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Tips and Tricks With Network Install Manager

Tips and Tricks

Network Install Manager (NIM) has been around for a long time and is used extensively by systems administrators on AIX as a central point of management for installation and maintenance. It can be used for LPARs, standalone servers and to install and maintain VIO servers. NIM makes management far simpler and allows the deployment of consistent images out to systems being supported. Effectively you can create a golden image and then clone it to other LPARs to ensure that the installations are well tested.

With NIM you can do a completely fresh install of AIX, install from a mksysb, apply maintenance such as a technology level (TL) or service pack (SP) or add bundles of products. You can also install multiple LPARs at the same time and installations can be done as a push (NIM server kicks them off) or as a pull (client LPAR requests install). Installation from a DVD is much slower – it can take 8 hours to install and fully customize an LPAR. Compare this to using NIM, which only takes 15 to 20 minutes.

NIM Master

Any NIM environment requires a master LPAR. This LPAR should be set up with dedicated storage and a dedicated network adapter. The purpose of the LPAR is to install and recover LPARs so it makes no sense for it to be dependent on a VIO server. Typically, this LPAR needs around 4GB memory and .5 of a core with 2 VPs. It may need more if you regularly do mass installs or updates.

The NIM master needs to be installed at the highest level of AIX possible. This will allow you to maintain LPARs at the same level or lower. It typically has a separate volume group (I call it nimvg) of at least 500GB that is used to store the NIM resources.

Installing the NIM Master

Install the NIM LPAR at the highest AIX level including TL and SP. Create a scalable volume group called nimvg to hold resources Create a JFS2 filesystem called /nim in the nimvg volumegroup Be sure to install the following filesets:

NIM also requires that the following filesets are installed:

Now put the AIX DVD in the CD drive or use loopmount to mount the iso image so you can start to set up the resources. In my case I have a filesystem called /software and I use loopmount and smitty bffcreate to copy the DVDs into directories that I install from. I have separate directories for the TLs and SPs.

To setup NIM you run the following on the NIM master

nim_master_setup –B –a device=/dev/cd0  -a file_system=/nim -a volume_group=nimvg

This will create the SPOT and lpp_source resources along with some other basic resources into /nim. The default resources created in an AIX NIM master are (use lsnim to check):

master               machines        master
boot                 resources       boot
nim_script           resources       nim_script
master_net           networks        ent
master_net_conf      resources       resolv_conf
7200-01bid_ow        resources       bosinst_data
721lpp_res           resources       lpp_source
721spot_res          resources       spot
basic_res_grp        groups          res_group

At this point you can start to add resources to your NIM master. The basic structure of /nim is:

/nim			Base directory
/nim/lpp_source	lpp_source directories
/nim/images		mksysb images get put here
/nim/spot		spot directories
/nim/bosinst_data files
/nim/resolv_conf	resolv.conf files
I also add
/nim/mksysb		Converted mksysb images
/nim/installp_bundle	Install bundles such as host attach kits, etc

At this point you can add machine resources (these are the LPARs). To add a machine you need to ensure its network name is resolvable (either DNS or add to /etc/hosts on the NIM master).

You will also need to check that the NIM master is enabled for bootp and tftp in /etc/inetd.conf.

Jaqui Lynch is an independent consultant, focusing on enterprise architecture, performance and delivery on Power Systems with AIX and Linux.

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