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I know this method must exist but I can't seem to find it anywhere.

I'm in the works of creating a custom Ubuntu Server disc that will be deployed on multiple VPS. I'd like it to be installed over network, unattended. Is it possible to do this installation by uploading a small ISO that will boot and begin the installation? I'm sure I'm not the first one to think of this.

Any help is apprecieated. Thanks!

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2 Answers 2

The technology you want is PXE booting, where PXE stands for Preboot eXecution Environment. It uses DHCP to tell a client (your VPSes) where to grab a given boot file via Trivial FTP. Once it has that tiny file, it can do almost anything you want: mount network storage, kick off an installation process, etc.

If you want a smarter way of handling all of that, look into using Cobbler and prebuilt images with all of your network and environment settings baked in. It can hook into libvirt to handle the provisioning of virtual hardware as well.

PXE booting requires hardware support on the network card, but practically every network card (including a virtualized NIC) supports it.

Check out this question for more implementation details.

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Due to lack of resources, I'm a little stuck on setting up a PXE server. I'm guessing the simplicity of a mini live CD that just caches and loads an ISO is too good to be true? –  Dboy1612 Feb 14 '13 at 7:52
    
@Dboy1612 You can always build your own ISO that does just that :) –  Joel E Salas Feb 14 '13 at 8:10

PXE alone will not solve your problem, you should probably see a Linux distro called Jeoss; it is an Ubuntu based server oriented tiny distribution that was created doing what you want to do.

Basically you need to create an Ubuntu custom distribution; that is not a simple thing but is not rocket science either, Ubuntu installs can be "preseeded " making the install completely unattended. If you want to network deliver the install you will need PXE support, this is not much of a deal as the Ubuntu Server distributions already include the initrd images required for PXE booting. If you analyze Jeoss as a Server distribution being able to be installed in headless servers (no keyboard/no monitor) it supports the whole install being controlled by a serial connection or by remote SSH sesion. Take a look at it sure will give you a good starting point for knowing what you can do when customizing Ubuntu's installs.

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