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Using several PXE servers on one DHCP: chaining!

In large environment, most enterprise software provide All-in-one solutions, they manage the computer since the boot. Fixing one PXE server in the DHCP profile for a computer, makes it hard to adapt for other usage.

At the university, we use "Altiris" to manage Windows computers. A DHCP profile was created to make them boot on a PXE server to start on WinPE.
We don't have access to this server and we don't want to boot always automatically on the winPE image. All computers are configured in BIOS to boot on network when they receive a Wake-On-Lan packet. Most of the time, we have a default "local" boot to make them start on the hard disk. And sometime we want to start them on a specific image: diffferents linux installation, linux liveCD, rescue CD, etc.

  • If we set the DHCP profile to Altiris, we can only boot on the winPE image.
  • If we set the DHCP profile on our internal PXE we have several image and we can choose finely which computer start which image, but not the winPE from Altiris.

Looking more on the PXE part of the syslinux documentation , I got the solution: chaining PXE servers: when a computer boot on our server, we provide a entry to make them load an entry on a remote PXE server. This work fine with syslinux 4.0.4 or later

The modification is very simple: in /pxelinux.cfg/default, add an entry for the remove server. in our case:

label altiris
        APPEND IP-ALTIRIS-SERVER::/Unistra/x86PC/unistra.0

The computer will start on our PXE server, and if the label altiris is used, it will download the PXE entry on the remove server.

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