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Debian Technology Preview in StarlingX 7.0

By Frank Miller and Eric Macdonald on 03/10/2022

With support for the CentOS Distribution being discontinued, StarlingX is moving to the Debian OS Distribution. Here's how to get ready.<!– more –>

Debian is a well-established Linux Distribution supported by a large and mature open-source community and used by hundreds of commercial organizations, including Google. When fully transitioned to Debian, StarlingX will have full functional equivalence to the current CentOS-based versions of StarlingX.


Due to the scope of changes involved, the transition to Debian is being completed in stages, begining with migration to the 5.10 kernel in release 6.0, followed by a Debian technology preview in release 7.0, and full transition to Debian in a future release. See https://docs.starlingx.io/debian/kubernetes/overview-234a36ffe9fb.html for details.

Operational Impacts

The operational impact of Debian-based StarlingX is small. For a list of differences between Debian and CentOS-based StarlingX, see https://docs.starlingx.io/debian/kubernetes/operational-impacts-9cf2e610b5b3.html. (Differences that are specific to release 7.0 are noted).

Technology Preview Reduced Scope

The StarlingX release 7.0 Debian Technology Preview release has reduced scope:

  • Only AIO-SX deployments are supported. Duplex, Standard and Distributed Cloud configurations are not available in this release.
  • Only Kubernetes version 1.23 is supported.
  • Support for both standard and low-latency kernel.
  • Only Reboot Patching is available. In-service patching is not supported.
  • Upgrades to or from this release are not supported.

Full equivalency of configurations and features will be supported in the upcoming StarlingX Debian General Availability release.

Technology Preview Installation

In general, the installation of StarlingX 7.0 Debian Technology Preview on All-in-one Simplex is unchanged.

There are no changes to:

The only minor change in the installation is in the initial install of software on controller-0.

There is a single install menu to choose between an AIO-Controller with the Standard Kernel and an AIO-Controller with the Low-Latency Kernel. Of course, the actual console log output of the software install is different due to OSTree and Debian details.

The Debian installation requires configuration of the new pxeboot grub menus; one for servers with Legacy BIOS support and another for servers with UEFI firmware.

During PXE boot configuration set-up, as described in https://docs.starlingx.io/deploy_install_guides/r6_release/bare_metal/configuring-a-pxe-boot-server.html, additional steps are required to collect configuration information and create a grub menu to install StarlingX AIO controller-0 function on the target server.

. Wipe the install device prior to Debian installation.

   $ sudo wipedisk --force --include-backup
   $ sudo sgdisk -o /dev/sda

Repeat the sudo sgdisk -o command for all disks, such as dev/sdb, /dev/sdc, and so-on.

. Option 1: Install controller-0 from a USB device containing the

Debian ISO image.

Use this method to install locally from a physical or virtual media USB device/ISO.

. Add the Debian ISO image to a USB device and make the target server.

  boot the ISO image from that USB device.

. During installation, select the install type from the presented

  menu. For a UEFI installation, the menu options are prefixed with
  "UEFI ".

. Option 2: Install controller-0 from a PXEboot install feed.

This method uses a network PXEboot install from a remote PXEboot server and 'feed' directory.

  • The 'feed' directory is a directory containing the mounted contents of the Debian ISO.
  • The 'feed' creation process for the Debian install differs from the CentOS method.
  • The 'feed' can be populated with either a direct ISO mount or a copy of the ISO content.

Direct ISO mount method:

. Mount the ISO at the feed directory location on the pxeboot server.

. Copy the ISO to the 'feed' directory location pxeboot server.


  This can be a common location for installing many servers or a
  unique location for a specific server.

. Mount the ISO as the 'feed' directory.

  The mount requires root access. If you don't have root
  access on the PXEboot server then use the **ISO copy** method.

      $ IMAGENAME=<debian_image>
      $ sudo mount -o loop ${IMAGENAME}.iso ${IMAGENAME}_feed

Copy ISO contents method:

. Create a tarball containing the mounted ISO content.

. Copy the Debian ISO to a location where the ISO can be mounted.

. Mount the ISO, tar it up and copy the feed tarball to the PXEboot


. Untar the feed tarball at the feed directory location on your

  PXEboot server.

  An example of the above commands:

      $ IMAGENAME=<debian_image>

      $ sudo mount -o loop ${IMAGENAME}.iso ${IMAGENAME}_feed
      $ tar -czf ${IMAGENAME}_feed.tgz ${IMAGENAME}_feed
      $ scp ${IMAGENAME}_feed.tgz <username>@<pxeboot_server>:<feed directory>

      $ ssh <username>@<pxeboot_server>

      $ cd <feed directory>
      $ tar -xzf ${IMAGENAME}_feed.tgz
      $ rm ${IMAGENAME}_feed.tgz

. Optionally, link your new feed directory to the name the pxeboot

  server translates the incoming MAC based DHCP request to.

