Notes on installing IBM i over an NFS share

I was trying to install IBM i (mostly) over the network, and ran into some difficulties setting it up. IBM provides some information on netboot, the most important being how you set up an image catalog – that is, an NFS share with a VOLUME_LIST file at its root listing the files. However, it doesn’t mention how the NFS share should be set up (assuming you’re not using IBM i to host it), and what files should be in that volume list.

I personally didn’t bother with setting up TFTP/BOOTP, and instead installed SLIC via a disc image (that is, the I_BASE image). I find this easier, since it doesn’t involve any disc swaps to justify the ease of a volume group. This also means you can skip 90% of what’s in that article.

NFS server options

You’ll need to make sure your NFS server can speak NFSv3 via UDP, as SLIC’s NFS client before OS installation is pretty simplistic. On Ubuntu and Debian at least (I believe Red Hat is different here), you can set an option in the NFS daemon’s config like so, and restart it:

echo -e "[nfsd]\nudp=y\nvers2=y" | sudo tee /etc/nfs.conf.d/local.conf
sudo systemctl restart nfs-server.service

You’ll also need to turn off root user squashing, since it mounts with UID 0. You can specify it as part of the export options, like so:

/home/rack/IBM/i_installmedia/v7r3 *(ro,no_subtree_check,no_root_squash)

Remember to export NFS shares after changing them.

Volume list and installation

Make sure the B_GROUP discs are in the volume list. Do not include I_BASE, it can get stuck in a loop trying to find license agreements on I_BASE. Some of the netboot documentation floating around is again, very vague about what to include, and implies you should include it. Don’t.

One thing that tripped me up is to pick “network” instead of “media catalog” when installing – there’s no place to set up a media catalog before you set up the OS. Make sure that you have the service tools LAN adapter set up in DST.

If anything fails, you’ll get a “The next volume in the sequence is needed to continue the installation process” option, as if there was no media, instead of an error message about NFS. Check the things mentioned above and try again.

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