Mode of operation

The machine that is being installed has to be booted somehow. The possibilities are to boot it from a floppy disk, from a bootable CD-ROM, or by PXE network booting.

♦ SUSE provides a GRUB boot floppy for starting an installation that is capable of network booting in conjunction with a Trivial FTP (TFTP) or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server.

♦ Alternatively, the system can be booted from an installation CD, but can be given a boot parameter such as install=nfs://192.168.1.1/suse9.1/. If a DHCP server is available, the machine obtains an IP address and then finds the installation files from the information given at boot time. This information can also be placed in an "info file" held on a floppy disk to be read at the start of the installation.

♦ The most elegant method, if it is available, is PXE booting (supported by most modern hardware). In this case, a little more apparatus is needed on the installation server side: You need to run a DHCP server and a TFTP server together with the special files (from the package pxe) required to start the boot process. The DHCP server offers an IP address based on the client's hardware address; the TFTP server then gives a file based on the IP address, which references the XML installation control file on the server.

In any of these cases, when the installer has booted and obtained the relevant XML file, the XML file controls the rest of the installation just as if a human were interacting with the installer.

The installation server can offer the installation files by HTTP, NFS, or FTP. In the case of SUSE 9.1, it is sufficient that the contents of the installation CDs or DVD (or a mirror of the 9.1 installation set on the FTP site) be available by one of these methods.

In addition to the autoinstallation module discussed in the following section, SLES 9 and SUSE Professional 9.2 also include a special module for creating and configuring the installation sources on the installation server. In addition to laying out the installation sources on the disk, this module also configures in a single step the service by which they will be offered (HTTP, FTP, or NFS) so that the installation server is ready for use. In the YaST menus, this appears as Installation Server in the Misc section and can be started independently with the command:

# yast2 instserver

A very interesting feature of this module is that it allows you to set up the installation source to announce itself by SLP (Service Location Protocol). As was noted earlier in this chapter, when you do an installation, you can choose the SLP option, as shown in Figure 9-32, to locate and use any such SLP-enabled installation source on the network.

Figure 9-32: The YaST installation server module

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