[ipxe-devel] Thoughts about an enterprise use for iPXE

Jarrod Johnson jarrod.b.johnson at gmail.com
Fri Mar 14 17:57:31 GMT 2014


FWIW, you can look at 'IBM FastSetup', which already employs iPXE in this
manner.  They use iPXE on a floppy image as a means to sidestep any DHCP
requirement around netboot.   The scheme is easily made workable yet
generic in UEFI mode (i.e. not having to include any specific drivers, just
SNP).  xnba repository contains some bits and pieces not yet in main ipxe
required to facilitate such a thing.  I have plans to make more changes
enhancing the scenario and will announce them to ipxe-devel as I commit to
xnba repository, and iPXE can elect to ignore/take in such changes as they
come about.


On Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2:29 PM, Andrew "Arthur" Summers <
arthur.summers at gmail.com> wrote:

> Team,
>
>
> I have an idea and potential enterprise use case for iPXE that I wanted to
> share with you. I debated sending this via my corporate email so it would
> stand out a little more in your inbox, but I thought that should this idea
> be viable enough to become something bigger, it would potentially be
> considered intellectual property of my company from a legal standpoint.
> However, let's just say that I work for a VERY big company (I'll narrow it
> down a little and say it's in the Fortune Top 5).
>
>
> As I'm sure you're aware, no enterprise datacenter uses DHCP for its
> systems. What's more, even if DHCP is used for backend interfaces, this
> becomes a problem when NATs and subnets are part of the picture. Even more
> frustrating is the fact that reconfiguring a system or attaching an ISO to
> an iLO or a VM usually requires involving a different team, filling out a
> form, logging hours, and jumping through a dozen or so hoops. Further,
> performing a zero-touch install generally requires creating a preseeded
> image for every target, and these generally aren't as tiny as an iPXE ISO.
>
>
> Enter iPXE. My thought is that this little gem could be used as a
> "software iLO" of sorts to give control over a system's boot process by
> using some simple dynamic scripts and backend configuration data. Instead
> of preseeding a full image for a system and needing to remove it after the
> system is installed, a system could be configured with the tiny iPXE ISO
> permanently attached. The only preseeding needed would be static IP
> information. Let me walk you through a potential boot process:
>
>
> CLIENT SYSTEM/VM
>
> - iPXE ISO
>
> - Preseeded with static IP config
>
> - Basic script pointing to repo (if unreachable, boot from HDD)
>
>  |              /\
>
> \/              |
>
> boot      return config, preseed, boot media
>
>  |              /\
>
> \/              |
>
> REPO SERVER
>
> - PHP to provide client-specific dynamic config
>
> - Boot media (via sanboot/TFTP/etc depending on system)
>
> - Database with preseed and iPXE script info for each client
>
>     - First boot or system marked for reimaging?
>
>         - Return config information and script to perform fresh install
>
>         - Update record in DB to allow regular boot
>
>     - Not first boot or marked for reimaging?
>
>         - Return script instructing boot from local media
>
>
> When the client boots, iPXE loads, configures static IP information, and
> reaches out to the repository. If the repository is unavailable for some
> reason, iPXE continues to boot from local media. Otherwise, the repository
> looks at its database for config information for the client. If this is the
> first request from the client or it has been marked for reimaging, the
> configuration data is dynamically returned to the client, the database is
> updated to allow the client to boot from local media on subsequent boots,
> and the client boots appropriately. If the client has previously made a
> request or is not marked for reimaging, the repository simpy dynamically
> returns a script instructing iPXE to boot the client from local media.
>
>
> There are obviously a few components that need to be built to allow all of
> this to work:
>
>
>    - Some sort of management console (web based?) for entering/updating
>    client information
>    - Would be great if AD integration were possible with role separation
>       (role for changing configs, role for marking systems for reimaging, audit
>       role, etc)
>    - Database to store client information (perhaps paired with something
>    like OpenStack/SaltStack?)
>       - Flexible options for backend integration (SQL Server, MySQL, etc)
>    - PHP backend to serve dynamic configuration info to iPXE requests
>    - Tool to generate iPXE ISOs with preseeded static IP information
>       - Looked at ROM-o-Matic
>       - Would ideally allow the creation of multiple ISOs based on a CSV
>       or a feed from the DB
>       - Web-based? Would need to be platform-agnostic
>    - iPXE currently doesn't recognize Hyper-V vNICs unless a legacy
>    adapter is used
>
> I'll admit that I'm no developer, but I'm no stranger to code, either. Let
> me know what your thoughts are, and if there's any way I can assist, I'd be
> more than willing to do so.
>
>
> Regards,
>
>
> Andrew "Arthur" Summers
>
>
> _______________________________________________
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> ipxe-devel at lists.ipxe.org
> https://lists.ipxe.org/mailman/listinfo.cgi/ipxe-devel
>
>
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