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I am working on researching a project for work and thought that I would ask for your advice. I am trying to find out how to setup a PXE boot server within CentOS that would allow us to PXE boot a variety of system tools and utilities. Ideally it would also allow us to load ISO images and boot from them. Some of the things that we would like to have as boot time option from a PXE menu include the following:

  • Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN)
  • Memtest86
  • Gparted
  • Breakin
  • Ubuntu ISO
  • WinPE or BartPE
  • Ultimate Boot CD
  • Symantec Ghost CD

With this in mind, we would also like to have it setup such that there is a menu displayed (preferably with a background image that we can customize). On this menu there would be a default option that would boot the local hard drive and then an alternate set of choices for the technicians where they would have to enter a password to access the bootable resources - especially considering the destructive power of DBAN.

I was curious if there were any tips, tricks, how-tos, or walkthroughs that the community might point me in the direction of. This would be for a setup where the DHCP server already exists on the network and that the PXE server would not handle local DHCP requests. We would also need to make sure that the PXE server can handle PXE booting regular desktops, laptops, and virtual machines that exist within our VMWare cluster. Lastly, it would have to be a solution such that we can update the NIC drivers used for PXE booting since there is constantly new hardware released and our PXE server will need to support the newer devices as they are released.

Thank you in advance and I look forward to the ideas, thoughts, tips, and suggestions that you have to offer.

P.S. I should mention that we are a state funded higher education institution that does not have a lot of funding and the solutions presented will have to take that into consideration.

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2 Answers 2

There is a CentOS virtual application that does (almost) all of this already. It's called the Ultimate Deployment Appliance. There's a few things in your list it doesn't support (switching back to the local disk, a proper GUI (it's just a text-based menu) for backgrounds, etc. But I think you'll find that's a limitation of PXE rather than the appliance).

I've been using it for years and it's great. v2.0 (which I see is finally out of Beta) is miles ahead of v1 - so don't even bother with v1.

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Thanks for the tip! I've somehow managed to miss UDA, gotta take look at that. +1 to you, sir. –  Janne Pikkarainen Nov 3 '10 at 1:43
    
@Janne - it's not very well advertised, and even googling for "UDA" doesn't make it obvious. I found it randomly one day browsing the VMWare appliances list. –  Mark Henderson Nov 3 '10 at 1:45

Have you looked at the PXELinux/SYSLinux website? I just used all that information to create the system you're looking for on a Debian-based system. It was fairly easy to follow and had me up and running in no time. Most of the errors I encountered were due to my fat fingers and file locations that were slightly different from the documentation.

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