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)?

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