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I'm about to run my own simple cluster. I want my nodes runs the operating system off the network (netboot) since they don't have any hard-drive to store the operating system. (Btw, my interest is Ubuntu). I have seted up a perfect DHCP server - netboot server and tftp and works perfect. As a test I have booted up all the nodes using Ubuntu LiveCD !!!!!

Everything is fine so far, but here is my question: Since I want these nodes for parallel programming, I have to have pre-installed applications that I have wrote. Ubuntu's LiveCD doesn't have those (neither any other liveCD linux distro).

Can I make my own Ubuntu image that is bootable and has installed my configuration? if yest, how can I do that?

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What has network boot to do with clustering? – Massimo Nov 3 '09 at 19:05
@Massimo: If you boot your compute nodes off the network, you don't need to give them local hard drives and can more easily expand the cluster and replace failed nodes. – womble Nov 3 '09 at 19:07
up vote 0 down vote accepted

There is a big overlap between what you seem to be trying to do and LTSP. See ( You could probably follow the LTSP guides and then add your tweaks to the served image or just put things on the servers filesystem and share that out.

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You can do that, but I wouldn't. Instead, I'd have all the machines mount their filesystems off a central NFS server, and you can run everything from there. It's about a million times easier to update the software then.

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Thanks sir, and yes I can do that, but here is the thing, sometimes (in my case is anyway) nodes needs to active something which is part of the operating system, like SSH service (then I'll be able to ssh to each node). Let's put it this way... I want to be able to ssh to all of my nodes, and I want to update gcc on all my nodes. Since nodes are booting from image of CD live I can't do that, can I ?(how?) – Pooria Nov 3 '09 at 19:15
This is what I'm saying -- if you NFS mount the machines, you can upgrade gcc or whatever you want to do. – womble Nov 3 '09 at 19:42
so what you are saying is, I install the ubuntu in a seprate file system and mount it to all machine and tell the netboot to bootfrom there? – Pooria Nov 3 '09 at 19:47
Yes, more or less. – womble Nov 3 '09 at 19:55
@Pooria: it's called NFSRoot, google for it – Javier Nov 3 '09 at 20:08

You didn't say how many nodes there were. For a small number i.e less than 20 I would just nfs mount your software directory or push/pull software using mercurial or some distributed vcs (or just http in the case of binary deployment) and install some keyless ssh. Then just run your distributed software as normal. If you are worried about the work involved in installing nodes look at kickstart or some of the other network boot related installation methodologies. Either way its probably not worth the investment in time to go the full network boot route unless you have many more nodes or just for your own curiosity.

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