Exploring network booting MultiOS (Win/Mac/Lin) options...

To those who have seen my other posts, this is separate... i'm simultaneously researching two separate NAS systems independant from any questions on network stuff. I'm just trying to feel out the future well in advance.

I would like to set up computers to be able to load a hard drive image from a central server. An image that I can for instance install desired software on, then freeze down the image (so I no longer have to worry about virus corruption for instance), and also only have a single point of update to worry about instead of multiple separate computers. (i'm not sure at what point redundant updates are less work than this network boot plan, but i'm just exploring the option)

If I cannot have a 'single image' for multiple PC's (such as due to licensing problems on Windows for instance), storage virtualization just treating a remote directory as local is another option. I can still at least freeze that image in one or more states (before and after major installs) and have the option to not require a local hard drive in the machine. (network booting does not require being diskless, but having the option to go diskless would be nice)

I am trying to see if there are alternatives to my third option which was the FOG Project - a multiOS capable daily drive imaging system that boots from PXE and works cross platform. Introduction - FOG Project

Really I guess what i'm looking for is a way of doing the FOG Project without having the local system disk - a way of loading the drive image to a ramdisk or network volume mounted locally. With the option to save the day's changes back as a new updated image - or to discard them. Even if I don't go totally diskless it would let me do storage pooling - if I have alot of software that each station needs to operate that normally would fill a 2TB boot drive, load the boot snapshots over the network and then each station might only have a small 64gig SSD or something for scratch space/temporary storage. Could make hardware maintenance easier because if a system had a problem, I simply set you at a different workstation and load your normal boot tools and environment from there.


My thinking on this may be slightly half baked but then i'm new to virtualization and learning as I go. Suggestions? :)
 

StammesOpfer

Active Member
Mar 15, 2016
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You wouldn't be happy with that as a solution. To accomplish the goals you have stated you should looked into running the OSs that you want on a central VM server (like ESXi or others) Then either use the VM desktop client or use RDP/VNC to remote into the running OSs. You don't have to have a full VDI setup but it isn't realistic and you would hate the way it worked if you did this based on reimaging every time.
 
I'd heard of full virtual machine stuff before but wasn't sure whether it was overkill or exactly appropriate... are there any Free Open Source alternatives that do something similar, or is VMware sort of in a class of it's own for something like this/much simpler/more straightforward/etc? The only thing I wasn't sure if I liked about virtualization was that I wanted to use the horsepower of the individual desktop for the task at hand - Adobe CC supports GPU acceleration already. I'd also need to set up a monster server and then every station becomes like a thin client.

I accept this is one way to do it (and potentially more useful if many seats were required) i'm just trying to feel out if there are other ways to solve this problem.
 

StammesOpfer

Active Member
Mar 15, 2016
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So if you need the horsepower then I would keep that system as the primary desktop and virtualize the other OS's that you want and just access them within your primary OS. The VMs can actually be hosted on the primary OS even no server required with VMware Workstation, Hyper-V (windows pro), VirtualBox.

There is Proxmox, Xen, Hyper-V, KVM and a few more I am sure I am missing.

The reason I would discourage the PXE image idea is that it will be very slow to copy over an image every time you want to boot up or change OSs. Also when there is a change then you have to make a new image. This is not going to be very fun nor would it be portable between different machines.