Booting LiveCD’s with Cobbler

As the size of my network grows it becomes increasingly more convenient to be able to boot a live CD rescue environment easily.  Even though most of the hosts are virtual and can be booted directly with an ISO I think it’s even better to PXE boot them directly from Cobbler since it’s already set up.  The documentation for booting live CD’s on Cobbler’s wiki did not seem to work for the Ubuntu Rescue Remix, it’s possible that some modifications need to be made for Ubuntu-based images (as the functionality provided in the livecd-iso-to-pxeboot script seems to be based on RedHat-style distros) but instead I used nfsroot which worked without issue.

First, you’ll want to mount your Live CD via loopback and run a Cobbler import:

# mount ubuntu-rescue-remix-12.04.iso /mnt -o loop
# cobbler import --name=ubuntu-rescue-remix-12.04 --path=/mnt --breed=ubuntu

Next I configured NFS, my configuration is a bit unique as I serve NFS from my file/VM server and Cobbler is a VM which has it’s own application files mounted via NFS as well:

# grep cobbler /etc/exports
/srv/nfs/cobbler <cobblervmip>(rw,async,subtree_check,no_root_squash)
/srv/nfs/cobbler/webroot/cobbler <dhcp-class-c>/24(ro,sync,subtree_check,no_wdelay,insecure_locks,no_root_squash,insecure)

Create the distro as usual and set the kernel options to boot from NFS:

# cobbler distro add --name=ubuntu-rescue-remix-12.04 --kernel=/var/www/cobbler/ks_mirror/ubuntu-rescue-remix-12.04/casper/vmlinuz --initrd=/var/www/cobbler/ks_mirror/ubuntu-rescue-remix-12.04/casper/initrd.gz
# cobbler distro edit --name=ubuntu-rescue-remix-12.04 --kopts='nfsroot=<cobbler IP>:/var/www/cobbler/ks_mirror/ubuntu-rescue-remix-12.04 ip=dhcp netboot=nfs boot=casper

There was one minor issue which I encountered while attempting to mount the nfsroot, “short read: 24 < 28“.  The only thing a Google search turned up was a posting which goes into a bit more detail on the source of the problem.  Apparently if you are have  configured a hosts.allow/deny file it will be an issue because the kernel will use NFSv3 for an nfsroot.  I mistakenly assumed NFS was working fine when I was booted up since my system was configured to use version 4.  Also, the tcp_wrapper hosts.allow/deny files do not recognize CIDR notation (unlike /etc/exports), you’ll have to use “192.168.0.” to specify a /24.

You will also need to add a profile to actually boot the live CD but that is straightforward. Other then that it should work without issue!

Provisioning Ubuntu VM’s with Cobbler

I’ve been playing with Cobbler at home lately now that my server was upgraded to an quad core with the magic vmx flag and ran into an issue deploying Ubuntu VM’s with it.  The install itself and import of the distro is pretty straight-forward, Canonical has some documentation on the process.  Koan can be used for provisoning VM’s (as is mentioned in the docs), however I have some prior Cobbler experience with CentOS and would like to develop this further with Ubuntu.

The problem I encountered was the following: during the install process Ub would not detect the virtual disks and an error is thrown, “no root filesystem is defined”.  I’m using the default KVM virtio disk bus type here and apparently the debian-installer will not detect these with the default configuration.  If you launch a shell and check, /dev/vda exists and running fdisk on it seems to suggest all is good.  Also, running the install via a CD/ISO works just fine as well.  The problem lies with Cobbler.

Eventually I narrowed it down to the preseed file.  When you import the distro it’s mentioned in the Ubuntu Cobbler preseed docs that a default preseed file is generated.  What it doesn’t mention is that something in this configuration is not compatible with virtio disk types.  I haven’t narrowed it down, instead I just copied the Ubuntu profile to a new one and changed the kickstart/preseed to /var/www/cobbler/ks_mirror/[ubuntu-distro-name]/preseed/ubuntu-server-minimalvm.seed.  I’ve got some more work to do on the preseed, I’m not all too familiar with them yet but planning to change that.