Adde

Boot network image? iSCSI?

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In the beginning I looked at iSCSI which with the right hardware initiator would make that possible since it simply looks like any other scsi drive only located on the server. However doing this in software (which would require a nic with iSCSI driver) is not an option I've found software for, the only iSCSI initiator I've found seems to be mounted later by windows.

It's called "Fit Client" by these guys:

http://www.shaolinmicro.com/product/aptus/technology.php

And I also see it as the best of Thin and Fat client in one. But once again it is seems to Linux only.

....

So where can I go from here?

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Adde - Have you looked at this StarPort-StarWind.

It is a software iSCSI initiator and client package for Windows, it might be useful.

Best Regards

Theis

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I've looked at it. For setting up the iSCSI target running StarWind would be the simplest way to do it. However the StarPort driver is the problem, it must be setup and mounted before the OS. Perhaps this can be done with PXE, but I simply don't know how. I've written to RocketDivision about it, perhaps they have the answers.

Compared to other solutions the RocketDivision products are priced low enough (around the price of a single drive) to be an option even for home usage.

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RocketDivision is a really low latency organisation, just recieved this answer:

StarPort cannot be used as boot initiator for now. However we're working on

making it capable of doing so. Sorry,

I cannot release exact dates.

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Hi

For what you want to do, you need two products:

One for remote booting, one for being able to use THE SAME windows installation on DIFFERENT hardware.

I already did this, with Qualystem products.

- LanPC 3 is the product that makes it possible to remote boot Windows 2K/XP on diskless PCs, using PXE for the first part of the boot process. Everything is run locally, of course.

- UbiBoot is the product that makes it possible to have a single Windows drive that can be used to operate different hardware. (I used this product with Norton Ghost as well, in order for me to have a single Ghost image that I can dump of different hardware. Very convenient, I can tell)

With the combination of those two products I could make some IT rooms in schools with a single Windows XP configuration and several types of hardware (very different HW, you can believe me!), all the PCs running diskless, and with the appropriate write filters, the configuration cannot be made unstable.

The virtual drive can be shared by several diskless clients at the same time, so no more "deployment".

The Virtual Drive server module runs equally on Windows/Linux/FreeBSD servers. Linux had the schools preference, so this is what I usually installed.

After a little training (it was required because there were quite "new" or "obscure" things to me) I could install and configure rooms of PCs in half a day, and then, changing the configuration, "deploying" a new application or patch is so easy: only ONE configuration to update.

More details on Qualystem web site:

http://www.qualystem.com

BTW: They had special prices for education, making the product very attractive

HTH

Zack

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Since I don't need to boot several computers from the same image, I actually prefer one image per computer because they all do different things I would need the Lan-PC 3 software and that's it. Seems to be a nice piece of software, I'll look a bit more for a free solution though.

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I've found a nice document on Cisco's site about booting from iSCSI, they have generous documentation on how to set up PXE and create images and configuring/installing drivers. There is however one missing piece, the required driver require that you have a special access level to Cisco's site (some service contract or certification) that I don't have. I've got all the documents but is there anybody who has access to the driver who can help me get it?

By the way the documents says it requires some Cisco special hardware but in a FAQ section it also states that only standard iSCSI implementation is needed, they have only verified it with Cisco equipment though.

It really seems worth a trial if I can get that driver.

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Wow, I'd really like to play with that too.  I've wanted diskless WinXP boxen for quite some time.

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I think almost everybody who knows that it is possible to boot from the NIC has though about it, but many get to the conclusion that it is too hard. That is why there seems to be so many nicely boxed solutions to do it.

But once this problem is solved and an easy to use guide is written this will be an option for the people.

I the only looser in this game is the drive manufacturers because they will sell fewer of the slow/small drives. But they will probably sell some more fast drives for those raid arrays keeping the data anyway.

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It's only hard because Microsoft doesn't support it. I've been booting diskless Linux boxes for years using Etherboot and PXE. I've even booted some diskless workstations into DOS.

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Yes, they should have one of those insane easy to use wizards for setting up iSCSI targets and another one for booting from it. If built into the installation process it could probably be made really easy. I haven't any experience from Lan-PC and other existing software for doing it, but I bet they aren't that hard to use (and setting up an iSCSI target with StarWind was really simple).

One thing that really surprised me was that routers with dhcp servers suitable for PXE seems quite rare. I expected my m0n0wall to make it possible through the web-gui but no, I have to hack (or patch or whatever) it to make it usable (I'll test the easy way first). It really seems that no support for PXE and diskless computers come in two forms, do it all by yourself or pay the price for expensive products.

But that's about to change, if I succeed I'll spend a few hours writing a guide on how I did it. First I wasn't sure about it but I get more and more indications that with the right guide many would like to do it.

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Yes, they should have one of those insane easy to use wizards for setting up iSCSI targets and another one for booting from it. If built into the installation process it could probably be made really easy. I haven't any experience from Lan-PC and other existing software for doing it, but I bet they aren't that hard to use (and setting up an iSCSI target with StarWind was really simple).

