iPXE Anywhere is a Network Booting solution that utilizes the Open Source iPXE Boot Loader to enable ultra-fast booting by loading the main boot files and Windows PE boot image via HTTP. It also uses Microsoft BranchCache technology to copy content from Peer systems instead of across the WAN. Oh, and did we mention the PowerShell Engine? TechSexy? You bet. Read on…
We here at 2Pint Software adds the “Anywhere” which consists of a proxyDHCP/TFTP/HTTP server called 2PXE, and a further (optional) Web Service component called iPXE Anywhere which adds extra functionality. These server components make iPXE sing and dance by communicating with, and reporting on the iPXE client software.
2Pint Software has also funded the implementation of a Microsoft BranchCache client into the iPXE software itself, and that is still part of the open source iPXE which is available to everybody. See it like our sacrifice to the PXE gods.
A machine requesting PXE boot will be picked up by the network boot server. The server will parse the request and send the corresponding boot file (BIOS or EFI) to the client. This file is very small and the handles low bandwidth situations really well. Once the iPXE NBP is downloaded it will contact the 2PXE Web Service to get the right action to execute. Lack of action will cause the NBP to exit out and continue the boot order. Once an action is detected the server will send back the corresponding boot script to the client. The client will then execute this script, which typically involves loading a high level OS over HTTP. When the system needs to load the Windows PE boot image, it can transfer the content from local BranchCache peers instead of copying it from the server.
2PXE can operate on its own without the need for the iPXE Anywhere Web Service. It will then do all the heavy lifting itself.
There is of course extra functionality that you get from iPXE Anywhere like logging, reporting, and a host of other options – limited only by the imagination! Think of it like some heavy artillery that you can call on when you need it. Some examples of things that you ‘could’ do are ; integrating with the MDT database, checking and upgrading the BIOS version before OS install, presenting a special ‘technician’ menu with tons of diagnostic tools etc – the list goes on. Because iPXE Anywhere is driven by a PowerShell scripting interface, the sky’s the limit.
2PXE can be booted using any kind of DHCP server, without using the built in proxyDHCP server, but that might not work well in all configurations. In order to manage this effectively when having both BIOS and UEFI machines we recommend using a smart DHCP server like ISC for Linux or Microsoft DHCP 2012 or later for Microsoft environments. If your DHCP server is not smart enough to respond with the right info you can still use 2PXE, just use IP helpers to manage the boot requests instead.