Booting Flatcar Container Linux via PXE

    These instructions will walk you through booting Flatcar Container Linux via PXE on real or virtual hardware. By default, this will run Flatcar Container Linux completely out of RAM. Flatcar Container Linux can also be installed to disk .

    A minimum of 3 GB of RAM is required to boot Flatcar Container Linux via PXE.

    Configuring pxelinux

    This guide assumes you already have a working PXE server using pxelinux . If you need suggestions on how to set a server up, check out guides for Debian , Fedora or Ubuntu .

    Setting up pxelinux.cfg

    When configuring the Flatcar Container Linux pxelinux.cfg there are a few kernel options that may be useful but all are optional.

    • rootfstype=tmpfs: Use tmpfs for the writable root filesystem. This is the default behavior.
    • rootfstype=btrfs: Use btrfs in RAM for the writable root filesystem. The filesystem will consume more RAM as it grows, up to a max of 50%. The limit isn’t currently configurable.
    • root: Use a local filesystem for root instead of one of two in-ram options above. The filesystem must be formatted (perhaps using Ignition) but may be completely blank; it will be initialized on boot. The filesystem may be specified by any of the usual ways including device, label, or UUID; e.g: root=/dev/sda1, root=LABEL=ROOT or root=UUID=2c618316-d17a-4688-b43b-aa19d97ea821.
    • sshkey: Add the given SSH public key to the core user’s authorized_keys file. Replace the example key below with your own (it is usually in ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub)
    • console: Enable kernel output and a login prompt on a given tty. The default, tty0, generally maps to VGA. Can be used multiple times, e.g. console=tty0 console=ttyS0
    • flatcar.autologin: Drop directly to a shell on a given console without prompting for a password. Useful for troubleshooting but use with caution. For any console that doesn’t normally get a login prompt by default be sure to combine with the console option, e.g. console=tty0 console=ttyS0 flatcar.autologin=tty1 flatcar.autologin=ttyS0. Without any argument it enables access on all consoles. Note that for the VGA console the login prompts are on virtual terminals (tty1, tty2, etc), not the VGA console itself (tty0).
    • flatcar.first_boot=1: Download an Ignition config and use it to provision your booted system. Ignition configs are generated from Container Linux Configs. See the Container Linux Config documentation for more information. If a local filesystem is used for the root partition, pass this parameter only on the first boot.
    • ignition.config.url: Download the Ignition config from the specified URL. http, https, s3, and tftp schemes are supported.
    • ip: Configure temporary static networking for initramfs. This parameter does not influence the final network configuration of the node and is mostly useful for first-boot provisioning of systems in DHCP-less environments. See Ignition documentation for the complete syntax.

    This is an example pxelinux.cfg file that assumes Flatcar Container Linux is the only option. You should be able to copy this verbatim into /var/lib/tftpboot/pxelinux.cfg/default after providing an Ignition config URL:

    default flatcar
    prompt 1
    timeout 15
    
    display boot.msg
    
    label flatcar
      menu default
      kernel flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz
      initrd flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz
      append flatcar.first_boot=1 ignition.config.url=https://example.com/pxe-config.ign
    

    Here’s a common config example which should be located at the URL from above:

    systemd:
      units:
        - name: etcd2.service
          enable: true
    
    passwd:
      users:
        - name: core
          ssh_authorized_keys:
            - ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDGdByTgSVHq...
    

    Choose a channel

    Flatcar Container Linux is designed to be updated automatically with different schedules per channel. You can disable this feature , although we don’t recommend it. Read the release notes for specific features and bug fixes.

    PXE booted machines cannot currently update themselves when new versions are released to a channel. To update to the latest version of Flatcar Container Linux download/verify these files again and reboot.

    The Alpha channel closely tracks master and is released frequently. The newest versions of system libraries and utilities will be available for testing. The current version is Flatcar Container Linux 2823.0.0.

    In the config above you can see that a Kernel image and a initramfs file is needed. Download these two files into your tftp root.

    The flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig and flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig files can be used to verify the downloaded files.

    cd /var/lib/tftpboot
    wget https://alpha.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz
    wget https://alpha.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig
    wget https://alpha.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz
    wget https://alpha.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig
    gpg --verify flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig
    gpg --verify flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig
          

    The Beta channel consists of promoted Alpha releases. The current version is Flatcar Container Linux 2801.1.0.

    In the config above you can see that a Kernel image and a initramfs file is needed. Download these two files into your tftp root.

