Building Solaris 11 AI Server in a Dedicated Zone
28 July 2012

As of the first proper release of Solaris 11 (11/11) you can put an AI server in its own zone. This wasn’t possible previously because of issues, if I recall correctly, with the multicast DNS service. I like things to have their own zones, and I have a need for an AI server. I also require a repository server, so let’s do both. It seems sensible to me to consolidate the install and repository servers in a single “install” zone, and as they use different ports, it’s possible with out-of-the-box configurations.

Building the Zone

The zone is going to be on the server tap, and will be called tap-install. I’ve put it in my internal DNS, on

AI repos take up a lot of space, so I’m going to delegate a dataset to the zone and carve it up later. I put my zone data in space/zonedata/zone_name, so:

# zfs create -o mountpoint=none space/zonedata/tap-install
# zfs create space/zonedata/tap-install/ai

Now to make a zone and give it that dataset. From inside the zone, I want it to look like a proper zpool called ai. I also want to tell the zone it can only be configured to use, to avoid problems should someone try to change the address later. Finally, I want to loopback mount the global zone’s /export/home as /home, so I don’t have to set up automounter in the new zone.

# zonecfg -z tap-install
tap-install: No such zone configured
Use 'create' to begin configuring a new zone.
create: Using system default template 'SYSdefault'
zonecfg:tap-install> set zonepath=/zones/tap-install
zonecfg:tap-install> add dataset
zonecfg:tap-install:dataset> set name=space/zonedata/tap-install/ai
zonecfg:tap-install:dataset> set alias=ai
zonecfg:tap-install:dataset> end
zonecfg:tap-install> select anet linkname=net0
zonecfg:tap-install:anet> set allowed-address=
zonecfg:tap-install:anet> end
zonecfg:tap-install> add fs
zonecfg:tap-install:fs> set special=/export/home
zonecfg:tap-install:fs> set dir=/home
zonecfg:tap-install:fs> set type=lofs
zonecfg:tap-install:fs> end
zonecfg:tap-install> commit

Here’s a pro-tip. The first time I tried to do this, none of my clients could get a DHCP address. I cranked up the logging by editing /etc/inet/dhcpd4.conf and configuring an appropriate syslog facilty, and it told me

[ID 702911] DHCPDISCOVER from 00:50:56:3c:69:a3 via net0
[ID 702911] DHCPOFFER on to 00:50:56:3c:69:a3 via net0

over and over again, but the client never got the address. Hmmm. It thinks it’s sending an address; let’s see what snoop says.

# snoop port 67 or port 68

Nothing going out there is there? Obviously it was something network related, and my first (educated) guess was the right one. I’d turned on ip-spoof protection in the zone’s anet, and that was blocking the outgoing DHCPOFFER. So don’t turn that on in this instance! (mac-spoof is okay though.)

I could install the zone now, and configure it interactively on the console via zlogin. Alternatively, I can go through the interactive configuration now using sysconfig. This is a kind of half-baked way to create the huge chunk of XML that’s replaced the syidcfg file we used to use. It’s interactive only, so you can’t script it, which is rubbish, but look children, it’s colourful!

We’ll save the config file as tap-install.xml in the current working directory. Run

# sysconfig create-profile -o tap-install.xml

And answer the questions. Note that it only lets you configure a single NIC. This is a current limitation of AI itself. Anyway, you can now use the XML file to install the zone.

# zoneadm -z tap-install install -c $(pwd)/tap\-install.xml

Note that the path to the XML file has to be fully qualified, otherwise it chokes. Who is writing system software at Sun these days?

Now, wait whilst it pulls everything over the network from Oracle and installs the zone. At the time of writing there’s 175.8Mb of stuff to download.

Once that’s done, boot it up and do whatever post-install configuration you need to do. I only had to add my normal user account.

Setting Up an Install Server

One of the difficulties in learning AI (and IPS) is that it uses a lot of jargon which often doesn’t succinctly describe how things work. “Install server” is a good example, because really, it’s just a boot server. It’s a DHCP server that gives clients a mini-root. Admittedly, that mini-root contains sufficient code to initiate a network install, but in truth it’s the client that does its own installation, and the software it installs comes from the repository server, which usually isn’t the install server. (Though in this case it is!)

Anyway, remember earlier I mentioned that DNS multicasting didn’t used to work in a zone? It does now, and we need it. (All commands from now on are in the tap-install zone.)

# svcadm enable dns/multicast

We need to install the installadm package that contains all the tools needed to manage AI. IPS will resolve dependencies and also install the DHCP and TFTP services clients need to boot, as well as the customized version of Apache which presents the repository. Solaris 11 uses the ISC DHCP server, which is good, because the old Sun one was pretty horrible to manage. (ISC is not without its faults - I heard Joyent wrote their own for SmartDatacenter. (And they didn’t write it in bloody Python…) Anyway, do the business with

# pkg install installadm

Filesystems now. Remember I delegate a dataset and used alias to make it look like a real pool?

