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Linux gains AoE net-boot

Aug 15, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

The open source Etherboot project has added support for the ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE) protocol invented by network storage vendor Coraid. Coraid claims that the combination of Etherboot and AoE can “dramatically improve” the manageability, reliability, availability, and performance of networked storage.

Etherboot is typically added to a flash ROM chip that is plugged into a socket on the host system's network interface card. The software contains a DHCP or bootp server, which is used to obtain a temporary IP address, over which a kernel is typically downloaded via tftp. NFS is also used in some cases. Etherboot can be used for thin clients, centrally managed Linux workstations, embedded systems, and other applications.

Coraid says that Etherboot's new support for AoE makes for more maintainable, reliable, and available network storage servers. Servers are assembled without disk drives, and booted from AoE-based storage devices, using “exactly the same code as when booting from a local physical disk,” according to the company.

Coraid says that AoE support was added to Etherboot by Michael Brown, of Fen Systems. Brown stated, “Diskless booting has traditionally required complex customized setups; this new method allows people to use familiar tools such as LILO, even when booting from network-attached storage.”

Coraid CEO Jim Kemp added, “Etherboot is the defacto standard for network booting on the Linux platform. By extending the capabilities of Etherboot to AoE-based storage, the Linux community and our customers now have a simplified way to manage diskless servers, more reliably, and at a much lower price point.”

Coraid announced AoE in June of 2004, noting that the advent of commodity gigabit Ethernet offered a faster, much less expensive alternative to fiber channel for storage-attached network (SAN) applications (not to be confused with low-end NAS, or network-attached-storage, which relies on heavier, slower protocols such as CIFs, SMB, FTP, and so on).

An AoE driver that Coraid developed was merged into the mainline 2.6 kernel in January of 2005, and Coraid subsequently shipped its first AoE-based SAN (storage-attached network) device in May of 2005, basing the device on embedded Linux. It followed up a month later with a smaller 1U unit, also Linux based, and six months later with a Linux- and AoE-based petabyte-level NAS filer.

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