    The flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig and flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig files can be used to verify the downloaded files.

    cd /var/lib/tftpboot
    wget https://beta.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz
    wget https://beta.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig
    wget https://beta.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz
    wget https://beta.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig
    gpg --verify flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig
    gpg --verify flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig
          

    The Edge channel includes bleeding-edge features with the newest versions of the Linux kernel, systemd and other core packages. Can be highly unstable. The current version is Flatcar Container Linux 2466.99.0.

    In the config above you can see that a Kernel image and a initramfs file is needed. Download these two files into your tftp root.

    The flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig and flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig files can be used to verify the downloaded files.

    cd /var/lib/tftpboot
    wget https://edge.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz
    wget https://edge.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig
    wget https://edge.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz
    wget https://edge.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig
    gpg --verify flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig
    gpg --verify flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig
          

    The Stable channel should be used by production clusters. Versions of Flatcar Container Linux are battle-tested within the Beta and Alpha channels before being promoted. The current version is Flatcar Container Linux 2765.2.2.

    In the config above you can see that a Kernel image and a initramfs file is needed. Download these two files into your tftp root.

    The flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig and flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig files can be used to verify the downloaded files.

    cd /var/lib/tftpboot
    wget https://stable.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz
    wget https://stable.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig
    wget https://stable.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz
    wget https://stable.release.flatcar-linux.net/amd64-usr/current/flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig
    gpg --verify flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz.sig
    gpg --verify flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz.sig
          

    Booting the box

    After setting up the PXE server as outlined above you can start the target machine in PXE boot mode. The machine should grab the image from the server and boot into Flatcar Container Linux. If something goes wrong you can direct questions to the IRC channel or mailing list .

    This is localhost.unknown_domain (Linux x86_64 3.10.10+) 19:53:36
    SSH host key: 24:2e:f1:3f:5f:9c:63:e5:8c:17:47:32:f4:09:5d:78 (RSA)
    SSH host key: ed:84:4d:05:e3:7d:e3:d0:b9:58:90:58:3b:99:3a:4c (DSA)
    ens0: 10.0.2.15 fe80::5054:ff:fe12:3456
    localhost login:
    

    Logging in

    The IP address for the machine should be printed out to the terminal for convenience. If it doesn’t show up immediately, press enter a few times and it should show up. Now you can simply SSH in using public key authentication:

    Update Process

    Since our upgrade process requires a disk, this image does not have the option to update itself. Instead, the box simply needs to be rebooted and will be running the latest version, assuming that the image served by the PXE server is regularly updated.

    Installation

    Once booted it is possible to [install Flatcar Container Linux on a local disk][install-to-disk] or to just use local storage for the writable root filesystem while continuing to boot Flatcar Container Linux itself via PXE.

    If you plan on using Docker we recommend using a local ext4 filesystem with overlayfs, however, btrfs is also available to use if needed.

    For example, to setup an ext4 root filesystem on /dev/sda:

    storage:
      disks:
      - device: /dev/sda
        wipe_table: true
        partitions:
        - label: ROOT
      filesystems:
      - mount:
          device: /dev/disk/by-partlabel/ROOT
          format: ext4
          wipe_filesystem: true
          label: ROOT
    

    And add root=/dev/sda1 or root=LABEL=ROOT to the kernel options as documented above.

    Similarly, to setup a btrfs root filesystem on /dev/sda:

    storage:
      disks:
      - device: /dev/sda
        wipe_table: true
        partitions:
        - label: ROOT
      filesystems:
      - mount:
          device: /dev/disk/by-partlabel/ROOT
          format: btrfs
          wipe_filesystem: true
          label: ROOT
    

    Adding a Custom OEM

    Similar to the OEM partition in Flatcar Container Linux disk images, PXE images can be customized with an Ignition config bundled in the initramfs. Simply create a ./usr/share/oem/ directory, add a config.ign file containing the Ignition config, and add the directory tree as an additional initramfs:

    mkdir -p usr/share/oem
    cp example.ign ./usr/share/oem/config.ign
    find usr | cpio -o -H newc -O oem.cpio
    gzip oem.cpio
    

    Confirm the archive looks correct and has your config inside of it:

    gzip --stdout --decompress oem.cpio.gz | cpio -it
    ./
    usr
    usr/share
    usr/share/oem
    usr/share/oem/config.ign
    

    Add the oem.cpio.gz file to your PXE boot directory, then append it to the initrd line in your pxelinux.cfg:

    ...
    initrd flatcar_production_pxe_image.cpio.gz,oem.cpio.gz
    kernel flatcar_production_pxe.vmlinuz flatcar.first_boot=1
    ...
    

    Using Flatcar Container Linux

    Now that you have a machine booted it is time to play around. Check out the Flatcar Container Linux Quickstart guide or dig into more specific topics .