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Deploying openSUSE on Vultr

As an avid openSUSE user and fan, I wish more VPS providers supported openSUSE images. Linode and Amazon both do, and there’s nothing wrong with them, but I recently learned about Vultr’s custom ISO feature and decided to try to bring openSUSE to Vultr! Vultr provides guides for installing CoreOS and Gentoo, after all, so why not openSUSE?

Step One: Create a Vultr Account

This is pretty easy and self-explanatory, but in order to try this out, you’ll need a Vultr account, and a payment method hooked up to the account for billing. Once you’ve completed that, move on to step two.

Step Two: Upload desired ISO

UPDATE: I submitted a request to Vultr to include Leap in their ISO library, and they accepted it! You should now see it available in the ISO Library section, meaning you don’t have to upload it manually! You are of course free to still do so if you like, but if the version in the Library matches your needs, then continue on to step three.

The first thing you’ll need to do with your account is to upload the openSUSE ISO to it. Go to Servers -> ISO and click the “Add ISO” button. On the next page you’ll need to provide a URL from where the file can be downloaded. For installing 64-bit openSUSE Leap 42.2, you can use this one, but any valid openSUSE ISO link will do:

http://download.opensuse.org/distribution/leap/42.2/iso/openSUSE-Leap-42.2-NET-x86_64.iso

Then click Upload and wait a little bit for it to land in your account.

Step Three: Prepare AutoYaST

openSUSE’s solution to automated installations is AutoYaST, which allows you to kick off the installation with a predefined set of instructions describing what you want. These instructions are contained within a “control file.”

Create an AutoYaST Control File

The control file is an XML file describing the desired installation. There are a lot of details that can go into a control file, but here’s a simple one to get you started (based off of this one designed for use with Vagrant): autoinst.xml

Important note: Vultr mounts the instance’s hard disk at /dev/vda, not /dev/sda like you would normally see. Make sure that the installation target is set correctly or the installation will fail.

Make the Control File Available

Once you have a control file, you’ll have to make it available to the installation process. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Use the same server and load the control file locally
  2. Use a different server and load the control file over HTTP

The first option only works if you’re installing from a Live CD (full disclosure: I have not actually tried that approach, so it may not work at all, but it seems like something that would). If you’re using an ISO from the front page of https://software.opensuse.org, however, there is no live session to boot into, so we’ll go with the second option.

UPDATE: Since writing this post, a commenter on Reddit pointed out that you can use a public pasting service such as Pastebin to host the control file, which is quite a bit easier than the following advice that I originally recommended. If you follow that approach, make sure you use the raw URL, and feel free to skip the next section and go straight to step four!

Create an Intermediate Server

In order to serve the control file from another location, we’ll first have to create the other location. This server will be short-lived and can be destroyed after the openSUSE installation has kicked off. For the rest of this post, I’m going to assume a control file name of autoinst.xml.

Once you’ve created it, upload it to the server:

$ scp autoinst.xml root@<ip address>:~

The last step is to begin serving it over HTTP. The simplest way is to use something like devd, which can be installed easily:

# Run from the server as root
$ curl -L https://github.com/cortesi/devd/releases/download/v0.7/devd-0.7-linux64.tgz \
  | tar xz --directory=/usr/local/bin --strip-components=1 devd-0.7-linux64/devd

Now make sure that any firewall is disabled (systemctl stop firewalld on CentOS 7) and begin serving requests in the local directory:

# Run from the server as root, in the same folder as autoinst.xml
$ devd --address=0.0.0.0 .

Step Four: Install!

Now comes the magic. Boot up a new server using the openSUSE ISO, and use Vultr’s “View Console” feature to see the server’s output over VNC. Once you see the Grub screen with “Installation”, etc., press Escape, then Enter, then enter the following boot command:

linux nomodeset autoyast=http://<ip address>/autoinst.xml

Note that the IP address in the autoyast parameter should be the IP of the server hosting autoinst.xml.

Now go make yourself a cup of coffee or something while the installation runs; it will take a little while.

As soon as the installation is complete, you should be able to access the server via SSH with username root and password password (more secure options can, and should, be set by modifying the AutoYaST control file).

And that’s it! Enjoy your new Vultr openSUSE instance.