Diskless boot with onboard NIC

Donald Becker becker at scyld.com
Mon Mar 4 09:54:29 PST 2002

On Mon, 4 Mar 2002, Jim fraser wrote:

> I am considering using some inexpensive mother boards as part of a cluster
> project.  These boards (ECS K7AMA) use the
> RealTek 8139C LAN chip on board the motherboard.

We recommend against using the 8139 chip.  It has the highest overhead
of any Fast Ethernet chip.  The driver must copy packets on both
transmit and receive, while most NIC chips require no copies.

The new "C+" version has a much better architecture while keeping the
same pinout, but I have not yet see it on production boards.

> They claim it supports
> "Lan card wake-up" .

Yes, most NICs and motherboards support Wake-On-LAN.  Having the chip
integrated on the motherboard makes it more likely to work.

> I have seen some Linux drivers for this chip on the Scyld site.


> My questions are:
> Is it possible to do a diskless boot without a floppy?  I would prefer a
> etherboot from another system.

This depends entirely on the motherboard BIOS.  Most systems with
on-board LAN can boot over the network, but surprisingly there are a few
that cannot.  (What were they thinking?)

> Do you know it you have to burn an EPROM and do these integrated Lan cards
> even support EPROM's?

The rtl8139C chip supports Flash boot ROM, but an on-motherboard
implementation is unlikely to have a Flash socket.  Any network boot
code is likely to be in the BIOS ROM.

Don't confuse the Flash boot ROM with the small serial EEPROM used for
storing configuration information.

Donald Becker				becker at scyld.com
Scyld Computing Corporation		http://www.scyld.com
410 Severn Ave. Suite 210		Second Generation Beowulf Clusters
Annapolis MD 21403			410-990-9993

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