I have a number of machines which I'll be deploying in the near future. As suggested here, I could use network booting to get these computers online without even having a hard disk in them. According to user Caleb:

You can setup server with a netbook kernel available via TFTP and a file system available via nfs. All your clients need to do is use a netboot capable NIC to contact this server, download their kernel and go. No hard drive involved! And easy maintenance. All the machines can potentially boot the same image.

This seems interesting, but here are the challenges:

  1. These machines will each have a few differences in configuration. Hardware-wise and software-wise, they will be exactly the same, but they'll need to have two things that differ in configuration:
    1. Each will have to have its own URL that it starts a browser with.
    2. Each will have its own username and password for HTTP-Basic authentication to provide some measure of security.
  2. These machines will each be in different locations, as well as they'll have one master server running in the cloud somewhere that they all connect to to netboot and for the filesystem. NFS isn't exactly the most secure thing in the world either, and security would be nice to say the least. Is there a way I could secure the filesystem and kernel?
  3. How big a download is required for a netboot initially? These machines will barely be running anything at all, basically a kernel, X, a lightweight window manager, and a browser. I could run just about everything in RAM and that would be excellent. How much of a download is required for startup? I'm totally new to netboot, so how would I set that up?

Your previous question made me think of machines in a local network configuration. You can do netboot online but you will need a NIC that supports network-PXE.

I would suggest that if the machines are remote, using NFS-root might be a bad idea particularly because it sounds like you don't need write/save support. You should be able to use some kind of RAM based file system, but you'll need to download a root file system image, extract it to your fs and then switchroot to it.

This site looks like it has several useful resources to get you started.

  • Is there a comprehensive walkthrough for this for supporting multiple remote machines with netboot and remote filesystems such as NFS or SSHFS? – Naftuli Kay Aug 1 '11 at 21:15

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