ESXi PXE boot off Synlogy NAS! [Part 1]

Pre-Boot-Execution environment or commonly known as PXE boot allows system administrators to install OS(s) over the network. This comes in handy when the system administrator would have to setup up hundreds of PCs/Servers with similar configurations. The system administrator would have to simply connect the target devices over a network to the PXE server, and the OS installation would be done over the network. This process eliminates the need for the system administrators to create bootable media and carry the bootable media to every system to be installed or configured. In addition, all the target systems can be configured parallelly.

In this post, we will be discussing how to configure a Synology NAS as PXE server for ESXi install. Similar approach can be adopted for other NASes which use Linux based GUI like QNAP and Asustor. There are certain caveats to the process which we will be discussing in more details in the 2nd part of this post.

Let's dive straight into configuring the NAS for ESXi boot. For this example, I have used a VM running on my ESXi host to mimic the boot behavior of an actual host. We will be using ESXi 7.0u2a as our hypervisor image and Synology DSM 7.

1. Log in to your Synology NAS

2. Once the DSM GUI opens, click on "Filestation". Create a new folder like "PXEboot". Copy all the contents from the ESXi ISO to a folder within the "PXEboot" folder, in this example the folder "7u2a".

3. Go to the folder "7u2a/efi/boot". Copy the file 'bootx64.efi ' to the "7u2a" root folder and rename the file as 'mboot.efi'.

4. Now, go to "Control Panel" and click on "File services".

5. Click on the last tab, 'Advanced'. Select the "Enable TFTP service" tick box to enable the TFTP service. In the "TFTP root folder:" section, click on "select" to select your TFTP root folder. This should be the folder where you have copied the ESXi ISO contents. In this example "PxeBoot/7u2a"

6. Synology DSM has a software package called "DHCP server" which is the secret ingredient that allows us to really convert our NAS into PXE server. Incase you do not already have this package, simply download it from package center. Open the "DHCP server" application

7. Configure the DHCP "Network Interface" as per the screenshot shown below:

8. On the right hand pane, click on the "PXE" section. Click the "Enable PXE" check box. Then click on the radio button "Local TFTP server ". Click "select" and select the "mboot.efi" file from your TFTP root folder, as your boot loader file.

This finishes the PXE server configuration on your Synology NAS. Power on your target server, ensuring it is connected to the same layer-2 network as your PXE server and watch the magic unfold!!

TFTP logs on NAS:

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