Can I boot My Linux Server from iSCSI or SAN or NAS network attached storage?

My previous article related to iSCSI storage and NAS storage brought a couple of questions. An interesting question from my mail bag:

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I’ve 5 Debian Linux servers with HP SAN box. Should I boot from SAN?

No, use centralized network storage for shared data or high availability configuration only. Technically you can boot and configure system. However I don’t recommend booting from SAN or any other central server until and unless you need diskless nodes:

[a] Use local storage – Always use local storage for /boot and / (root) filesystem

[b] Keep it simply – Booting from SAN volumes is complicated procedure. Most operating systems are not designed for this kind of configuration. You need to modify scripts and booting procedure.

[c] SAN booting support – Your SAN vendor must support platform booting a Linux server. You need to configure HBA and SAN according to vendor specification. You must totally depend upon SAN vendor for drivers and firmware (HBA Bios) to get thing work properly. General principle – don’t put all your eggs in one basket err one vendor 😉

[d] Other factors – Proper fiber channel topology must be used. Make sure Multipathing and redundant SAN links are used. The boot disk LUN is dedicated to a single host. etc

As you can see, complications started to increases, hence I don’t recommend booting from SAN.

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4 comments… add one
  • Eric Apr 24, 2008 @ 22:27

    This is helpful in presenting my case that it is not recommended to move our boot images to SAN or ISCI. However I will still have to go through the pain of trying it and showing why it is not a good idea.

  • GH Dec 18, 2008 @ 16:48

    Wow, this might have changed since this was written, but if you have the knowledge to set up and administer a SAN, setting up boot from SAN isn’t complicated at all. I can do it in about 15 minutes!

  • Ntsakzin Jan 11, 2009 @ 22:48

    Hi GH, can you do it for a dual boot system (xp and suse). My email address is ntsakzinho@gmail.com. Thanks in advance.

  • Brian Lavender Jan 22, 2009 @ 4:27

    If you are running Xen, I would think that booting the VM is the right thing to do for the reason of live migration and decoupling the OS from the hardware.

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