Ghost Solution Suite: Which preboot environment I should use?

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Article ID: 185016

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Ghost Solution Suite

Issue/Introduction

Which preboot environment I should use?

Ghost Solution Suite supports a the following boot methods to boot computers into the preboot environment:

  • Automation pre-boot environment

  • PXE

Resolution

Automation Folder pre-boot environment

An automation folder is a folder of your hard disk drive partitioned and managed by Ghost Solution Suite. This folder contains the automation operating system and the files needed to contact your Ghost Solution Suite Server, and must be present on each managed computer. 

The biggest advantage to an embedded automation folder is that it does not require PXE, yet it still enables you to boot into automation remotely.

The biggest disadvantages to embedded partitions are that they consume space on the drive, they require an existing partition on the drive, and they must be manually installed from a disk on Linux and Unix operating systems. 

Another drawback, depending on your configuration, might be the fact that only one automation operating system can be installed to a managed computer that is using an automation partition.

Automation partitions have an additional advantage in some configurations. Optionally, you can create a different type of automation partition, called a hidden partition, to store an image (or other files) locally. This provides advantages in environments where computers need to be re-imaged often or in environments where there is limited bandwidth or network connectivity. Since the image is stored locally, the time needed to create and restore images is greatly reduced and network traffic is significantly reduced as well. 

PXE

The Pre-boot Execution Environment (PXE) is an industry standard developed to boot computers using a network card. PXE can boot computers regardless of the disk configuration or operating system installed, and doesn’t require any files or configuration settings on a client. After PXE boot is turned on in the BIOS, a computer can communicate with your Ghost Solution Suite PXE server to receive automation jobs. 

PXE provides a number of advantages, especially when you are using the initial deployment features of Ghost Solution Suite, which enables you to remotely deploy an image to a computer which has no software installed. 

Example: the receiving department of your company could have PXE enabled on their subnet. When a new computer arrives, a technician could quickly unpack and plug the

;computer into the network, and possibly enable PXE boot if it was not enabled by the manufacturer.


When this unknown computer contacts the Ghost Solution Suite Server, it is assigned an initial deployment job, which could image the computer with the corporate standard image, install additional packages, and power off the computer. The computer is now ready for delivery with minimal effort.


PXE also provides an advantage if you need to use multiple automation operating systems in your environment. Since the image containing the automation operating system is downloaded when a task is executed, different operating system environments can easily be assigned to different tasks.
At the same time however, this can be a disadvantage if you are using an operating system with a large footprint, such as WinPE, since the entire image must be downloaded each time you run an automation task. 

If you often run automation jobs, especially on several computers simultaneously, embedding the automation operating system on the disk is faster and significantly reduces network traffic.
It is also possible to use PXE for initial deployment and install an automation partition as part of the deployment. In this case, you could use the initial deployment features of PXE for new computers and install an automation partition in case you need access to automation at a later time.
This configuration does not require PXE in your general network environment, but still provides access to the automation environment without physical access.

 

PXE provides an additional advantage: multicast boot. This enables your PXE server to simultaneously boot up to 100 computers in a single session to perform automation work. Although multicast imaging is supported in WinPE and Linux, multicast PXE booting is not provided in WinPE and is not supported in Linux. That means that after each computer has booted to automation, an imaging task can be multicast, but you cannot use multicast to boot these computers.