Wednesday Apr 29, 2009

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 blogs.sun.com, 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 sun.com.

  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
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