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XenoBoot is the system we use at the University of Cambridge to remotely control the boot process of x86 machines over the Internet. In a secure manner suitable for use on public networks, you can use it to:

  • select which OS or kernel to boot
  • download and boot a kernel and/or root image
  • reinstall or repair the system automatically or interactively
  • administer the system

The system is flexible: it can boot pretty much any type of kernel and can understand and administer most types of file system. It is also relatively failsafe: it can recover the system even if the hard disk is corrupted. This safety is achieved by using a bootable CD image, which (being read-only) should survive and remain bootable in any circumstances as long as the hardware and BIOS are still functional. This CD loads Linux and then fetches a script from a central server. The script has access to utilities and applications on the CD, and can be easily adapted to fit each individual machine and the current circumstances.

XenoBoot removes the need to use serial console servers for system administration as it can all be done over a secure network connection. For resetting wedged machines we use a combination of hardware watchdogs and remote power control switches.

XenoBoot is released under the GPL and can be downloaded from http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/Research/SRG/netos/xeno/xenoboot/