Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jumpstart, X-series, T-series, oh my!

So I have been working at this gig at a client site. They're pretty much squared away, and don't question that there are huge advantages to minimizing the installed software on systems. Stopping unneeded services isn't enough. With operating systems as big as Solaris 10, you'll blow your maintenance windows if the latest patch cluster has to patch everything. Never mind that you're enabling the intruders with a rather rich tool set should they actually manage the breach.

So this brings me to my next least favorite topic: Sun's Jumpstart.

For a tool so versatile and well thought out, it's still incredibly frustrating to use. Here is why:

1. Solaris DHCP server

This piece of software is only slightly more obtuse than the Lotus Notes 3.1 API. Really. And ISC DHCPd doesn't work on the platform, because the Solaris TCP/IP stack and runtime pretty much break it. The feature to kind-of make it work (the dreaded #define USE_SOCKETS) has long been orphaned in the ISC source trees.

Watching a sysadmin's eyes bug out when he sees the script needed to initialize a Sun DHCP server for jumpstart installation correctly (note, that's NOT how Sun documents it, that's even scarier) is always fun to watch.

2. Sun's Intel servers

Clearly, Sun's product management listened to their #1 customer: the people who get paid by the hour to manage systems for others. The user interface is slightly better than that of Dell x7xx series ERA/O systems, meaning you can run TWO remote consoles with their java client before either your hosting java process runs out of memory or you run out of CPU cycles.

The firmware is so finnicky on their remote management cards you may have to downgrade, and then upgrade it in order to make the remote console see your keystrokes - with the customary three second delay (thanks, Java!).

Clearly, this was written by developers who have no idea that not everyone has a quad core processsor and 8 GB of RAM.

3. Let's break OpenBoot too

So I figured I'd turn to the beloved blades with T-series processors for some relief. Boy, was I wrong. They must have hired a professional to screw up their new OpenBoot docs. Is it "boot net - install dhcp" or "boot net dhcp - install" or "boot net dhcp - install dhcp"? How do you clear the boot environment when someone has fiddled with that stuff?

I gave up, went back to BOOTP.

Where do they think this shit up?

The client engagement contact noted that he thought it was odd to see me hitting my head on the monitor every few minutes, and canceled the LCD upgrade for the workstation...

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