1.0 Solution Overview

Any repetitive task carried out by humans has the potential of more or less pronounced deviations. If you have attempted to install and configure a number of systems with identical configuration you will know that there always are some differences, no matter how hard you try to avoid them. Each of these discrepancies in itself might be considered minor however, in combination they can result in issues that may be difficult to analyze and to resolve.

To avoid this type of problems Micro Focus Consulting Germany has started to work on a framework to deliver a standardized installation and configuration in the OES2 time frame. The design criteria that had been defined back then can be summarized as follows:

  • Automated installation with as little human intervention as possible including any updates that are available at installation time.

  • Automated configuration of the installed system based on the services that the system needs to provide.

  • Regular automated updates with a defined set of patches.

The first criterion is fairly easy to meet. In fact there are many solutions available that can automate the installation of a Linux system. For SLES based systems SUSE Linux Enterprise Server AutoYaST is the utility of choice.

Integrating updates into the installation process also is an easy undertaking. A SLES based systems can consume update repositories from the customer centers (SUSE Customer Center (SCC) for SLES, Novell Customer Center (NCC) for OES) if the system being installed can access the internet.

If internet access is not available a local system needs to replicate the required channels and provide them to the systems being installed. On SLES12 such functionality can be provided by the Subscription Management Toolkit (SMT). On SLES 15 this can be achieved using the Repository Mirroring Tool (RMT). Both solutions can only access the SCC.

Micro Focus Subscription Management Tool 1.1 (MF-SMT) can be installed on SLES12 or OES2018 and can access the NCC.

Automated configuration can be implemented if the ZENworks Adaptive Agent (ZAA) is deployed and the system to be managed is registered to a ZCM zone. SUSE Manager (SUMA) provides similar functionality and has also been used in some projects in particular for customers that already use SUMA to manage a large SLES server population and want to use the same environment to manage their OES systems. There are other solutions that could also be considered to implement the configuration task.

In addition ZCM and SUMA both can be used to maintain defined patch levels as long as they are needed, whereas SMT and RMT have limited capabilities in this area.

Historically our solution has been based on AutoYaST and ZENworks Linux Management (ZLM). ZLM has been replaced by ZCM once it became available. Therefore this guide describes the implementation of the solution based on AutoYaST and ZCM.

However, you will find that very little modification is required if for instance you should want to use SMT to provide updates to your systems. Using SUMA instead of ZCM to perform the configuration tasks is also possible but will be more involved than replacing ZCM as provider of the update repositories.

By enhancing SUSE's automatic installation method through AutoYaST and combining it with ZCM, we have developed the Consulting Installation Framework (CIF) to provide standardized installation, configuration, and maintenance of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) as well as Micro Focus Open Enterprise Server (OES) that is easy to implement and use.

CIF supports OES and SLES from version 11. It may be possible to deploy older versions but this has not been tested with the current code. CIF also supports the deployment of Domain Services for Windows (DSfW) domain controllers for the forest root domain. Please note that DSfW child domains are not supported by the current CIF release.

Most customers maintain test systems where they first apply new updates or evaluate new configurations before they are deployed into production. We refer to these different environments as staging areas and explain how to support three such environments – development, testing, and production. However, our solution can very easily be extended to support additional environments if the need should arise.

In principal building your own installation framework requires the configuration of services such as an installation repository, remote access to this installation repository, a customized boot medium or PXE environment and the AutoYaST control file that defines the properties of the target devices.

Using AutoYaST to Install SLES or OES explains how AutoYaST works in general and what is required to set up an installation server. Most of this section focuses on the customization of AutoYaST that has been developed for and is used by CIF.

Using ZENworks to Manage SLES or OES presents the methodology to use ZENworks Configuration Management to provide management of configuration settings across many servers as well as the management of updates for SLES and OES servers. This includes well-defined (frozen) patch levels for different staging areas such as development, testing and production. The management of field test files (FTF) and the upgrade to the next support pack are also covered in this section.

Finally, How To Build Your Own Installation Framework explains what is available on the CIF download site and how to use it to build your own AutoYaST/ZCM environment.