Solaris Jumpstart AFS install

Russ Allbery
16 Apr 2001 17:01:26 -0700

Noel Hunt <> writes:

> 	Our experience with Jumpstart has been that the more we can avoid
> 	using the Solaris package format apart from the actual operating
> 	system, the happier we are.  We do all installation of this sort
> 	of thing, including the AFS client, using postinstall scripts.

> Before one is reduced to mumbling something about tradesmen blaming
> their tools, some examples please?

I'm not sure what you're looking for examples of.  The reasons why we
chose that approach are:

 * The postinstall scripts are then usable on other operating systems as
   well, at least in part (if well-divided between the OS-specific parts
   and the OS-independent parts).  Solaris packages aren't.  That makes
   the code more reusable and easier to deal with.

 * We can find a lot more sysadmins who can understand shell scripts (or
   in our case bundle scripts) than sysadmins who understand how to
   modify and regenerate a Solaris package.

 * I *do* know how to build Solaris packages and would prefer to never
   have to do so again, since the packaging format is, IMO, gross.

 * Despite the theoretical advantages of a packaging format, using the
   Solaris package format offered us no actual benefits in practice, since
   none of the theoretical advantages like versioning were actually
   interesting.  (I can much more easily tell what version of AFS client a
   machine is running using rxdebug than by trying to query Solaris's
   package database, for example.)

Not all of these points may apply to all installations.

We used to use Solaris packages, and points two and three above bit us
badly.  The situation slowly degenerated to the point where the two people
on our group who understood Solaris packages had to make *all* of the
changes because no one else wanted to touch them.  That was even with
makefiles in place to do the work of building the package; the problem was
that one still ended up with an undebuggable black box unless one
understood the Solaris package format.  I slowly replaced all of our
Solaris packages with postinstall scripts that use a simple
locally-written file installation tool called bundle, and I'm happy to
report that quite a few people are now helping maintain our Jumpstart
packages and all the work isn't on the shoulders of the people who know
Solaris packages.

If I thought that Solaris's packaging format had any real future, I might
have a different opinion and encourage other sysadmins to learn it as a
skill; however, given the existence of (IMO) massively superior package
formats like RPM and Debian's dpkg, my *personal* opinion is that
Solaris's packaging format, just like HP-UX's swinstall packages and
IRIX's inst packages, is an evolutionary dead end, and would encourage new
sysadmins to not waste a bunch of time learning its intricate details.

Russ Allbery (             <>