Linux and Windows client management with opsi

Serial Production

Installing Windows Operating Systems

Another practical opsi function is the remote deployment of Windows operating systems. The only requirement: The computers must have network cards with network boot support so that PXE can be used to load boot images via the network. For testing purposes, you can test this functionality with a special VMware appliance [5]. Installing real Windows clients is a little more complicated, because you will usually need to integrate additional drivers.

To integrate the client with the opsi server, you again need the configuration editor. When you get there, press OpsiClient | Create new opsi client and enter the IP name, the domain name, an optional description, the IP address, and the hardware (MAC) address (Figure 2). You can create the client with the opsi-admin console tool in the form:

opsi-admin -d method host_createOpsiClient [opsiHostKey] [description] [note] [hardware address] [IP address] [inventory number] [one-time password] [generated]
Figure 2: If you are creating a new opsi client manually, you need to specify the relevant information.

For example:

opsi-admin -d method host_create OpsiClient testclient.domain.local "null" "Testclient" "" 00:0c:29:12:34:56

You can see all the opsi clients that have been set up in the Clients tab. Opsi lets you configure actions such as Wake-on-LAN or event triggers (Figure 3) for each client.

Figure 3: Opsi supports various client actions, such as Wake-on-LAN, event triggers, and messages.

Opsi provides the opsi-client-bootcd script, which is another function for creating opsi clients. Download the latest image [6], burn it to a CD, and boot to the new client. The setup wizard guides you through the few necessary settings. The last step is to select the operating system to be installed. The script deals with everything else.

The download packages provided by opsi (e.g., win7-x64, win2012-r2, win81-x64, and win10-x64) support Windows operating systems. However, the developers only provide these as a framework that includes the files for automating the installation of the operating system. The Windows operating system components are not included. You need original Windows installation files for the automatic installation of a Windows operating system. Copy them to the opsi server (possibly using the license management tool and along with the Windows license key).


One of the most interesting opsi features is its extensibility. The base system already provides impressive functionality, but thanks to the modular architecture, it can be expanded with various extensions through co-funded projects. Extensions are initially billable and are sold against a flat-rate percentage of the development costs. The extensions are then released as soon as the development costs are refinanced through sales. The current status of co-funding of individual extensions is listed online [7]. Currently, the following extensions are available:

  • WIM-Capture: Reads all installed software, hotfixes, and configurations from an existing Windows computer and stores the data as a WIM (Windows imaging format) file. This file can serve as a basis for further installations.
  • Scalability 1: Distributes the central opsi process across multiple processors and allows scaling to some 10,000 clients and many sites. Opsi reaches its limits in large installations with more than 3,000 clients across multiple locations. This module is made possible by several virtual opsi installations that are managed in a common back end. The implementation of a solution without virtualization is in progress and will then be adopted in this extension.
  • Local Image Backup: Allows quick and easy creation of client environments. A backup is created, which can then be installed centrally (e.g., ideal for training computers).
  • Nagios Connector: Lets you monitor your opsi installation with Nagios or a descendant of Nagios, such as Icinga. The module can keep an eye on the opsi server, clients, and software rollouts.
  • WAN Extension: Allows the integration of distributed clients for which no depot server is available (e.g., for home offices and field staff). If you need to install software on the client, this is provisioned in the background via HTTPS and WebDAV. Requires the use of the MySQL back end.
  • License Management: Supports the management of commercial licenses for all non-free software products. The extension provides the managed licenses to the software distribution tool. The module also stores the details about which license was assigned to which device and how many licenses are still available. The ability to link this to software inventory and reporting is interesting.
  • UEFI/GPT Support: Supports the integration of UEFI/GPT devices. Newer hardware, especially, may use a UEFI BIOS. This is true not only of servers and PC hardware, but also of tablets.
  • Linux-Support: Lets you launch a Linux installation just as easily as a Windows installation. The codebase of the Linux and Windows agents is identical. The extension supports all major Linux distributions.
  • MySQL-Backend: Uses the MySQL back end. The default back end in opsi is file-based and primarily stores relevant information in text files. For performance reasons, you should use the MySQL backend for installations with more than 300 clients.

Support Models

Although you can get opsi for free, you cannot use it for free. Administrators need an introduction to the environment and access to competent support in case of issues. The opsi developers offer various support models [8], in addition to newcomer seminars, starting at a monthly cost of about EUR140. Additional free support is available to opsi users in the opsi forum [9], thanks to the active community.


Opsi has already achieved a high degree of maturity in the present version, and according to the developers, they are continuously pushing the work forward. Development is especially dependent on the funding of other functions. Also the speed and order of other modules depends on specific customer orders. The provider is currently working on performance enhancements for large-scale opsi installations, which will be achieved by redesigning the web services. Additionally, work on an Active Directory Connector is in progress. Thus, you can look forward to future versions and extensions. Opsi is definitely recommended for IT administrators.

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