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Thursday 4th to Sunday 7th August
University of Wales, Swansea

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Thomas Lange - University of Cologne

FAI - the Fully Automatic Installation

FAI is an automated system to install a Debian GNU/Linux operating system on a bunch of computers with a variety of hardware configurations or on a homogeneous cluster of PCs. You can take virgin PCs called install clients, turn on the power and after a few minutes the operation system and the applications are installed, configured and running on all hosts, without any interaction necessary. Thus, it's an unattended scalable method for installing and updating a cluster with little effort involved.

FAI uses a collection of shell and perl scripts for the installation process. It was developed for installing the Debian Linux distribution but has also been ported to install SUN Solaris on SPARC hardware and to install the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

The whole installation only takes a few minutes. For example, an Athlon XP 1600+ with 100Mbit LAN needs about 6 minutes when installing 1 Gbyte of software.

Configuration files are shared among groups of similar computers using the class concept, so you need not create a configuration for every new host. Since the NFSroot is shared among all install clients only constant disk space is required on the install server. Therefore, FAI is a scalable method to install a large number of machines. It's also very flexible since all installation tasks can be redefined or extended using hooks.

A new approach can now put all parts from the install server onto a bootable CD. This CD performs the automatic installation without the need for a network connection. Also, preseeding of the debconf database is supported.

The homepage of FAI is http://www.informatik.uni-koeln.de/fai.

The talk will first motivate the need of an automated installation for different computer environments, and why it's important to plan the computer infrastructure. The setup of an install server will be described and how the clients are prepared for booting. Then the technical details of FAI are described especially how to create and modify the different configuration files and how to use the class concept. Also some examples of FAI installations will be shown. Later a brief comparison of d-i and FAI will show the different goals of these installation methods. The talk will finish with a live demonstration of a fully-automatic installation.


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