall bundle. So, we finish out our installation by uninstalling the server_install wrapper. This does not affect the dependent packages; it just unwraps them so we can modify them directly. So, to do this, update the uninstall section as below.

Additionally, even with the reduced server installation, there may still be packages that we want to remove. For example, there are still over 700MB of system locales installed that you may not need and might choose to remove. You can add any other packages that you want to remove in this section as well. Note that this really does first install the package and then remove it. Seems sort of redundant, but I have not yet found a way to cause IPS to build a plan that would note the uninstalled packages and just mark them to be skipped during installation.

Change this:

</software_data>
      <!--
        babel_install and slim_install are group packages used to
        define the default installation.  They are removed here so
        that they do not inhibit removal of other packages on the
        installed system.
        -->
      <software_data action="uninstall" type="IPS">
        <name>pkg:/babel_install</name>
        <name>pkg:/slim_install</name>
</software_data> 

to this:

<software_data action="uninstall" type="IPS">
        <name>pkg:/server_install</name> 
        <name>pkg:/system/locale/af</name>
        <name>pkg:/system/locale/ar_eg</name>
        <name>pkg:/system/locale/as</name>
        <!-- ... -->
</software_data>

Any other packages that you want to uninstall can be listed here, too.

So, you see how easy it is to build a manifest for AI that specifies which packages you want to include or exclude and how to create a smaller, server installation for Solaris 11 Express.

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