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LinuxDevices.com: Network Booting of a diskless Linux device with PXE

Jan 04, 2002, 20:42 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Matt Butcher)

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"PXE (Preboot eXecution Environment) is Intel's loosely defined standard for booting PCs over the network. A PXE-capable BIOS or boot ROM can download bootstrapping code and load an operating system over the network. Booting Linux with PXE is a straightforward way of starting a diskless workstation or appliance in a closed network.

Network booting is not the appropriate choice for all. However, in an environment where the appliance will always be operating on a high speed (>=10Mbit) LAN, it is an option worthy of examining. There are two major advantages in opting for network booting over local booting. First, storage is expensive, and solid-state storage solutions (such as M-Systems DiskOnChip) are particularly so, where the cost of 64M of storage may cost as much as a 20G hard drive.

The other advantage comes in the form of administration. In the case of a local storage device, upgrades must be done on every single appliance. Network-based upgrades to local storage are difficult to write, and administering the upgrade process can be a long and tedious process. The alternative for local-storage clients is to visit every client and make changes there. Obviously, this is a time consuming task, and in many cases is not even a possibility. Thus, a simple security update or configuration change may result in hours or days of work to update all of the appliances."

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