[Bioclusters] Imaging Xserves as compute nodes: OSX Server?

Chris Dwan cdwan at bioteam.net
Thu Sep 29 10:46:46 EDT 2005

Apple has a licensing mechanism for exactly this use case, though  
it's not terribly well publicized even within their organization.  It  
it possible to obtain what they call a "watermarked" serial number  
for use within clusters.  This is a special OS X Server license which  
will not shut down server functionality if it is duplicated within a  

People can contact me off-list for the proper contact info to obtain  
one of these, if your local Apple rep hasn't heard of it yet.

As to imaging, I've had luck with the System Image utility, and  
NetInstall (via netboot) in 10.4.  It's a lot better than any of the  
previous versions.  There is still an annoying behavior where a net- 
install will only re-image a particular *named* partition or disk.   
It's not possible (so far as I know) to automatically re-image the  
first disk device that they system finds.  This can necessitate  
booting the machines in firewire 'target' mode to rename partitions,  
which is pretty lame.

I haven't tried running OS X client on an xserve.  I've stuck with  
server, mostly for access to the command line server tools for  
network settings and such.

-Chris Dwan

On Sep 28, 2005, at 3:15 PM, Bergman, Andrew L. wrote:

> Hi,
> We're tryng to set up a straightforward way to image Xserves in an LSF
> cluster. I've had some success using NetRestore for basic brute-force
> imaging, and am also looking at radmind for maintaining incremental
> updates to systems. Right now we have only about 10 Xserves, but this
> number could grow.
> However, one thing I'm not clear on:
> OSX Server seems to require registration of the system to the OS  
> (by MAC
> address), at least for the Server functions to run, but possibly for
> other reasons, too. When imaging lots of systems, you generally use  
> one
> image (or a minimal number, anyway) to mass-deploy and try to make the
> procedure as automatic as possible, but is it necessary to touch each
> system for registration purposes for each installation/upgrade? I  
> really
> hope not, but I'm not sure what the recommended way around this is.
> My understanding is that Xserves require the Server version of OSX for
> the hardware to all work properly with the OS, though please  
> correct me
> if I'm wrong here. Only one of our Xserves needs to run any actual OSX
> Server processes (NetBoot, NFS) at this point, but I'm trying to avoid
> larger issues with doing things this way (i.e. conflicts from cloning
> "Server" on the same subnet). So, running OSX Client would probably  
> suit
> our needs for the compute nodes, but I'm not sure if that's viable?
> I'm posting to this list since there's folks with large Mac  
> clusters who
> I guess have figured out good ways to handle imaging. The Apple  
> docs are
> useful in many ways, but can be vague, too.
> Any suggestions for the best general tools for imaging the systems?
> Anyone using radmind?
> thanks!
> --andy

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