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SAN Boot Linux ( iSCSI )

So I built this PXE server to eliminate my need for CD/DVD base installation media. That got me to thinking about SAN boot and how I could eliminate the need for a physical hard drive on some of my physical computers. I knew of 2 SAN boot options, Fiber Channel and iSCSI. I definitely can't afford the equipment necessary for Fiber Channel, so iSCSI was my choice. Here is how I installed and boot Ubuntu and CentOS using an iSCSI target disk.

Build the iSCSI Target Server

First make a virtual disk. I am putting my iscsi disk images in /tftpboot/iscsi. The command below will make a 20GB virtual disk IMG:

sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/tftpboot/iscsi/centos.img bs=1M count=20000

Next, install and enable the iSCSI target software:

sudo apt-get install iscsitarget
sudo nano /etc/default/iscsitarget

make the following change


Next we will define our iSCSI share. Everything in this file should be commented out. If for some reason it isn't, comment everything and put your own information using the following template. You can include more than one target, I have included both my centos.img and ubuntu.img

sudo nano /etc/iet/ietd.conf
       Target iqn.2014-06.com.it-joe:centos-server
          IncomingUser <username> <password> ##Leave blank if you want no authentication
          Lun 0 Path=/tftpboot/iscsi/centos.img,Type=fileio
          Alias centos-server

       Target iqn.2014-06.com.it-joe:ubuntu-desktop
          IncomingUser <username> <password> ##Leave blank if you want no authentication
          Lun 0 Path=/tftpboot/iscsi/ubuntu.img,Type=fileio
          Alias ubuntu-desktop

Now you should be ready to start the iSCSI Target Server:

sudo /etc/init.d/iscsitarget start

Installing an OS on iSCSI target disk

I am going to fork these off because each OS installation is different. Choose your operating system by clicking on the tab

  • Ubuntu
  • CentOS


Ubuntu doesn't come prepackaged with an iSCSI intiator. Because of this, there are a few extra steps to install and PXE boot an Ubuntu iSCSI drive. Nevertheless, it can be done, and here is how to do it.


First, boot to an Ubuntu LiveCD. I am using Ubuntu 13.04 that I set up to PXE boot in my PXE Server tutorial. Once your booted to the desktop we need to install open-iscsi and discover our iSCSI target disk that we created above.

Install and start open-iscsi

sudo su
apt-get install open-iscsi
/etc/init.d/open-iscsi start 

Discover and connect to your iSCSI target

iscsiadm -m discovery -t st -p
iscsiadm -m node --targetname "iqn.2014-06.com.it-joe:ubuntu-desktop" --portal "" --login

Run fdisk to confirm your disk is connected

fdisk -l

Now that Ubuntu can see our iSCSI target disk, we can proceed with the install as we normally would. When you get to the screen below, DO NOT REBOOT.

Next we need to install a few packages on our new installation. How do we do this without booting to our new installation? Simple, by using “chroot”. chroot basically changes our working root ( / ) directory. By using chroot we have direct access to the file system of our new installation and any changes will effect it as if we were booted directly to it.

sudo su
mkdir /mnt/temp
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/temp
chroot /mnt/temp
mount -t proc none /proc
echo "nameserver" >> /etc/resolv.conf
hostname ubuntu
apt-get install initramfs-tools open-iscsi sysv-rc-conf
echo "iscsi" >> /etc/initramfs-tools/modules
echo "InitiatorName=iqn.2014-06.com.it-joe:ubuntu-client1" > /etc/iscsi/initiatorname.iscsi
touch /etc/iscsi/iscsi.initramfs
update-initramfs -u

Edit the /etc/fstab file to use /dev/sda1 rather than UUID for root

nano /etc/fstab

Look for a line similar to:

UUID=5c0bd3d6-b43b-48d4-ac82-cc9b364f4544    /       ext4    errors=remount-ro    0       1

Replace with:

/dev/sda1    /       ext4    errors=remount-ro    0       1

  Make sure /etc/network/interfaces has the following lines

    auto eth0
    iface eth0 inet manual

Copy the vmlinuz and initrd.img files to your PXE server

scp /boot/initrd.img-3.8.0-19-generic /boot/vmlinuz-3.8.0-19-generic root@

PXE Setup

At this point we should have everthing we need to get our PXE server setup. Just add an entry similar to the one below to your pxelinux.cfg/default file

 LABEL Ubuntu
 KERNEL iscsi/vmlinuz-3.8.0-19-generic
 APPEND initrd=iscsi/initrd.img-3.8.0-19-generic ip=dhcp ISCSI_INITIATOR=iqn.2014-06.com.it-joe:ubuntu-client1 ISCSI_TARGET_NAME=iqn.2014-06.com.it-joe:ubuntu-desktop ISCSI_TARGET_IP= ISCSI_TARGET_PORT=3260 root=/dev/sda1 rw

The LABEL can be what ever you would like. The KERNEL line just needs to be the path to the vmlinuz file (relative to the tftp server /). The APPEND line needs to be initrd=“the path to the initrd.img” and the reset is copied directly from the kernel line in the grub.conf file we transfered earlier

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