Installing Debian AMD64 on a Sun Fire X4100
These notes relate to the installation of Debian sarge on X4100s and
X4200s. Obviously, the Debian world rolls on, and I am told that
etch since beta3 can handle X4100s. (I'll be working to verify this.)
There are also some backported
images available of the Sarge installer. I have a success report
So, apart from my notes about the usefulness of the ILOM redirector,
this page has mostly historic value.
Installing Debian AMD64 on a Sun Fire X4100
Like Frederik Lundholm, I have some whizzy
Sun Fire X4100s that I wanted to get Debian installed on.
In fact, to do this in production I use a PXELINUX setup with a custom
loader image that grabs what is basically a tarball taken from a "gold"
system, and slaps it onto a drive.
But in order to get that system going, I needed a working amd64 installation
of Debian on one of these boxes, to (a) base the gold image on, and (b) run
the scripts that construct a boot image. Nutshell version: I needed to do a
I'd found Frederik's instructions. Those were very handy: because I tend to use
Debian as a user, not a hacker (I use FreeBSD to hack on), my knowledge of
custom kernel building, grub configuration, the initrd-tools package, etc,
were "patchy" at best (in fact Frederik's stuff was an excellent whistle-stop tour).
However, rather than faff around with finding a separate IDE drive to manage
the installation from, I decided to use the ILOM management facilities to drive
the initial install from the comfort of my office, two floors away from the
X4100 which was making more noise than a jump-jet at 10 paces. (Whilst they're
very groovy pieces of kit, they are most definitely machine-room boxen. You don't
want one on or under your desk.)
What follows are brief notes of how to make use of Frederik's kernel build and
the stock Debian amd64 install ISO.
Before you begin
Before you go any further, I cannot stress enough how much effort you will save if you
get the ILOM remote management working. I've written some
very brief notes on the X4100 ILOM interface.
How-to: preparing the new ISO image
- Grab: amd64 install CD, netinst iso: http://www.debian.org/ports/amd64/
and get debian-31r0a-amd64-netinst.iso.
- Mount the iso and copy the contents to newiso/:
mount -t iso9660 -o loop,ro debian-31r0a-amd64-netinst.iso netinst
- Get the initrd out of the iso:
cp newiso/install/initrd.gz .
- Mount the initrd image:
mount -o loop -o ro initrd initrd-orig
- and copy it to initrd-new/
cp -r initrd-orig initrd-new
- Get Frederik's's package from here: http://www.inserve.se/edu/debian/
and unpack it.
Note: this was the one step I didn't make a note of, and previous versions
of this document used various permutations that weren't guaranteed to work.
I've tested the above on an i386-based Debian installation.
-x ../kernel-image-2.6.8-dol-03-11-amd64-k8-smp_10.00.Custom_amd64.deb \
Copy the lib/modules into initrd-new. Because I wasn't sure about modprobe
&co, I removed the initrd-new/lib/modules/2.6.8-11-amd64-generic and made
that a symlink to 2.6.8-dol-03-11-amd64-k8-smp/ - this may not be necessary.
Use mkcramfs to remake the initrd (also needs root)
mkcramfs initrd-new initrd-new.cramfs
Put the kernel and initrd into the newiso
cp initrd-new.cramfs newiso/install/initrd
cp kernel-deb/boot/vmlinuz-2.6.8-dol-03-11-amd64-k8-smp newiso/install/vm2linuz
APPEND vga=normal initrd=/install/initrd ramdisk_size=15240 root=/dev/ram0 devfs=mount,dall rw --
You might want to copy Frederik's kernel .deb onto the cdrom too. When I did this
I made it available via http and used wget to grab it instead. Using the CD is
Make the new iso image:
mkisofs -o newiso.iso -b isolinux/isolinux.bin \
> -no-emul-boot -boot-load-size 4 \
> -ldots -iso-level 3 -R \
How-to: booting and installing the system
At that point you can either write yourself a CD or use the java redirector
to boot off the virtual ISO image (you may need to fiddle around with boot
order to do this). I created the SAS mirror at this point.
Once it boots:
At the language selection screen (ie, before the usb rubbish loads and grabs
sda-sdh), alt-f2 (alt-a f2 alt-a with the redirector). Start the emergency
That should make the scsi device available.
alt-f1 and continue through the install.
Once the initial install had completed, but prior to the reboot, emergency
and then follow Frederik's instructions to install the kernel, to wit:
dpkg -i ki.deb (wherever you got this from)
cat >> /etc/mkinitrd/modules
mkinitrd -o /boot/initrd.img-2.6.8-dol-03-11-amd64-k8-smp 2.6.8-dol-03-11-amd64-k8-smp
Then edit /boot/grub/menu.lst and ensure the new kernel module is the default,
and that an initrd line is added to that stanza.
Alt-F1, remove the (virtual) cd, reboot and continue with the installation.
Without Frederik's work, this wouldn't have been possible. Knowing that
the X4100 is a viable platform and what drivers are needed took several
days off the process. Having the kernel .deb available made things
Thanks also to Quanah Gibson-Mount for the corrections he proffered.
Bjoern Boschman provided the heads-up about Debian etch and the backports.
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