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My company is doing a large project in which up to 30 different servers need to be installed. Each will be almost identical, and all will need to be built quickly. For a variety of reasons, RHEL4 was chosen as the Distribution to use.
Naturally, I thought of kickstart as an easy way to standardize and speed up the installation process. Unfortunately, kickstart is not a friendly process.
First, I wanted to eliminate the switching of CD's. That gives me a couple of options. Right now, a network installation is not an option. (Political reasons) My first thought was to use a USB key. After a big mixup with a U3 usbkey that the server would not recognize, I finally found out that the USB has to emulate a harddrive install. But a hard drive install will not let you choose which RPMs to install onto the USB. You have to copy the entire ISO from the CD. So if you need one rpm from CD 3, you have to copy the entire 600Mg ISO. Since right now I only have access to 512Mg USB, the hard drive/USB install is out.
That leaves me with custom ISO from CD. Following some instructions I found on the web, I was able to build a custom iso what all the packages I need (and some more that are installed by default but that I don't think that I need.) My problem is that as soon as the install image is copied to the server, the installation aborts with the message, "Install exited abnormally" with no further information as to why.
Does anyone have any ideas what I could do to troubleshoot this kind of problem?
Your best option is kickstart. I've installed tons of hosts at the same time in this way. Kickstart easy to understand once you get the concept.
What you'll have to do is copy all RHEL4 CD's to a folder such as /var/ftp/RHEL4. Then start nfs and ftp services. nfs will allow you to mount and run the kickstart file and ftp, which is a little faster, will download the RPM's during the install.
You will need to create your own ks.cfg file with the desired packages and options and select it as an option during the CD boot install of all of your 30 hosts. Of course the hsots will need a CDROM drive and a compatible network card. A kickstart install is the fastest install of all, not only because a network install is faster than CD but also because you can modify all install options with the pressing of one key.
Perhaps I was not clear on a couple of things. Yes, I am trying to do a kickstart installation. However, nfs and ftp are not an option for me. Despite my assurances, management has heard that both are possible security holes and those ports are being blocked at the firewall even for the internal network. For other reasons, static IPs are used. We do not have a DHCP server. I would need to create one just for the network install. Much as I would like to do a network install, I cannot.
I have built a ks.cfg file, but I cannot seem to access it. I tried placing it on a USB key and accessing it with ks=hd:/dev/sdc1:/ks.cfg (and placing ks.cfg in the root of the key), but it does not seem to work. (/dev/sdc1 is the usb. I have verfied this several times.)
If I could get the ks file to be access even if I have to switch cd's in the middle, that would be an improvement. But I cannot seem to access the kickstart file. Or if it is being accessed, something must be wrong with it because it never seems to work.
I would recommend to put all the 30 computers in their separate network, even if it's temporary. You can make the first computer the installation host that serves, dhcp, nfs, ftp and kickstart. Do all 30 installs then integrate them onto the company network afterward.
The USB drive most probably not work unless you load the module first. You can also include the modules if you built your own custom built init ram disk and then you'll be able to kickstart off the usb thumbstick. I still think doing it over the network is the best alternative. If you don't have permission from the admins you can still do it by creating you own temporary network or using a laptop.