Unattended installation of CentOS 7 with Kickstart

While setting up my first Hadoop cluster I faced with the dilemma of how to perform installations of CentOS 7 on multiple servers at once. If you have 20 data nodes to deploy, anything you chose to automate an installation will greatly reduce the deployment time, but most importantly, it will eliminate the possibility of human error (typo for example).

Initially, I started looking at the disk cloning direction. Since all my data nodes are identical, I was thinking to prepare one data node server, then dd the system drive, place it on a NFS share, boot the server and re-image the system drive using dd image from the share. Clonezilla and DRBL seem to be the perfect pair for a such scenario. And although you will spend some time configuring, testing and tuning it, it was still worth to look into it.

Then I realized that even if I manage to establish the setup above, I’ll still have to deal with manual post-installation tweaks, like regeneration of SSH keys and probably adjusting of MAC addresses. On top of that, to transfer raw dd image (in my case it was ~30GB) might take longer than initial installation itself. Therefore I ended up using Kickstart method. I’m pretty sure there are more efficient solutions and if you happen to know one I’d love to hear your comments.

For this to work, you’ll need the following components:

  • a kickstart file, which contains configuration directives. You can either build it yourself or as I did, perform one clean installation and get it from the /root/ directory. In CentOS 7 this file is called anaconda-ks.cfg and it will be generated by Anakonda;
  • working DHCP server. You’re going to boot your server using CentOS installation media and the server has to have networking working in order to grab the Kickstart file;
  • working web server. This is where you’re going to place the Kickstart file.

Below is my example of the Kickstart file. Use it as an example of what could be put there. For detailed explanation refer to the Red Hat Kickstart syntax reference.

# System authorization information
auth ----enableshadow ----passalgo=sha512

# Use CDROM installation media

# Use graphical install

# Run the Setup Agent on first boot
firstboot ----enable
ignoredisk ----only-use=sda

# Keyboard layouts
keyboard ----vckeymap=us ----xlayouts='us'

# System language
lang en_US.UTF-8

# Disable firewall and selinux
firewall ----disabled
selinux ----disabled

# Accept Eula
eula ----agreed

# Reboot after installing

# Network information
network  ----bootproto=dhcp ----device=eno1 ----onboot=off ----noipv6
network  ----bootproto=dhcp ----device=eno2 ----onboot=off ----noipv6
network  ----bootproto=dhcp ----device=eno3 ----onboot=off ----noipv6
network  ----bootproto=dhcp ----device=eno4 ----onboot=off ----noipv6
network  ----bootproto=dhcp ----device=enp0s20u1u5 ----onboot=off ----noipv6
network  ----bootproto=static ----device=ens4f0 ----gateway= ----ip= ----mtu=9000 ----nameserver=, ----netmask= ----noipv6 ----activate
network  ----bootproto=dhcp ----device=ens4f1 ----onboot=off ----noipv6
network  ----hostname=hadoop-kickstart

# Root password
rootpw ----iscrypted $XXXXX

# System services
services ----disabled="chronyd"

# System timezone
timezone Europe/London ----isUtc ----ntpservers=,

user ----groups=wheel ----name=someextrauser ----password=$XXXXX ----iscrypted ----gecos="Some extra user"

# System bootloader configuration
bootloader ----location=mbr ----boot-drive=sda

# Partition clearing information
clearpart ----all ----initlabel ----drives=sda

# Disk partitioning information
part pv.1125 ----fstype="lvmpv" ----ondisk=sda ----size=29824
part /boot/efi ----fstype="efi" ----ondisk=sda ----size=122 ----fsoptions="umask=0077,shortname=winnt" ----label=boot-efi
part /boot ----fstype="xfs" ----ondisk=sda ----size=488 ----label=boot
volgroup hadoop-datan ----pesize=4096 pv.1125
logvol /usr  ----fstype="xfs" ----size=7629 ----label="usr" ----name=usr ----vgname=hadoop-datan
logvol /tmp  ----fstype="xfs" ----size=488 ----label="tmp" ----name=tmp ----vgname=hadoop-datan
logvol swap  ----fstype="swap" ----size=3814 ----name=swap ----vgname=hadoop-datan
logvol /  ----fstype="xfs" ----size=2861 ----label="root" ----name=root ----vgname=hadoop-datan
logvol /var  ----fstype="xfs" ----size=15016 ----label="var" ----name=var ----vgname=hadoop-datan



%addon com_redhat_kdump ----disable ----reserve-mb='auto'


Put this file on your web server, let’s call it kickstart-dn.cfg.

Now, boot the new server using CentOS installation media and when the initial screen appears, select Install CentOS 7 and press the e key to edit.

Keep the first and the third lines unchanged and modify the second one to:

vmlinuz initrd=initrd.cfg ks= ksdevice=eno1

Note that I explicitly specified ksdevice=eno1. This is a network card attached to the DHCP aware network and is used solely for the initial installation. Once the installation is completed I’ll disconnect the cable from eno1 and will use ens4f0 (which is in a different VLAN with no DHCP).

Press Ctrl-X to continue the installation. You should notice that if everything is fine, kickstart-dn.cfg will be downloaded, processed and the installation continues without any prompts.

Have fun!

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