One thing that really surprised me was that routers with dhcp servers suitable for PXE seems quite rare. I expected my m0n0wall to make it possible through the web-gui but no, I have to hack (or patch or whatever) it to make it usable (I'll test the easy way first). It really seems that no support for PXE and diskless computers come in two forms, do it all by yourself or pay the price for expensive products.

But that's about to change, if I succeed I'll spend a few hours writing a guide on how I did it. First I wasn't sure about it but I get more and more indications that with the right guide many would like to do it.

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Noticed that m0n0wall has the functionality needed, although not in the web-gui, they are "hidden config options". I don't blame the m0n0wall-project they follow the over all PXE design rule: "Let's make it a little bit harder to make it look cool!" :D

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It's only hard because Microsoft doesn't support it.  I've been booting diskless Linux boxes for years using Etherboot and PXE.  I've even booted some diskless workstations into DOS.

207275[/snapback]

Agreed. It is virtually effortless with Linux.

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Thanx to Brad I've got the driver from Cisco now. I'll tinker with it during July, and post my work here as I progress, finally I'll try to gather all the information to an easy to use guide.

I can't wait for my vacation, hopefully there will be some time left for spending in the sun :D .

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I'll try to gather all the information to an easy to use guide.

207393[/snapback]

I for one is looking forward to reading the guide and try it out.

Best Regards

Theis

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Started with some simple tests yesterday:

I set up a tftp server (http://tftpd32.jounin.net/) at my file server, to send the inbp.com file (boot file from Cisco, more on this later in the project).

I configured my m0n0wall with the following options:

<next-server>192.168.1.96</next-server>

<filename>inbp.com</filename>

Putting these lines before the "staticmap" option just like in the m0n0wall example configuration.

When trying to net-boot a client nothing happens, the m0n0wall gets several dhcp requests but there is no activity on the tftp server.

Next step:

I dump the ordinary network with the m0n0wall and set up a small test network and use tftpd32 as tftp and dhcp server.

Try to net-boot the client again, and it work fine, it stops booting when displaying messages about not finding an iSCSI target (as it should).

I'm going to try and find out why it didn't work with m0n0wall, if there's no easy fix I'll consider changing to ipcop which seems to have much more web-gui options for the dhcp-server.

to be continued...

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I configured my m0n0wall with the following options:

<next-server>192.168.1.96</next-server>

<filename>inbp.com</filename>

Putting these lines before the "staticmap" option just like in the m0n0wall example configuration.

When trying to net-boot a client nothing happens, the m0n0wall gets several dhcp requests but there is no activity on the tftp server.

Solved that problem by uppgrading the m0n0wall to latest beta version. I'll probably have to replace the m0n0wall or hack it someway to make it deliver those iSCS target options.

My next research step, figuring out what the options should be and how to configure a m0n0wall or any other dhcp-server to send the options to the client. Probably will work a little on this the next weekend.

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Network boot of Windows is possible via iSCSI using standard ethernet NICs. We hope to release our product in early July.

emBoot www.emboot.com

Regards,

Steve Marfisi

emBoot Inc.

Edited by stevemarfisi

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Network boot of Windows is possible via iSCSI using standard ethernet NICs. We hope to release our product in early July.

emBoot www.emboot.com

Regards,

Steve Marfisi

emBoot Inc.

208374[/snapback]

Nice, I'll try to make it with the current free stuff first though.

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Network boot of Windows is possible via iSCSI using standard ethernet NICs. We hope to release our product in early July.

emBoot www.emboot.com

Regards,

Steve Marfisi

emBoot Inc.

208374[/snapback]

Nice, I'll try to make it with the current free stuff first though.

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I can understand the desire to find a 'free' solution....it is possible to do this today in Linux...but not today for Windows with code or open-source projects that are available right now.

A summary of what needs to be done for Windows can be found in this excerpt from a Qlogic whitepaper, found at http://www.qlogic.com/documents/datasheets...0032004-00A.pdf

They say..."For a software initiator to implement iSCSI SAN boot, the NIC must overcome a Catch-22 situation in which the NIC needs to load an OS to have a network stack, but with the OS stored across the network it does not yet have the means to communicate with the network. There is a complex iterative process for finding a boot server, then finding the OS files and loading portions of the stack so further portions can be downloaded. Although possible, supporting this method is very difficult."

--Steve

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Personally I'd rather see ATAoE (ATA over Ethernet) than iSCSI. iSCSI is complated and slow. ATAoE is simple and elegant, and doesn't need a network stack. Booting from it should be a piece of cake using something like Etherboot as a code base. And Etherboot can be embedded into the BIOS... Unfortunately, ATAoE is new, and currently supported by only one vendor (Coraid). Linux has an ATAoE initiator but there is currently no free ATAoE target. It would be very easy to make one, though!

