Creating an Installation Server

I f you just have one server to install, you will install SUSE Linux Enterprise Server from the installation CDs or DVD. If you have many servers to install, it may be more practical to use an installation server to install over the network. In this chapter, you will learn how to set up such a server.

Different kinds of installation servers exist. In its most elementary form, an installation server will just offer access to installation files across the network with some network protocol. The user then needs to boot from installation CD 1, then select the network installation source, and then specify the kind of installation she wants to perform. The main disadvantage of this method is that the installer still needs to insert the first installation CD in the CD drive, and that might not be an option. What if the server does not come equipped with a CD drive, as is often the case with servers? To compensate for this, you can configure an installation server with PXE boot.

Note PXE stands for Preboot eXecution Environment. It's an IT standard to deliver a boot image to a computer. To use it, a computer needs to be able to start from the network board. In general, this is the case if there is a PXE boot ROM on the network board.

In this scenario, the server to be installed will perform a PXE boot from its network card and then download an installation image from the installation server. This requires some configuration of a DHCP server and a corresponding TFTP server to deliver the PXE boot image to the user. The installer, however, still needs to enter all required installation options manually. To remedy the tedium, you can configure an AutoYaST installation server, which will use an XML file created with AutoYaST to automatically pass along the options. The advantage of such a scenario is that the installation will be fully automatic; the installer just needs to boot the machine.

Tip An installation server is useful not just when installing servers; keeping the installation server available is also useful once the installation has been completed. The advantage is that the location of the installation server will be kept as the default installation source. Therefore, whenever you are installing an application after the initial installation, YaST will automatically look for the installation files on the installation server. Therefore, you will never again have to walk to the server room and insert a CD or DVD in the drive of your server if you have an installation server available.

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