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FAI -- the Fully Automatic Installation


FAI is an automated system to install a Debian GNU/Linux operating system on a bunch of computers with a variety of hardware configurations or on a homogeneous cluster of PCs. You can take virgin PCs (called install clients), turn on the power and after a few minutes the operation system and the applications are installed, configured and running on all hosts, without any interaction necessary. Thus, it is an unattended, scalable method for installing and updating a cluster with little effort involved. FAI uses a collection of shell and perl scripts for the installation process. It was developed for installing the Debian Linux distribution but has also been ported to install SUN Solaris on SPARC hardware and the Ubuntu Linux distribution. Curently there is ongoing work to support RPM based distributions. The whole installation only takes a few minutes, for eg. an Athlon XP 1600+ with 100Mbit LAN needs about 6 minutes when installing a Gbyte of software. Configuration files are shared among groups of similar computers using the class concept, so you need not create a configuration for every new host. Therefore, FAI is a scalable method to install a large number of machines. It's also very flexible since all installation tasks can be redefined or extended using hooks. A new approach can now put all parts from the install server onto a bootable CD. This CD performs the automatic installation without the need for a network connection. Also, preseeding of the debconf database is supported. The homepage of FAI is The talk will first demonstrate the need of an automated installation for different computer environments, and why it's important to plan the computer infrastructure. The setup of an install server will be described and how the clients are prepared for booting. Then the technical details of FAI are described, focusing on how to create and modify the different configuration files and how to use the class concept. Also some examples of FAI installations will be shown. Later a brief comparison of d-i and FAI will show the different goals of these installation methods. The talk will finish with a live demonstration of a fully automatic installation.

Thomas Lange

Thomas Lange studied computer science and has now been working as a system administrator for over twelve years. Most of his job is done automatically by shell and perl scripts, which do the installation and administration of several Sun Solaris workstation networks. Since 1999 he has been developing the fully automatic installation for Debian GNU/Linux, since 2000 he's also a Debian Developer. He gave several talks and tutorials about FAI on conferences like Linux Kongress, SANE, FOSDEM, SUCON, UKUUG, debconf, Cebit and at some local Linux meetings.