The new Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 is commonly deployed to provide data storage for servers that boot from a local hard drive. However, there are interesting cost savings and management advantages in deploying servers that have no local disk at all and get their syste and boot volumes from the iSCSI target. The iSCSI Target team has worked closely with the Windows HPC Server team to enable this specific solution, common in HPC environments.

Jian Yan, the Program Manager for the iSCSI Software Target, has a new blog post on Filecab that describes in details how to configure diskless servers and boot from the Microsoft iSCSI Target 3.3 (which is now available as a free download for Windows Server 2008 R2). This is a great, lengthy post that includes pictures, screenshot and script samples. Here's an outline:

  • Overview
    • Terminology
    • Deployment
    • Boot process
  • Hardware/Software options
    • An iSCSI boot-capable NIC
    • An iSCSI boot-capable HBA
    • An iSCSI boot loader
  • Boot Process
    • Pre-boot
    • Windows boot
  • Various deployment configurations
    • Using an iSCSI boot-capable NIC or HBA
    • Using a Software boot loader with DHCP and TFTP servers
    • Using a Software Boot Loader without DHCP and TFTP
  • Step-by-step deployment guide
    • Create a Golden Image
    • Customize the boot loader script
    • Deploy diskless clients using a Golden image

This is highly recommended reading for anyone deploying diskless servers (or anyone about to buy a few servers who wants to save some money on storage :-).

Read the post at http://blogs.technet.com/b/storageserver/archive/2011/05/04/diskless-servers-can-boot-and-run-from-the-microsoft-iscsi-software-target-using-a-regular-network-card.aspx

For details on how to download the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3, read http://blogs.technet.com/b/josebda/archive/2011/04/04/microsoft-iscsi-software-target-3-3-for-windows-server-2008-r2-available-for-public-download.aspx

For a technical presentation about the performance of the iSCSI Target in Windows diskless boot scenarios, see this SDC presentation: http://www.snia.org/events/storage-developer2010/presentations/thursday/QiangWang_Analyzing_Large-scale_Network.pdf