NC State University

Web-Kickstart

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) uses an automated install system known as Kickstart. Basically, this is a detailed text file that the RHEL installer can retrieve and use as instructions to install the machine rather than asking a human many questions. One of the most powerful methods of delivering a Kickstart file to the installer is by HTTP which allows complex scripting to generate the proper Kickstart file. This is what Web-Kickstart does.

Solaris uses a similar system called JumpStart to perform automated installs. An advantage of JumpStart is that its’ format is already familiar to those that do Solaris installs, and JumpStart configuration files are often significantly simpler than Kickstart files. To leverage our Jumpstart knowledge, we decided to use a JumpStart-like file format and convert it to the equivalent Kickstart format, which would then be used to perform a RHEL install via HTTP. The templates used by Web-Kickstart to assemble the final Kickstart from the JumpStart-like “config file” include all the necessary packages and configuration to produce Realm Linux, our managed deployment of RHEL. This is how we perform automated installs of Realm Linux.

Contents:

Documentation

Web-Kickstart is designed to install Realm Linux from a simple config file. This config file is used to dynamically create a Red Hat Kickstart to do the install. The filename of the config files must be the fully quantified domain name of the machine you want to install. Files must be placed under the following directory:

/afs/bp/system/config/linux-kickstart/configs/DEPT

where DEPT is a Realm Linux “Department” you have access too.

In addition to the jump start config file, the computers’ DNS entry must be configured to use DHCP and the IP address received from DHCP must resolve to a domain name.

More detailed documentation can be found in the Realm Linux Administrators’ Guide. A full description of all possible key words and what they do can be found in CLS Wiki: Web-Kickstart Keywords

Currently, the following products are supported:

Product Version Key Status
Realm Linux 6.3 Server (x86_64) server6.x86_64 Production
Realm Linux 6.3 Server (i386) server6 Production
Realm Linux 6.3 Workstation (x86_64) client6.x86_64 Production
Realm Linux 6.3 Workstation (i386) client6 Production
Realm Linux 5.8 Server (i386) server5 Production
Realm Linux 5.8 Client (i386) client5 Production
Realm Linux 5.8 Server (x86_64) server5.x86_64 Production
Realm Linux 5.8 Client (x86_64) client5.x86_64 Production

PXE Booting Your Install

You should be using PXE to install Realm Linux via Web-Kickstart. The ISO images below are for environments that cannot use PXE for some reason and may not be provided in the future. You can configure your machine for PXE with these instructions:

  1. Set the MAC Pool for your hosts’s IP in Bluecat to “PXE-all.”
  2. Configure your machine’s BIOS to enable PXE and to boot from it last, unless you request a PXE boot. This is normally the default. Most machines will skip to the PXE boot option via a boot menu (sometimes F8) or by the F12 button.
  3. The machine will PXE boot and display the OIT logo and a prompt. There are instructions on the screen about the various options. Use the F# buttons to switch between screens.
  4. At any prompt type in the version key matching the RL version/arch you wish to install. This is the same string used with the “version” keyword in your Web-Kickstart config.

Disk Image

The following disk images are based on gPXE which is an Open Source implementation of a PXE boot loader. These bootable images emulate a PXE boot and allow you to install a machine via the OIT PXE interface. Once you see the OIT logo and prompt please enter the Realm Linux “version” keyword.

Web-Kickstart Tools

There are several Web-Kickstart Tools available to help you debug your config files and manage your config files in AFS. You can view the Kickstart that is generated and sent to your machines and check for syntax and other errors. All of these Tools can be found at the following web application:

References

The following collection of links points to documentation and resources that you may find useful but are not directly related to setting up a Web-Kickstart config file for Realm Linux.