FAI multi-distribution

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People install many distributions with FAI successfully: RHEL5, Fedora, SuSE, Ubuntu, Debian. They are not all fully functional, only to the extend the people developed it for (sometimes, softupdates are missing, but only a few developer hours away, sometimes fai-cd doesn't work) but ingeneral it's stable and usable.

Most of the stuff below "old stuff" here is outdated. FAI 3.1.8 already has the most important things integrated:

  • unpacking a base.tgz named CLASS.tgz from the configspace
  • using other package managers (see install_packages or it's doc - I am not sure where and if there exists docs but the sources)

There are some ubuntu classes here: http://faiwiki.informatik.uni-koeln.de/images/b/b1/Fai-configspace.tar.gz

And there is a RHEL5 example configspace here: http://svn.debian.org/wsvn/fai/people/lazyboy/rhel-install-fixes_3.1.8/

installing other distributions

A Quick overview(with Ubuntu as an example):

  • build a minimal base image (here, the make-fai-base-tgz from svn://svn.debian.org/svn/fai/people/lazyboy/fai-distributions can help you, but is not required - you can build you base image as you wish) and put it into CLASSNAME.tar.gz in the configspace/basefiles
  • add the ubuntu host to the class CLASSNAME
  • check that the package lists of the classes of that host are ubuntu compatible
  • install as usual

As we have not much feedback on this topic, which makes it hard to know if it works, or to make it better, please report success or failure of this methods on the FAI mailing lists!

distribution specific stuff


a more verbose description on how to do this with SLES9 is available here


Redhat Enterprise Linux 5

See links mentioned above and below, and you need cfengine from here(or somewhere else) to do softupdates: http://ftp.rpmforge.net/pub/dag/redhat/el5/en/i386/dag/RPMS/cfengine-2.2.1-1.el5.rf.i386.rpm

bootstrapping the base images for other distributions

The stuff previously mentioned on svn://svn.debian.org/svn/fai/people/lazyboy/fai-distributions helps with other debian-like distributions.

For Fedora/Redhat like distributions, you can use yum.

For example, to bootstrap rhel5, after having created a local mirror, I create such a yum.conf file:


name=Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5

Then I call this script:

#! /bin/sh
tmp=`mktemp -d`

yum -c yum.conf --installroot=$tmp -y install yum dhclient
cp rhel5.repo  $tmp/etc/yum.repos.d/
mount -o bind /proc $tmp/proc
chroot $tmp yum groupinstall -y Core
chroot $tmp yum clean packages

echo "chroot created in tmp=$tmp"
cd $tmp
umount ./proc

tar cvfz $oldpwd/DIST-RHEL_5.tar.gz . 

cd -

echo "chroot created in tmp=$tmp"

And I'm done. This leads to a working install when using my example configspace here: http://svn.debian.org/wsvn/fai/people/lazyboy/rhel-install-fixes_3.1.8/

There are some issues left, so this currently works for dirinstall, only, out of the box. I had to install some additional packages (wil add the list later) manually in the nfsroot, and then netinstall via pxe worked, too.

To know what you have to install manually in the nfsroot, check the output of make-fai-nfsroot -v - at one point, quite some packages are dropped with the message that they aren't available, but they can be installed just normal, and are perfectly there. Without this, make-fai-nfsroot finishes with "success", but is unable to install a machine nicely via network install.

old stuff

This is the OUTDATED stuff - I only keep it until I know the thing ABOVE get people to a working cross-distribution install.

It is possible to install other distributions than Debian and dpkg-based ones with FAI. There's an experimental release, which you can get with the apt sources.list line

  deb http://faiwiki.informatik.uni-koeln.de/download/fai-multi-distribution/debian/ experimental/ 

if you're brave. Try it and tell me if it worked for you, or talk about it on the mailing list. You can help to improve it just by reporting things that don't work.

More info on the development of these features: Development_plan#fai-multi-distribution

The code should be fully compatible to FAI 2.9, you should be able to re-use your existing config space with no changes, just some additional classes for the additional distribution, defining different packages and some different installation procedures. It only needs one nfsroot for all.


  • you should have a debian and ubuntu mirror on your mirrohost, otherwise additional script- or config-editing will be required.
  • it can help if you had previous exposure to FAI, but is not necessarily much harder than get into FAI with Debian sarge only.


  • install the deb's from the download location, including the package fai-distributions (look into it to see what it is about), after adding the apt line to your sources.list, just type
 apt-get update
 apt-get install fai-distributions fai-quickstart
  • do everything you'd do with any other FAI install - read this wiki on how to do that.
  • copy example classes as usual in FAI
  • copy additional example classes:
 cp -a /usr/share/doc/fai-distributions/classes/*/* /usr/local/share/fai/
  • there's some problem with non-executable hooks, do:
 chmod +x /usr/local/share/fai/hooks/*
  • check configuration in
  • run
 mkdir /tmp/fai
  • run
 sh /usr/lib/fai-distributions/ubuntu_hoary/make-base-tgz

( in lib because it should be called from make-fai-nfsroot)

  • run /usr/lib/fai-distributions/ubuntu_breezy/make-base-tgz
  • run /usr/lib/fai-distributions/mandriva/make-base-tgz (this currently just downloads a base system image. This task needs to be solved.
  • name your install clients sarge, hoary, and breezy, or mandriva in DNS , or add them to the same classes as these example host configurations and install them as usual
  • for mandriva, you need a mandriva mirror at the location specified in files/etc/apt/sources.list/MANDRIVA and in /etc/fai/distributions
  • in general, check the config files in /etc/fai-distributions
  • for mandriva, I have no network suppport in my tests, until I manually add the module for my card to the config - ubuntu and debian do that well
  • also for mandriva, the X config isn't working

missing features

  • runs only on Debian sarge as server and is only tested on i386 architecture
  • only network install is tested - cd install is some more work to do.
  • not tested running on an Ubuntu server. also "normal" FAI has issues running on Ubuntu Linux.
  • in general, FAI itself has not yet been proted to run on any other distribution.


  • MANDRIVA: problem with grub menu.lst - you'll need a file files/boot/grub/menu.lst/HOSTNAME to get a proper menu.lst
  • UBuntu HOARY: does only work with an ubuntu mirror on
  • Ubuntu hoary: does only work with modified instsoft.UBUNTU hook
  • FAI 2.9 general: /etc/fai/sources.list must have an entry to a repository which has fai-nfsroot available
  • /usr/local/share/fai/files/boot/grub/menu.lst/postinst seems to have a bug within the script. I had to change the line where the variable GROOT is defined to the following one (because a wrong path to device2grub was supplied)
GROOT=$(/usr/bin/device2grub $BOOT_PARTITION)

subversion access

You can also get the latest subversion stuff by checking out

svn co svn://svn.debian.org/svn/fai/people/lazyboy/fai-distributions


svn co svn://svn.debian.org/svn/fai/people/lazyboy/fai-2.9-multidistribution

Then going into each of the two new directories and make dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot.