Automated disk partitioning on virtual machines with Cobbler

The default Cobbler Snippets just do simple auto partitioning. For a more sophisticated partition layout you need to know what kind of VM you are going to install. KVMs and RHEVs device name is /dev/vda, Xen uses /dev/xvda and ESX /dev/sda.

Luckily this can be figured out automatically, those different virtualization vendors are using its own MAC prefixes. So we can add two nice small Cobbler snippets to do the job. In this example, I call them hw-detect and partitioning.

hw-detect

#set $mac = $getVar('$mac_address_eth0')
#if $mac
#set $mac_prefix = $mac[0:8]
#if $mac_prefix == "00:1a:4a"
# This is a RHEV virtual machine
#set global $machinetype = 'kvm'

#else if $mac_prefix == "52:54:00"
# This is a KVM/Qemu virtual machine
#set global $machinetype='kvm'

#else if $mac_prefix == "00:16:3e"
# This is a XEN virtual machine
#set global $machinetype='xen'
#
#else if $mac_prefix == "00:50:56"
# This is a ESX virtual machine
#set global $machinetype = 'esx'

#else
# #This is a physical machine
#set global $machinetype = 'physical'
#end if
#end if

partitioning

#if $machinetype == 'kvm'
#set $disk='vda'
#else if $machinetype == 'xen'
#set $disk = 'xvda'
#else
#set $disk = 'sda'
#end if
# Lets install the system on /dev/$disk
part /boot      --fstype ext2 --size=250 --ondisk=$disk
part pv.0       --size=1 --grow --ondisk=$disk

volgroup vg_${name} pv.0

logvol /        --fstype ext4 --name=lv_root    --vgname=vg_${name} --size=4096
logvol /home    --fstype ext4 --name=lv_home    --vgname=vg_${name} --size=512 --fsoption=nosuid,nodev,noexec
logvol /tmp     --fstype ext4 --name=lv_tmp    --vgname=vg_${name} --size=1024 --fsoption=nosuid,nodev,noexec
logvol /var     --fstype ext4 --name=lv_var    --vgname=vg_${name} --size=2048 --fsoption=nosuid,nodev,noexec
logvol swap     --fstype swap --name=lv_swap    --vgname=vg_${name} --size=2048

An additional “feature” of the partitioning Snippet is: It sets up the Volume Group name according to your systems name. This is the unofficial standard since quite some time. It also sets some more secure mount options. Review them carefully if they make sense for you and edit them as needed.

The next step is to configure your kickstart template.

Standalone Cobbler
On a standalone Cobbler server edit /var/lib/cobbler/kickstart/your-kick-start-template.ks

# Detect the used hardware type
$SNIPPET('hw-detect')
# Set up default partitioning
$SNIPPET('partitioning')

Bundled Cobbler
When using cobbler bundled with Spacewalk or Red Hat Satellite, you need to edit the Kickstart profile in the WebUI.


Navigate to Systems -> Kickstart -> Profile. Select the Kickstart profile to be modified -> System Details -> Partitioning.

Copy the two Snippets in /var/lib/cobbler/spacewalk/1, where 1 is representing your OrgId.

Alternatively you can edit them in the WebUI as well.

To check if all is working as expected, add a system to Cobbler using the Command Line Interface and have a look to the rendered Kickstart file. This can be easily done with cobbler system getks --name=blah.

Happy System installing….

Have fun 🙂

Deploying RHEL as ESX guests – Kickstarting or using ESX templates?

Some time ago I asked my self the question if it is better to kickstart systems or working with ESX templates when deploying RHEL as ESX guests. I also had some discussions with friends working in the same industry. I tried it and came to the following conclusion:

Kickstart the systems is the way to go.

Pros:

  • Kickstarted Systems are already up-to-date after installation.
  • Proper SSH host keys. Using ESX templates ends up in having identical SSH host keys, from the security standpoint not usable, they need to be manually re-created.
  • Kickstarting means lean deployment, much less data needs to be transferred.
  • Very fast, kickstarted systems are deployed in ~3min instead of ~10min (depending on I/O and network performance).
  • Systems are being automatically registered @rhn or on a rhn-satellite with the help of cobbler snippets.
  • Better customization.

Cons:

  • The ESX template to used for kickstarting must have no disks configured, otherwise the whole nominal disk size is being transferred over the net.

When kickstarting virtual systems, only the data needed (the RPMs) is transferred. The best way is to have a “empty” ESX template, just with the network defined, but no disks. The reason for that is: ESX creates a checksum of the disk files, even if the disk is empty, the sparse disk files (in the case of “thin provisioning”) will be transferred over the net at its full nominal size.

When using ESX templates, after deploying, one needs to register the system manually and also manually update the system by invoking “yum -y update”. In contrary, kickstarted systems are always up to date automatically. To circumvent this fact, one needs to keep the templates up to date, it is a manual task which can not be automated easily.

Have fun!

Experiences with RHEL6 Beta 2.1

Like promised I’ll keep you updated on the RHEL6b2.1. The “official name” is not Beta2.1, it is “Beta 2 refresh”. Why not calling it Beta3? Anyway: The good news first: In contrary to the first release of Beta 2, it works fine again! The first release of Beta2 was quite crappy, it was not installable as a KVM guest. This was obviously due to severe bugs in some virtio drivers.

So, what are the news?

1. The bugs in the virtio drivers have been fixed, you can deploy RHEL6 in KVM environments again.
2. The vmware_ballooning driver has been backported.
3. A lot of minor bugs have been fixed, see the announcement.

Especially point two is cool, running RHEL6 in a VMware ESX environment does not necessarily need the vmware-tools installed anymore. RHEL6 now provides all three important vm-ware related drivers: The vmxnet3, vmware_ballooning and pvscsi. At the end of the day, this means one can dismiss the always-hated vmware-tools. A test of the behavior w/o vmware-tools by a ESX specialist is pending.

The alternative of vmware-tools are the open-vm-tools. This would add the benefit of controlled shutdown of the ESX guest with the vCenter tools. Since VMware does not provide (yet) RHEL 6 packages of the open-vm-tools I was unable to test it.

I made the same brief tests as I reported here. It seems that Red Hat is back on track, RHEL6b2.1 is reliable and not far away from being ready for production.

When can we expect a Beta3? Will there even be a next beta, or is Red Hat release a RC1 soon? There is still no published release schedule, all we know is “later this year”.

Anyway: Download Beta2.1 and test it, its a pretty cool release. If you find bugs, report them.

Have fun!