      $ ln -s ${IMAGENAME}_feed feed

  Your 'feed' directory or link should now list similarly to the
  following example:

      drwxr-xr-x  7 someuser users       4096 Jun 13 10:33          starlingx-20220612220558_feed
      lrwxrwxrwx  1 someuser users         58 Jun 13 10:35  feed -> starlingx-20220612220558_feed

  The 'feed' directory structure should be as follows:

      ├── bzImage-rt                      ... Lowlatency kernel
      ├── bzImage-std                     ... Standard kernel
      ├── initrd                          ... Installer initramfs image
      ├── kickstart
      │   └── kickstart.cfg               ... Unified kickstart
      ├── ostree_repo                     ... OSTree Archive Repo
      │   ├── config
      │   ├── extensions
      │   └── objects
      ├── pxeboot
           └── samples
              ├── efi-pxeboot.cfg.debian  ... controller-0 UEFI install menu sample
              ├── pxeboot.cfg.debian      ... controller-0 BIOS install menu sample
              ├── pxeboot_setup.sh        ... script used to tailor the above samples
              └── README                  ... info file

  Note that many files and directories have been omitted for clarity.

. Set up the PXEboot grub menus.

  The ISO contains a `pxeboot/sample` directory with controller-0
  install grub menus.

  * For BIOS: `feed/pxeboot/samples/pxeboot.cfg.debian`

  * For UEFI: `feed/pxeboot/samples/efi-pxeboot.cfg.debian`

  You must customize these grub menus for a specific server
  install by modifying the following variable replacement strings
  with path and other information that is specific to your pxeboot

  : The path between http server base and feed directory. For
    example: `/var/www/html/xxxFEED_xxx/<ISO content>`

  : The offset path between /pxeboot and the feed to find
    `bzImage/initrd`. For example:
    `/var/pxeboot/xxxPXEBOOTxxx/<ISO content>`

  : The pxeboot server URL: `http://###.###.###.###`

  : The install device name. Default: `/dev/sda` Example:

  : The system install type index. Default: aio>aio-serial
    (All-in-one Install - Serial; Console)

      menu32               = no default system install type ; requires manual select

      disk                 = Disk Boot

      standard>serial      = Controller Install - Serial Console

      standard>graphical   = Controller Install - Graphical Console

      aio>serial           = All-in-one Install - Serial Console

      aio>graphical        = All-in-one Install - Graphical Console

      aio-lowlat>serial    = All-in-one (lowlatency) Install - Serial Console

      aio-lowlat>graphical = All-in-one (lowlatency) Install - Graphical Console

  The ISO also contains the `pxeboot/samples/pxeboot_setup.sh`
  script that can be used to automatically setup both the BIOS and
  UEFI grub files for a specific install.

      ./feed/pxeboot/samples/pxeboot_setup.sh --help

      Usage: ./pxeboot_setup.sh [Arguments Options]


      -i | --input   <input path>     : Path to pxeboot.cfg.debian and efi-pxeboot.cfg.debian grub template files
      -o | --output  <output path>    : Path to created pxeboot.cfg.debian and efi-pxeboot.cfg.debian grub files
      -p | --pxeboot <pxeboot path>   : Offset path between /pxeboot and bzImage/initrd
      -f | --feed    <feed path>      : Offset path between http server base and mounted iso
      -u | --url     <pxe server url> : The pxeboot server's URL


      -h | --help                     : Print this help info
      -b | --backup                   : Create backup of updated grub files as .named files
      -d | --device <install device>  : Install device path ; default: /dev/sda
      -s | --system <system install>  : System install type ; default: 3

      0 = Disk Boot
      1 = Controller Install - Serial Console
      2 = Controller Install - Graphical Console
      3 = All-in-one Install - Serial Console       (default)
      4 = All-in-one Install - Graphical Console
      5 = All-in-one (lowlatency) Install - Serial Console
      6 = All-in-one (lowlatency) Install - Graphical Console


      pxeboot_setup.sh -i /path/to/grub/template/dir
                       -o /path/to/target/iso/mount
                       -p pxeboot/offset/to/bzImage_initrd
                       -f pxeboot/offset/to/target_feed
                       -u http://###.###.###.###
                       -d /dev/sde
                       -s 5

The remaining install steps are also completely unchanged. You can find them here:


Technology Preview Known Issues

Known issues and workarounds with the StarlingX release 7.0 are the same as those for StarlingX release 7.0 based on CentOS.

For the complete list of updates and new features in StarlingX R7.0, check out the release notes and the project documentation.

Visit the StarlingX website today for further information about the project, check out the code, or download the latest image to try out the new features.