Boot.fedoraproject.org and you
I had the privilege of talking to Mike McGrath, who works for Red Hat and leads the community Infrastructure team, about the new services on boot.fedoraproject.org.
- So boot.fedoraproject.org got its start from the boot.kernel.org website. What does boot.kernel.org do exactly and who created it?
- BKO (boot.kernel.org) provides a network based install system to users who have downloaded a pre-configured image which comes in ISO, disk, USB, etc formats. It was started as a Google Summer of Code project done by Pravin Shinde and sponsored by John 'Warthog9' Hawley.
- How does the site work? What does a user do to make use of it?
- The site itself is all HTTP based at the moment. Users can go to http://boot.fedoraproject.org and download images from the download section. The easiest [way] is to download an ISO, burn it to CD and boot from it. That process should be familiar to most users.
- What attracted you to the idea of making a version of this site for use in the Fedora Project? What are your goals for it?
- During the last FUDCon, I attended a talk John put together on BKO. The technology was something that had been in the back of my mind for some time. Well, there it was sitting in front of me, done and functional -- I immediately liked it.
- John and I both share a general hatred of CD/DVD media. Network speeds are generally getting faster in many locations making network based booting more feasible. Also, when you download a DVD or ISO image, you're likely downloading lots of bits and packages you don't need or want, unless you happen to need all of the packages we include on a DVD. Doing a network boot allows users to just download the packages they need.
- It was decided the best course of action was to put a site together for Fedora to help showcase the technology, as well as letting Fedora easily control settings and config defaults.
- What was involved in actually setting up the site, apart from the web pages themselves?
- The site itself pulls together a few technologies that only recently became viable. Most seasoned sysadmins are familiar with PXE booting, a method of booting via the network and your network card. PXE itself is generally fragile and only supports TFTP. TFTP, especially over wide area network links, has inherent problems, which is why almost no one uses TFTP except for basic network applications -- uploading new firmware, saving remote files from devices, and network booting.
- gPXE, on the other hand, is a more feature rich and robust version of PXE. Also it's completely open. These new features make it possible to do remote booting via lots of protocols like iSCSI, HTTP, NFS, and others.
- To build our site I had to build gPXE with a few options that direct it to our public configurations. Every time you boot, your computer downloads those configs via a website we have set up. This also means we can change and update those configs as often as we want and you don't have to burn new BFO media. You just boot what you have and it will automatically download the latest configs.
- I strongly suggest users that find BFO useful try to set up their own site, especially if they have large install bases. The deeper they go into what gPXE can do, the more they'll like it.
- Who do you see using the site primarily, and why will they find it useful and interesting?
- I suspect people with fast, reliable network connections will use BFO the most. It is particularly compelling to create your own local site. People will like being able to carry only a small image around with them and be able to boot any current Fedora release. You'll never have to burn DVD media again. Also though, there's a lot of integration features that allow users to boot BFO in a lot of ways, only a few of which have been tested and documented on the BFO site.
- How do you see Fedora making use of BFO down the road? Are there features that will replace or augment the way users do Fedora installations in the future?
- gPXE is a great technology. For the first iteration of boot.fedoraproject.org we're sticking almost entirely with booting Fedora, but as you can see on boot.kernel.org there are lots of little apps available. I suspect you'll see some of those creep their way into Fedora's install.
- One feature I have yet to test myself, but I know is possible, is burning gPXE images to BIOS or your network card's firmware. This would allow you to boot any Fedora installer without any install media at all. You'd just need a network connection. Perhaps in that future John's dream of destroying the DVD will finally come true :)
- Tell us a little about yourself beyond your work in Fedora.
- I'm an operations guy based out of Chicago. I like to cook, garden and compute.
- Thanks for your contributions, and for telling us about some of your latest work!