If someone extended Etherboot to provide BIOS disk services, then it would still take a Windows storage driver. That driver would have to provide both the Ethernet support and ATA support. (You'd use another NIC for your LAN.)

Just thinking outside my ass...

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I can understand the desire to find a 'free' solution....it is possible to do this today in Linux...but not today for Windows with code or open-source projects that are available right now.

208412[/snapback]

Cisco says it is possible, and I'm willing to try hard and fail badly before trying something else, but I can see your point for any corporate user that don't think that a "proof of concept" is enough.

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Personally I'd rather see ATAoE (ATA over Ethernet) than iSCSI.  iSCSI is complated and slow.  ATAoE is simple and elegant, and doesn't need a network stack.  Booting from it should be a piece of cake using something like Etherboot as a code base.  And Etherboot can be embedded into the BIOS...  Unfortunately, ATAoE is new, and currently supported by only one vendor (Coraid).  Linux has an ATAoE initiator but there is currently no free ATAoE target.  It would be very easy to make one, though!

If someone extended Etherboot to provide BIOS disk services, then it would still take a Windows storage driver.  That driver would have to provide both the Ethernet support and ATA support.  (You'd use another NIC for your LAN.)

Just thinking outside my ass...

208414[/snapback]

You're right about that, I looked at ATAoE since I really don't need the fancy stuff like routable protocol etc... and it is obvious why ATAoE should be faster (probably quite a bit) than iSCSI. Problem is the target, but since ATAoE is less complicated this is the likely solution to become free.

However if iSCSI really takes of and free solutions appear all ATAoE has left is the performance-argument so I'm not really sure that it will kick of.

It will be interesting to follow this development, the current status of my project is based on iSCSI since that is what I've found software for.

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I would take a look at ATAoE project. Maybe we'd be smart enoght to offer FREE ATAoE software for Windows and Linux. I'm a bit dissapointed with iSCSI... Not b/s it's too expensive and complicated, just b/s it's adoption by big companies goes really slow and home users don't need such an monster software. We've failed to create "home iSCSI maket". Unfortunately...

And it's a pity we were not able to make a good business with emBoot. We could offer shared initiator/target for iSCSI boot yesterday... Sometimes I want to kill the guy whose activities resulted this :( This sucks!

Thanks!

Anton Kolomyeytsev

CEO, Rocket Division Software

Personally I'd rather see ATAoE (ATA over Ethernet) than iSCSI.  iSCSI is complated and slow.  ATAoE is simple and elegant, and doesn't need a network stack.  Booting from it should be a piece of cake using something like Etherboot as a code base.  And Etherboot can be embedded into the BIOS...  Unfortunately, ATAoE is new, and currently supported by only one vendor (Coraid).  Linux has an ATAoE initiator but there is currently no free ATAoE target.  It would be very easy to make one, though!

If someone extended Etherboot to provide BIOS disk services, then it would still take a Windows storage driver.  That driver would have to provide both the Ethernet support and ATA support.  (You'd use another NIC for your LAN.)

Just thinking outside my ass...

208414[/snapback]

You're right about that, I looked at ATAoE since I really don't need the fancy stuff like routable protocol etc... and it is obvious why ATAoE should be faster (probably quite a bit) than iSCSI. Problem is the target, but since ATAoE is less complicated this is the likely solution to become free.

However if iSCSI really takes of and free solutions appear all ATAoE has left is the performance-argument so I'm not really sure that it will kick of.

It will be interesting to follow this development, the current status of my project is based on iSCSI since that is what I've found software for.

208469[/snapback]

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Current update, how far I've come...

I successfully set up the PXE environment and an iSCSI target.

First I got some "Unable to find iSCSI-target" errors due to wrong target info in the DHCP server. Fixed that.

To make this work according to the Cisco guide you are supposed to copy a working boot partition to the iSCSI drive this is a problem because the tool provided by Cisco always encounters an error somewhere 2/3 through the copy operation. A normal file copy probably shouldn't work but anyway I tried that too.

But the problem to make the copy is perhaps only half the problem with the Cisco gear...

If I try to boot an iSCSI partion that is a copy of my boot partition or one of those "2/3 copied partitions" the boot process never starts anyway, at least with the 2/3 copy you would expect something to happen. But I get the following error message when booting: "Unsupported iSCSI target"

Looking that up in the Cisco documentation gives me this information:

Error Message Unsupported iSCSI target

Explanation The iSCSI target is not a Cisco target, or it is a Cisco target running an older system

software release.

Recommended Action Install a Cisco SN 5400 or MDS 9000 Series system, or upgrade the system

software as specified in Chapter 2, “Before Installing Cisco Network Boot.â€

So it isn't supposed to work without Cisco gear anyway?

To make sure that it wasn't a problem specific to the iSCSI-target I tried another iSCSI software target with the same result.

I've tried StarWind and WinTarget, and they work great when used in windows and both seem to work properly when booting from them.

I have a few more things to try, I've been contacted by a person from Ardence and will try out some of their stuff, I've also got my hands on emBoot to try it out.

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