Last night we shipped the first ‘proper’ release of iPXE Anywhere. I say ‘proper’, because we’ve been shipping various versions to testers and customers for a while now, but as of a couple of weeks ago, Microsoft signed off the iPXE binaries to make it all Secure Boot compliant and ready to go. So if you want to skip all of the verbal diarrhoea below – feel free, and just download it and have a play!I have to say we’re pretty proud and a bit excited to see this bit of software make it into the big wide world. It’s been longer in the making than we expected, but does so much more than we originally set out to achieve! But why why why did we do this in the first place I hear you ask? Here’s how it happened..Well we thought that network booting had a bad rep, so we decided to do something about it. We started by looking into a few things, like why is it so slow? And why is it so badly implemented? And why is it so insecure? When we had the answer to those questions we decided to take a sneak peek at some people that do this very well, them linux nerds! Turns out the coolest of them all, a fully customizable and scriptable solution was available in iPXE (http://ipxe.org). So we started hanging out on IRC, (Join us on #iPXE on Freenode, for those old enough to know that a # is not a twitter trademark) learned a sh*tload of things, and so it began..
Combining Windows & Linux technology (Thats what we call anything non Windows BTW!) is a bit like crossing the beams, the result can be catastrophic or just amazing. This time it turned out to be just amazing (Puh!).
Über Tech Sexy Coolness
So why is it so cool? Well, let me tell you. First of all, it does http downloads from a little tiny binary. Not only does that binary do http, but it also does authentication, and once you have authenticated, you can choose to boot pretty much anything. iSCSI, AoE, WIM, Linux, Apple’s or even your Grandmas old TV. Anyhoo, as if that wasn’t enough divine coolness, and in order to be the coolest cat in town, we add in BranchCache into the http stack, allowing all content that is fetched by this little devil to be BranchCache aware. Yes, that’s right, BranchCache in a boot loader. That’s so cool, even MS call it “Über Tech Sexy”.
So, wait a minute! Are we saying we can boot pretty much anything over the wire, even WIFI?, without local servers?, using authentication?, from a single central iPXE server?, completely integrated with ConfigMgr? Damn right! and as the sugar on top, even boot my roaming users when they are in their hotel room sleeping, or watching Family Guy on TBS. Yes, they could even be watching Game of Thrones for all we care, we just boot and build. 🙂
iPXE Anywhere enables BranchCache in a network booting environment, and with a resource intensive process like en-mass PXE booting, more systems on the network will share the load, ensuring a fast and effortless boot without hogging system resources from other computers or the network. iPXE Anywhere has been developed in order to streamline deployments from Windows Intune, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) as well as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012/CB – you name it, we can boot from it.
No agent other than BranchCache is required on the “serving” client computers. If there is no BranchCache enabled computer with cached content, the content will be downloaded from the server and retained through the process, which sucks since it’s a bit slow, but 99.99% of the time content will be available, and it will still be faster cos it’s http right?. iPXE Anywhere works in conjunction with the BranchCache for OSD Toolkit too, giving a dynamic and easy way to integrate into your existing deployment method. It also is designed to work with the recently announced (and now in BETA) and hilariously named StifleR – our Real-Time WAN Accelerator Management Server.
That’s it really. If you want to have a play – download it here. And don’t forget, if you’re an MVP or MCT you can get all our software for FREE cos we love you.
So, we’ll leave you with this profound thought..
“Dont put PXE servers everywhere, just iPXE Anywhere!”
//The 2Pint Dudes