I have been working on a way to automatically install OS images on a remote system.
Although this is a well researched area, there are still some drawbacks to the currently solutions, like propriety software solutions from HP and IBM. These solutions do manage to install a specified OS image onto the system, but lock the Organization onto a particular system configuration and vendor.
What I have done is to use a technology available for doing the above called PXE [pre executable environment] and modify things so that the NIC [network interface card] gets automatically detected and gets the IP along with the image to be installed on the specified system. This is done by using the giving a range of IP’s to be given by the PXE server on a Linux system and then converting this IP to a hex form. This is then used as a pointer for that machine and boots the machine from the local HDD once the OS installation is completed.
On the completion of the tasks for the OS, the same machine can be automatically re-imaged with the next OS, just by deleting this IP hex value created file. This technique is simple and very effective and efficient in saving of resources and manual work. The technique does not require any intervention except the initial putting the boxes to boot from LAN. A simple logic with the use of text files can be written to determine the next image to be installed. A similar software application is also available – ‘unattended’, which is also doing the same as above. This can really help the small organizations into creating a value addition to their testing processes by using lesser resources and man power to test over a wide variety of Operating System configurations.