On Tue, 23 Jul 2002 14:08:49 -0400 Michael O'Donnell <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

I'm looking for an automated software installation
mechanism - I want to be able to deliver software
to my customers in such a way that they can install it on multiple machines as
painlessly as possible.

I think the Beowulf thingy you're talking about is
called FAI, or, Fully Automated Installation.

It's currently restricted to debian installs,
and was originally intended for Beowulf clusters,
however it's been more abstracted at this point
to be a generic installation utility much in the
way of Solaris' JumpStart.  It's actually much closer to JS than SI is.  SI
seems to depend upon the concept of "gold" or "pristine" images which are then
copied across the net to the client.

FAI is more like JS and KS in that it's actually an over the net,
package-by-package install of
the OS.  Additionally, it's completely configurable by designing your
environment such that every machine which gets installed by FAI falls into a
"class" of machine.  Depending upon the class of machine the client falls
into, determines things like IP addresses, number of ethernet interfaces, disk
partitioning schemes, NIS domains, etc.  There is absolutely nothing that is
not configurable with FAI.

For instance, I am currently mucking around with
FAI, and I have 2 classes of machines I care about, one which has 4 80GB
drives, and another with 4 160GB drives.  Soon, I'll have one with 4 250GB
drives.  The only thing among the hardware which differs is the size of the
drives.  This affect my drive partitioning scheme, so that 
the 80GB drives get partitioned differently than the 160s and 250s.

Additionally, if I had machines with differing amounts of RAM, I could set it
up so depending upon the amount of RAM and the size of the drives, I could do
things like pre-determine the amount of swap I need.  So an 80GB drive system
with 1GB of memory might be configured with less swap than a 250GB drive
system with 128MB of memory, etc.

Also, machines can fall into multiple classes
and depending upon which classes are defined for a given client, different
things can happen at install time.

Currently, as I said, it's meant to work only with
Debian, but supposedly there is effort underway
to use it with RH systems and Solaris.  Currently
it will work to install Debian on Sparc, though :)

Another thing you may wish to look at is cfengine.

It's not really an automated install utility, but
can be used that way.

Oh, FAI will work with PXE boot, as well as boot floppies.

I'm sitting in a training class right now not on my own system, so I don't
have any URLs for you,
but Freshmeat should have links for both FAI and cfengine, if not, google :)


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