Install CentOS 8 over the old OS and preserve the storage partitions

Always put your root partition separate from the storage (aka data) partitions. root partition should be only for system files and nothing more! Keeping this simple rule you may easily change your operating system (or clean install or clean upgrade) without deleting the user’s data thus preserving the old storage partitions.
Our storage has 2 storage partitions, which means they hosts only data and no system files and there are separate partitions for Linux booting (grub2) and system files (root partition). Here is the partitions layout:

[root@srv0 ~]# parted /dev/sda --script print
Model: AVAGO SMC3108 (scsi)
Disk /dev/sda: 48.0TB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/4096B
Partition Table: gpt
Disk Flags: 

Number  Start   End     Size    File system  Name  Flags
 1      1049kB  53.7GB  53.7GB                     raid
 2      53.7GB  54.8GB  1075MB                     raid
 3      54.8GB  55.0GB  211MB   fat16              raid
 4      55.0GB  69.4GB  14.4GB                     raid
 5      71.8GB  48.0TB  47.9TB  ext4

[root@srv0 ~]# parted /dev/sdb --script print
Model: AVAGO SMC3108 (scsi)
Disk /dev/sdb: 48.0TB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/4096B
Partition Table: gpt
Disk Flags: 

Number  Start   End     Size    File system  Name  Flags
 1      1049kB  53.7GB  53.7GB                     raid
 2      53.7GB  54.8GB  1075MB                     raid
 3      54.8GB  55.0GB  211MB   fat16              raid
 4      55.0GB  69.4GB  14.4GB                     raid
 5      71.8GB  48.0TB  47.9TB  ext4
[root@srv0 ~]# df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
devtmpfs         16G     0   16G   0% /dev
tmpfs            16G     0   16G   0% /dev/shm
tmpfs            16G  250M   16G   2% /run
tmpfs            16G     0   16G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/md127       50G  1.7G   45G   4% /
/dev/md125      991M  133M  792M  15% /boot
/dev/md124      201M   12M  190M   6% /boot/efi
/dev/sda5        44T   23T   22T  52% /mnt/storage1
/dev/sdb5        44T   14T   30T  32% /mnt/storage2
tmpfs           3.2G     0  3.2G   0% /run/user/0

Of course, when there are partitions above 2T the GPT is mandatory.
You can skip the software RAID1 setup if you use only one controller or you have system partitions only in one disk (virtual drive and so on). Here we have two hardware controllers, which we want to use both for the system partitions.
4 RAID1 devices:

  1. EFI partition (/boot/efi)
  2. swap partition
  3. boot parition (/boot)
  4. root partition (/)

The best practice is have total between 30G and 50G for the 4 partitions (in fact, boot partition could be skipped). Have in mind most modern Linux distributions cannot be installed on less than 10G~20G and for optimal results just separate between 30G and 50G for 4 partitions above (or 3 if you choose to skip the boot one).

Upgrade to CentOS 8 with clean install over our old CentOS 7 system partitions preserving the big data partitions.

Couple of things before start:

  • UEFI installation will be selected. So boot in UEFI mode.
  • IPMI KVM is used to install the new Linux distribution – CentOS 8
  • The installation disk is mounted in the Virtual CD/DVD IPMI KVM device – with Mount and boot ISO file from windows share in Supermicro IPMI Virtual media (CD-ROM)
  • All system parititions will be removed (grub, boot, root) and a clean minimal installation will be performed.
  • Network installation – using CentOS-8-x86_64-1905-boot.iso

SCREENSHOT 1) The Server is starting. This is the IPMI KVM window. Press F11 to Boot in Boot Menu.

main menu
SUPERMICRO Server starting – KVM

Keep on reading!

Debug Ubuntu preseed failure – select and install software

Preparing the preseed for unattended installation sometimes could be challenging. This article presents the right way to analyze an installation failure in one of the main steps – “select and install software”.
There is a ubuntu installation preseed file for our Bionic unattended installation, which uses the “pkgsel” to install first packages in the new system:

d-i pkgsel/include string openssh-server wget vim git python gpg ntp
d-i pkgsel/upgrade select full-upgrade
d-i pkgsel/update-policy select unattended-upgrades

When an installation step in the preseed of a unattended installation fails the setup stops with a “Continue” confirmation.

main menu
“select and install software” – step failed

Here is what you can do to check what exactly fails in step “select and install software”:

  1. Start a shell in the current installation boot. Press “Ctrl+Alt+F2” to start the shell. You may use “Ctrl+Alt+F3” and “Ctrl+Alt+F4” for two more consoles and “Ctrl+Alt+F1” to return to the installation wizard.
  2. Check the /var/log/syslog, in which file the debconf writes the logging information.
  3. Find the lines where the step “select and install software” starts and look for errors after that. In this file, you can see all the step titles during, which the setup passes and they are named the same way the windows’ titles during the installation wizard.

Here is the real world output

Presing the “CTRL+ALT+F2” to start the BusyBox built-in shell, which is ash not bash!

Be careful there are some difference between ash and bash.

main menu
Installation wizard – BusyBox built-in shell (ash)

Last 20 lines shows the problem – pkgsel failed to install packages in step “select and install software”.

The installation wizard stops.

main menu
debconf logging using syslog – pkgsel

The problem is in the package “ntp”, the setup cannot install the “ntp” package because of unmet dependencies.

Because it is not so important to install ntp at this stage we added the package to the script executed in “preseed/late_command” and removed the package from the pkgsel line in the preseed file. In general, our problem was because we set local repositories for the bionic packages, but the setup cannot update list of available packages when the you set Bionic mirror to be unofficial local repository.

main menu
Package because of unmet dependencies