# zpool list -H ai
ai      1.58T   1.45T   127G    92%     1.05x   ONLINE  -

In this pool I want to create a dataset for the repo to go in, and mount it under ai/repo. I’ll also make one for client data, one for the install images (i.e. miniroots) and get rid of the damn /export/home that zoneadm always creates these days.

# zfs create -o mountpoint=/ai/repo ai/repo
# zfs create -o mountpoint=/ai/clients ai/clients
# zfs create -o mountpoint=/ai/images ai/images
# zfs destroy -r rpool/export

Creating Install Services

Now I’m ready to add my first install service. This is like a Jumpstart mini-root - it’s what your install clients boot off. I like naming systems, and I’ve decided my AI naming system will be arch-release_data. So, my SPARC Solaris 11 11/11 image will be called sparc-1111, and I’m going to put it in /ai/images/sparc-1111. We’ll see how good and idea this is over the years, as my collection of install images grows. (It’s actually not such a big deal, because you can rename install services now.)

I want my server to install clients from a DHCP pool of 5 addresses, beginning at, and I’ve already downloaded my AI ISOs. So, for the x86 service:

# installadm create-service \
> -n x86-1111 \
> -c 5 \
> -i \
> -d /ai/images/x86-1111 \
> -s /net/hp-bk-01/export/iso/os/solaris/x86/solaris-11/sol-11-1111-ai-x86.iso

Now the SPARC. There’s no need to specify the DHCP info - the macros are already set up.

# installadm create-service \
> -n sparc-1111 \
> -d /ai/images/sparc-1111 \
> -s /net/hp-bk-01/export/iso/os/solaris/sparc/solaris-11/sol-11-1111-ai-sparc.iso

You may notice that in the output of the installadm command above, it says Creating default-sparc alias. Install service aliases are new in 11/11, and they let you associate different groups of clients, profiles and manifests with the same physical image on disk, which I think is a good idea, though it does add a little complexity and gives you one more thing to learn.

# installadm list
Service Name  Alias Of   Status  Arch   Image Path
------------  --------   ------  ----   ----------
default-i386  x86-1111   on      x86    /ai/images/x86-1111
default-sparc sparc-1111 on      Sparc  /ai/images/sparc-1111
sparc-1111    -          on      Sparc  /ai/images/sparc-1111
x86-1111      -          on      x86    /ai/images/x86-1111

If you do a df or a mount, you’ll see a bunch of new loopback mounts, mapping all the above image paths into /etc/netboot.

We’ve got enough there to network boot SPARC and x86 clients, which we could install from the main repo.

If you want to do that, and check things work, run

# installadm create-client -e <client_mac-address> -n <service name>

and boot your client. It’ll install a minimal Solaris 11 with a DHCP net0.

Building a Repository Server

If we plan to do a lot of network installs, it would be nice to have our own package repo. I’ve already downloaded the ‘full repo’ ISO from Oracle, so I’m going to install it in the repo dataset I made earlier.

# lofiadm -a /net/hp-bk-01/export/iso/os/solaris/sparc/solaris-11/sol-11-1111-repo-full.iso
# mount -Fhsfs /dev/lofi/1 /mnt
# rsync -aP /mnt/repo/ /ai/repo

The rsync command comes from the ISO’s README file. It copies 6.6Gb of data, so it takes a while.

The SMF service that presents the repo is svc:/application/pkg/server:default, and you’re going to have to tell it where you just put the repository and, of course, turn it on.

# svccfg -s pkg/server setprop pkg/inst_root=/ai/repo
# svcadm enable pkg/server

You should now be able to query the repository with pkgrepo.

# pkgrepo info -s  /ai/repo
solaris   4292     online           2011-10-26T17:17:30.230911Z

And you can connect to it on port 80 with any web browser. An improvement from Solaris Express is that the repo is properly searchable by default now.

Using the Repository Server

Once I had my repo server set up, I had to tell my existing machines to use it. Some still pointed at the Oracle repo, and all I wanted to do was change the URI to my own local server. Maybe it would be better to point at the local repo first, with a fallback to the ‘official’ one, but as I don’t have an Oracle support contract, I’ve nothing to lose, and it keeps my machines consistent as I know they’re all being built, upgraded and installed from a single source.

# pkg publisher
solaris              origin   online
# pkg set-publisher -G '*' -g http://tap-install solaris
$ pkg publisher
solaris              origin   online   http://tap-install/

-G says ‘replace this origin’, and as I only have one origin I told it to replace them all; ‘-g’ is the new origin, and the final argument specifies the publisher.

Once this is done in the global zone, the local zones will automatically use the new publisher through the pkg proxying system, so you shouldn’t need to make any further changes.