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SmartStart: Fast, Faster...Uberfast

HP's SmartStart is a tool that guides you through the install of an operating system onto a ProLiant server.  It's a bootable CD included at no cost with every ProLiant ML and DL 300-series server (or higher).  (It works on BL series, too, and there's a similar Easy Set-Up CD for the ProLiant 100 servers).  Here's a trick that might help you make a SmartStart-assisted OS install super-fast.

Let me first explain what SmartStart does.  Typically, you boot a bare-metal server to the SmartStart CD.  From its GUI, you're guided through some preliminary configuration, like setup of RAID arrays on the local hard drives.  You're asked a few questions about the OS you plan to install and what agents (if any) you'll want.  You're asked to insert the OS CD or DVD, and you can walk away; the installation is handled start-to-finish, including the injection of the latest hardware-specific drivers.

With each version of SmartStart, HP has made the install process easier and quicker. SmartStart itself has a long history: it debuted with first x86 server, the Compaq SystemPro, back in 1989.

For awhile, HP has also produced a free USB Key Utility that lets you make a bootable USB key with SmartStart on it. This is actually the most popular utility downloaded from HP's Business Support Center.  It's pretty easy to use (and can make other bootable images as well).

HP USB Key Utility:   

Today's larger USB keys led us to add a cool feature in SmartStart that lets you get extra value from that USB key utility. After you've created a SmartStart image on a USB key, you can just drag-and-drop an ISO image of the OS installation media onto the same key.  Then, when running SmartStart, just choose the USB key itself as the source for the OS installation, instead of a CD or DVD.

Selecting USB as source media for OS install:

Viola!  Here's a video showing the subsequent SmartStart install process:

Not only does that mean that both the utility and OS image are on one piece of media, but the install runs fast.  In fact, it's faster than using Dell's Unified Server Configurator tool, which replaces the Dell Server Assistant CD with a ROM-based utility.

SmartStart, USC, and similar tools are best suited for manual installs onto a small number of servers. For these scenarios, there are some aspects of Dell's USC tool that I like, because both Dell and HP share the vision of reducing the number of individual pieces of media needed, simplifying the user interface, and speeding up the whole process. For folks with more servers, or more frequent OS deployment, folks typically use centralized image repositories and license management, making scriptable, multi-server tools like Insight Control server deployment.

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About the Author(s)
  • I am part of the embedded software management team doing UEFI, HP RESTful API & Scripting tools (STK, PowerShell, HP RESTful Interface Tool), etc
  • I am part of ISS Product Marketing, currently managing couple of dual processor ProLiant servers.
  • More than 25 years in the IT industry developing and managing marketing programs. Focused in emerging technologies like Virtualization, cloud and big data.
  • Delisa Johnson currently leads successful, corporate events for HP Servers and is established as the go-to person for business unit communications regarding launches, executive meetings, wins and business updates.
  • I am a member of the Enterprise Group Global Marketing team blogging on topics of interest for HP Servers. Check out blog posts on all four Server blog sites-Reality Check, The Eye on Blades, Mission Critical Computing and Hyperscale Computing- for exciting news on the future of compute.
  • I work within EMEA HP Servers Central Team as a launch manager for new products and general communications manager for EMEA HP Server specific information. I also tweet @ServerSavvyElla
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  • Lead architect for Intelligent Provisioning and related HP products.
  • Luke Oda is a member of the HP's BCS Marketing team. With a primary focus on marketing programs that support HP's BCS portfolio. His interests include all things mission-critical and the continuing innovation that HP demonstrates across the globe.
  • I work in the HP Servers marketing group, managing a marketing team responsible for marketing solutions for enterprise customers who run mission-critical workloads and depend on HP to keep their business continuously running.
  • Global Marketing Manager with 15 years experience in the high-tech industry.
  • I am a Senior Manager managing external content & social media for HP Servers Awareness. Stay tuned for topics on Mission Critical Solutions, Core Enterprise & SMB Solutions, Next Gen Workload Solutions, Big Data & HPC, Cloudline and HPS Options! Follow me @RubyDatHP
  • I am a member of the HP Servers Product Marketing Group blogging on topics of interest for HP Server Options and Smart Storage products.
  • Working with HP BladeSystem.
  • HP Servers, Global Product Marketing
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