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We have roughly 12 servers running Ubuntu 8.04 and 9.10 that I'm planning on reformatting and converting to CentOS 5.5. We have a SpaceWalk server setup, so we have the capability to do a PXE boot and remotely install the new OS.

Is there a way, in Ubuntu, to configure grub to do a netboot against our SpaceWalk server? Or is there an alternate way to remotely tell an Ubuntu machine to reboot and perform a netboot?

That way I don't have to physically go into the datacenter, manually reboot the machine and manually pick PXE boot from the boot menu every time. I know about koan/cobbler, but it doesn't appear that they are available for Ubuntu.

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3 Answers

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If you don't have PXE enabled in the BIOS on those machines, you can boot a gPXE image from GRUB. If you make or download a .lkrn gPXE image, you can boot it as if it were a linux kernel, so every linux bootloader should be able to boot it.

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If the servers are relatively new and you can save some money, then I recommend setting up IPMI to manage power, as well as have console access. This of course is effective only for console usage, so if you need GUI then this might not be the best option but can give you the same power without investing too much money.

There is one thing though, you'll need to turn on console redirection to get the most out of ipmi or any console server (avocent). This is one a step action that you'll need to set up in the BIOS and forget it after it.

gl

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If GRUB is processing the startup process it's already gone too for for PXE booting. In order to do the PXE boot completely remote you'll have to have some form of KVM access to select PXE boot from the BIOS boot menu. Now once the machine is set to PXE boot and hits SpaceWalk to get the PXE boot files and the kickstart configuration it cane be completely automated and not need further attention.

It's for this reason I always encourage the use of a good KVM over IP solution in the data center racks along with remote power distribution units to enable rebooting boxes when they lock up without the need for a late night trip to the data center when things go Tango Uniform. Not always easy to get past the suits and bean counters, but well worth it in the long run.

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