I'm digging deeper into CentOS (basically a free version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux) v5.1, and for me that entails dozens of runs through the installer, testing out kickstart configuration variations.

This led me to wonder if it is faster to install via NFS or HTTP. I couldn't find a useful answer online, so I ran a couple simple tests. My client is a 2.4GHz Dell PowerEdge 600SC using SATA disks on a Promise TX4. My server is a dual 1.25GHz Power Mac G4, running Mac OS X Server 10.4.11. They're connected via private network, using a NetGear gigabit Ethernet switch.

For NFS installations, anaconda takes a directory containing a DVD ISO (or set of CD ISOs), and automatically loopback mounts them as part of the installation process. This is very handy with the CD ISOs, as it doesn't require much configuration on the server -- just an NFS export.

In contrast, HTTP installation doesn't work against ISOs -- the web server must serve up the individual files, whether from a loopback mount on the server, or a directory where the files have been extracted. With the 6 CD ISO files, this is quite a nuisance; with the DVD ISO, it's not so bad.

My fairly complete kickstart configuration installs 2,103mb of packages. Installation times were quite similar, but a bit faster for HTTP, at 18:28 for package installation and 24:37 total. Via NFS packages took 19:57; total was 27:38.

For reference, I used the following partitioning configuration, which factors into total installation time:

part /boot --onpart=sda1 --fstype=ext2
part /     --onpart=sda2 --fstype=ext3
part swap  --onpart=sda3 --size=2048
part /var5  --onpart=sda5 --fstype=ext3
part /home6 --onpart=sda6 --noformat
part /sdb1  --onpart=sdb1 --noformat

The partitions already existed:

[root@pe ~]# df -hl|grep -v tmp
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda2             7.7G  2.8G  4.5G  39% /
/dev/sda6             664G  198M  629G   1% /home6
/dev/sda5             3.9G   73M  3.7G   2% /var5
/dev/sdb1             688G  198M  653G   1% /sdb1
/dev/sda1             251M  7.4M  231M   4% /boot

I used the following set of packages for testing: