I’m currently testing the newly released Ultimate Deployment Appliance version 2.0 (beta) for provisioning a couple of ESX-hosts. As these hosts are too diverse to create kickststart scripts for, but don’t have a DVD -ROM drive to install ESX 4 from, I decided to use the UDA simply as a boot medium. In other words, I wanted the UDA to just serve the installation files through PXE and present the default installation GUI. No form of automation (via kickstart or otherwise) were needed to get the job done.

I soon realised that such an UDA was great for all the other ESX installations I do at all kinds of customers: no need to build customized scripts for every installation type or customer, but the ease of not having to fiddle around with physical media (have I mentioned before that most physical stuff like DVD’s gives me a rash?). Just attach the server and UDA (running on a laptop, in my case) with a crosscable or separated VLAN to prevent your regular network to go bonkers on the extra DHCP/TFTP server, boot the server, and off you go: a normal installation is presented on the console of the ESX-host.

So, how do you alther the UDA to enable this piece of fine magic? It’s actually quite simple.

Let’s begin with default configuration needed to get the UDA working:

  • Download the UDA 2.0 beta (here)
  • Unzip
  • Add it to VMware Workstation / Server / Player / ESX(i)
  • Add a second SCSI disk. 1GB should do fine, but I’ve chosen 8GB to be sure.
  • Boot the VM
  • Walk trough the setup wizard, configuring the hostname, IP-settings and Services (I’ve enabled DHCP, TFTP and HTTP)
  • Log in to the webinterface
  • Extend the ‘locallv’ volume group with the second hard disk
  • Upload the ESX4 ISO
  • Add ESX4 as an OS
  • Create a new template based on ESX4

Now for the exciting part:

  • Remove the “ks=http://[UDA_IPADDR]/kickstart/ColOGD/[SUBTEMPLATE].cfg” part from “Kernel option command-line”
initrd=initrd.[OS].[FLAVOR] mem=512M url=http://[UDA_IPADDR]/[OS]/[FLAVOR]
  • Remove all text from the “Kickstart File” field (that’s right!)

Now you’re all set to PXE boot the server. Select the desired ESX template and off you go. In just a few seconds, you should be presented with a GUI installer screen, enabling you to install ESX as usual.

Conclusion

Even with all the really cool enhancements in using master- and subtemplates in version 2 of the UDA, it is so flexible that even this simple configuration is easy to setup and use. You can even use the same instance on an UDA to do both: one default GUI installation option, and other templates for the more complex installation options enabling you to use the full potential of kickstart scripts.

Please do check out RTFM Education, where Mike Laverick has posted a UDA 2.0 Quick Start Guide as well as a Sample “Master” Template and Sample SubTemplate to kickstart your kickstart experience!

Update

As Ronan mentiones in the comments: If you experience any problems editting the subtemplates, please make sure to use Mozilla Firefox instead of Microsoft Internet Explorer!