Automating SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 installation

Automating installation of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 is easy if you know how to maneuver the AutoYaST tool. Get two methods for creating an AutoYaST configuration file.

It's not that hard to install SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11. You insert the installation DVD in the optical drive

of your client's server, boot from the DVD and follow the installation prompts. But what if you need to install not just one server but dozens? In this scenario, the SUSE platform has some convenient options for solutions providers.

The main tool for automating SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) installation is AutoYaST, which creates an XML file that contains all of the settings you need when installing SLES. When starting your next installation, just add the option autoyast=autoinst.xml at the boot prompt to begin the automated installation. Make sure that the installer can find the autoinst.xml file. If it can't, it will ask for your input on every step of the installation. One solution may be to copy it to a Web server (autoyast=http://your.web.server/autoinst.xml) and read it from there.

More SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 installation and features resources:

Installing SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11

SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11: New Xen virtualization features

Creating an installation server for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server

There are two methods for creating an AutoYaST configuration file; the first method is the easier. In the very last screen of the installation procedure, the installer asks whether you want to create the AutoYaST file, and if you answer affirmatively, the autoinst.xml file is created in the home directory of the user root. This allows you to use exactly the same configuration when installing the next server.

In the second method, you create the AutoYaST file by launching the AutoYaST module from the generic SUSE installation and configuration tool, YaST. The most convenient way to launch YaST is by typing the command yast2 autoyast from a shell interface. This launches the interface that you see in Figure 1. From this interface, you can carefully select all aspects of the installation and specify what exactly you want the installer to do. You can also just clone the settings that are used on your current installation. Just use the Tools>Create Reference profile option to create the profile, and then select the Save option from the File menu to save the results to a disk. In listing 1, you can see part of what the result looks like. In this listing, you can see which kernel is going to be used and which modules will be loaded for this kernel.


Figure1: SUSE's administration tool, YaST, offers a convenient interface that allows you to create an AutoYaST file.

Listing 1: Example code from the autoinst.xml file

<global>
<activate>true</activate>
<default>SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 - 2.6.27.19-5</default>
<generic_mbr>true</generic_mbr>
<gfxmenu>(hd0,0)/message</gfxmenu>
<lines_cache_id>3</lines_cache_id>
<timeout config:type="integer">8</timeout>
</global>
<initrd_modules config:type="list">
<initrd_module>
<module>processor</module>
</initrd_module>
<initrd_module>
<module>thermal</module>
</initrd_module>
<initrd_module>
<module>ahci</module>
</initrd_module>
<initrd_module>
<module>fan</module>
</initrd_module>
<initrd_module>
<module>jbd</module>

After creating the AutoYaST file, you can tune it if needed. Tuning is rather simple: Remove the settings that you don't want used automatically and change settings that you are not happy with. You can change the settings from the graphical interface, but if you like XML, you can also change the XML code directly.

After creating the AutoYaST file, you can use it while installing other servers. The easiest way to use the file is by configuring a network installation server. If, apart from the network installation server, you also configure a PXE boot server, you can use TFTP to install your SLES server completely unattended.

AutoYaST makes installation of multiple SUSE Linux Enterprise Servers easy. You've now learned how to set up AutoYaST to create a template that you can use on subsequent installations. Solutions providers should find that using the AutoYaST tool really helps for fast and seamless installation of multiple SLES servers.

About the expert
Sander van Vugt is an independent trainer and consultant living in the Netherlands. Van Vugt is an expert in Linux high availability, virtualization and performance and has completed several projects that implement all three. He is also the writer of various Linux-related books, such as Beginning the Linux Command Line, Beginning Ubuntu Server Administration and Pro Ubuntu Server Administration.
This was first published in July 2009

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