Configure PXE Server In Ubuntu 14.04

PXE (Preboot Execution Environment) Server allows the user to boot a Linux distribution from a network and install it on hundreds of PCs at a time without any Linux iso images. If your client’s computers don’t have CD/DVD or USB drives, or if you want to set up multiple computers at the same time in a large enterprise, then PXE server can be used to save money and time.

In this article we will show you how you can configure a PXE server in Ubuntu 14.04.

To get started, you need to first set up your PXE server to use a static IP. To set up a static IP address in your system, you need to edit the “/etc/network/interfaces” file.

1. Open the “/etc/network/interfaces” file.

sudo nano /etc/network/interfaces

Add/edit as described below:

# The loopback network interface
auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
# The primary network interface
auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static
address 192.168.1.20
netmask 255.255.255.0
gateway 192.168.1.1
dns-nameservers 8.8.8.8

Save the file and exit. This will set its IP address to “192.168.1.20”. Restart the network service.

sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

DHCP, TFTP and NFS are essential components for configuring a PXE server. First you need to update your system and install all necessary packages.

For this, run the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install isc-dhcp-Server inetutils-inetd tftpd-hpa syslinux nfs-kernel-Server

DHCP stands for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, and it is used mainly for dynamically distributing network configuration parameters such as IP addresses for interfaces and services. A DHCP server in PXE environment allow clients to request and receive an IP address automatically to gain access to the network servers.

1. Edit the “/etc/default/dhcp3-server” file.

sudo nano /etc/default/dhcp3-server

Add/edit as described below:

INTERFACES="eth0"

Save (Ctrl + o) and exit (Ctrl + x) the file.

2. Edit the “/etc/dhcp3/dhcpd.conf” file:

sudo nano /etc/dhcp/dhcpd.conf

Add/edit as described below:

default-lease-time 600;
max-lease-time 7200;
subnet 192.168.1.0 netmask 255.255.255.0 {
range 192.168.1.21 192.168.1.240;
option subnet-mask 255.255.255.0;
option routers 192.168.1.20;
option broadcast-address 192.168.1.255;
filename "pxelinux.0";
next-Server 192.168.1.20;
}

Save the file and exit.

3. Start the DHCP service.

sudo /etc/init.d/isc-dhcp-server start

TFTP is a file-transfer protocol which is similar to FTP. It is used where user authentication and directory visibility are not required. The TFTP server is always listening for PXE clients on the network. When it detects any network PXE client asking for PXE services, then it provides a network package that contains the boot menu.

1. To configure TFTP, edit the “/etc/inetd.conf” file.

sudo nano /etc/inetd.conf

Add/edit as described below:

tftp dgram udp wait root /usr/sbin/in.tftpd /usr/sbin/in.tftpd -s /var/lib/tftpboot

Save and exit the file.

2. Edit the “/etc/default/tftpd-hpa” file.

sudo nano /etc/default/tftpd-hpa

Add/edit as described below:

TFTP_USERNAME="tftp"
TFTP_DIRECTORY="/var/lib/tftpboot"
TFTP_ADDRESS="[:0.0.0.0:]:69"
TFTP_OPTIONS="--secure"
RUN_DAEMON="yes"
OPTIONS="-l -s /var/lib/tftpboot"

Save and exit the file.

3. Enable boot service for inetd to automatically start after every system reboot and start tftpd service.

sudo update-inetd --enable BOOT
sudo service tftpd-hpa start

4. Check status.

sudo netstat -lu

It will show the following output:

Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address Foreign Address State
udp 0 0 *:tftp *:*

Now you need the PXE boot file “pxelinux.0” to be present in the TFTP root directory. Make a directory structure for TFTP, and copy all the bootloader files provided by syslinux from the “/usr/lib/syslinux/” to the “/var/lib/tftpboot/” path by issuing the following commands:

sudo mkdir /var/lib/tftpboot
sudo mkdir /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg
sudo mkdir -p /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64/
sudo cp /usr/lib/syslinux/vesamenu.c32 /var/lib/tftpboot/
sudo cp /usr/lib/syslinux/pxelinux.0 /var/lib/tftpboot/

Set up PXELINUX configuration file

The PXE configuration file defines the boot menu displayed to the PXE client when it boots up and contacts the TFTP server. By default, when a PXE client boots up, it will use its own MAC address to specify which configuration file to read, so we need to create that default file that contains the list of kernels which are available to boot.

Edit the PXE Server configuration file with valid installation options.

To edit “/var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default,”

sudo nano /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default

Add/edit as described below:

DEFAULT vesamenu.c32
TIMEOUT 100
PROMPT 0
MENU INCLUDE pxelinux.cfg/PXE.conf
NOESCAPE 1
LABEL Try Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop
MENU LABEL Try Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop
kernel Ubuntu/vmlinuz
append boot=casper netboot=nfs nfsroot=192.168.1.20:/var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64
initrd=Ubuntu/initrd.lz quiet splash
ENDTEXT
LABEL Install Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop
MENU LABEL Install Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop
kernel Ubuntu/vmlinuz
append boot=casper automatic-ubiquity netboot=nfs nfsroot=192.168.1.20:/var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64
initrd=Ubuntu/initrd.lz quiet splash
ENDTEXT

Save and exit the file.

Edit the “/var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/pxe.conf” file.

sudo nano /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/pxe.conf

Add/edit as described below:

MENU TITLE PXE Server
NOESCAPE 1
ALLOWOPTIONS 1
PROMPT 0
MENU WIDTH 80
MENU ROWS 14
MENU TABMSGROW 24
MENU MARGIN 10
MENU COLOR border 30;44 #ffffffff #00000000 std

Save and exit the file.

For this, Ubuntu kernel and initrd files are required. To get those files, you need the Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop ISO Image. You can download the Ubuntu 14.04 ISO image in the /mnt folder by issuing the following command:

sudo cd /mnt
sudo wget http://releases.ubuntu.com/14.04/ubuntu-14.04.3-desktop-amd64.iso

Note: the download URL might change as the ISO image is updated. Check out this website for the latest download link if the above URL is not working.

Mount the ISO file, and copy all the files to the TFTP folder by issuing the following commands:

sudo mount -o loop /mnt/ubuntu-14.04.3-desktop-amd64.iso /media/
sudo cp -r /media/* /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64/
sudo cp -r /media/.disk /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64/
sudo cp /media/casper/initrd.lz /media/casper/vmlinuz /var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/

Now you need to setup Installation Source Mirrors via NFS protocol. You can also use http and ftp for Installation Source Mirrors. Here I have used NFS to export ISO contents.

To configure the NFS server, you need to edit the “/etc/exports” file.

sudo nano /etc/exports

Add/edit as described below:

/var/lib/tftpboot/Ubuntu/14.04/amd64 *(ro,async,no_root_squash,no_subtree_check)

Save and exit the file. For the changes to take effect, export and start NFS service.

sudo exportfs -a
sudo /etc/init.d/nfs-kernel-server start

Now your PXE Server is ready.

A PXE client can be any computer system with a PXE network boot enable option. Now your clients can boot and install Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop by enabling “Boot From Network” options from their systems BIOS.

You’re now ready to go – start your PXE Client Machine with the network boot enable option, and you should now see a sub-menu showing for your Ubuntu 14.04 Desktop that we created.

pxe

Configuring network boot installation using PXE server is efficient and a time-saving method. You can install hundreds of client at a time in your local network. All you need is a PXE server and PXE enabled clients. Try it out, and let us know if this works for you.

Reference: PXE Server wiki PXE Server Ubuntu

Image credit: fupsol_unl_20