Jumstart/​JET for FreeBSD (brain­storm­ing)

There are some HOW­TOs out there in the net which de­scribe some auto­mat­ic net­work based in­stall via PXE-​booting a ma­chine from a serv­er which has a spe­cif­ic FreeBSD re­lease in the PXE-​booting area and a non-​interactive con­fig for sys­in­stall to in­stall this FreeBSD ver­sion on the ma­chine which PXE-​boots this.

The setup of this is com­pletely manu­al and only al­lows to net­boot one FreeBSD ver­sion. The server-​side setup for the cli­ents is also com­pletely manu­al (and only al­lows to in­stall one cli­ent at a time, it seems). This is not very user-​friendly, and far away from the power of Jumpstart/​JET for Sol­ar­is where you cre­ate a tem­plate (maybe from an­oth­er tem­plate with auto­mat­ic value (IP, name, MAC) re­place­ment) and can spe­cify dif­fer­ent OS re­leases for dif­fer­ent cli­ents and then just run a com­mand to gen­er­ate a good con­fig for this.

I thought a little bit how it could be done and de­cided to write down all the stuff (so far 160 lines, 830 words) to not for­get some de­tails. All in all I think this could be done (at least a sens­ible sub­set) in a week or two (full­time) if you have the hard­ware, mo­tiv­a­tion, and time. As al­ways, the prob­lems are with­in the de­tails, so I may be off with my es­tim­a­tion a little bit (also de­pends upon the knowledge-​level (shell, tftp, dh­cpd, install-soft­ware) of the per­son do­ing this).

Un­for­tu­nately I do not know if I have the hard­ware at home to do some­thing like this. I have some un­used hard­disks which could be used in a ma­chine which is used tem­por­ary as a test-​install-​client (nor­mally I use this ma­chines as my Desktop… if I do not use my little Net­book in­stead, as I do not do much at home cur­rently), but I’ve nev­er checked if this ma­chine is PXE-​booting-​capable (VIA KT133 chip­set with a 3Com 3c905C-​TX Fast Eth­er­link XL). I also do not have the time to do this (with the cur­rent rate of free time I would ex­pect to need about a year), ex­cept maybe someone would call my boss and ne­go­ti­ate something.

I can not re­mem­ber any re­quest to have some­thing like this on the freebsd-​current, freebsd-​arch or freebsd-​hackers list since I read them (and that is since about at least 3.0-RELEASE). Is this be­cause nearly nobody is in­ter­ested in some­thing like this, or are the cur­rent pos­sib­il­it­ies enough for your needs? Do you work at a place where this would be wel­come (= dir­ectly used when it would be done)? If you use a simple solu­tion to make a net-​install, what is your ex­per­i­ence with this (pros/​cons)?