UEFI Secure Boot support for pxe_iLO driver

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As part of Kilo release UEFI secure boot support was enabled for all the iLO drivers except pxe_ilo. It is important to have this feature supported for pxe_ilo driver so that security sensitive users of pxe_ilo driver could deploy more securely using Secure Boot feature of the UEFI. This spec proposes UEFI Secure Boot support in baremetal provisioning for pxe_ilo driver.

Problem description

Secure Boot is part of the UEFI specification (http://www.uefi.org). It helps to make sure that node boots using only software that is trusted by Admin/End user.

Secure Boot is different from TPM (Trusted Platform Module). TPM is a standard for a secure cryptoprocessor, which is dedicated microprocessor designed to secure hardware by integrating cryptographic keys into devices. Secure Boot is part of UEFI specification, which can secure the boot process by preventing the loading of drivers or OS loaders that are not signed with an acceptable digital signature.

When the node starts with secure boot enabled, system firmware checks the signature of each piece of boot software, including firmware drivers (Option ROMs), boot loaders and the operating system. If the signatures are good, the node boots, and the firmware gives control to the operating system.

The Admin and End users having security sensitivity with respect to baremetal provisioning owing to the workloads they intend to run on the provisioned nodes would be interested in using secure boot provided by UEFI.

Once secure boot is enabled for a node, it cannot boot using unsigned boot images. Hence it is important to use signed bootloaders and kernel if node were to be booted using secure boot.

This feature has been enabled for iscsi_ilo and agent_ilo driver during Kilo release. It needs to be enabled for pxe_ilo driver. This needs pxe_ilo driver should support signed UEFI bootloader for the nodes to boot in the UEFI secure boot environment.

Proposed change

This spec proposes to support UEFI secure boot for pxe_ilo driver and grub2 as an alternate bootloader for UEFI deploy for PXE drivers.

Preparing the environment

  • The operator informs the Ironic using the capabilities property of the node. The operator may add a new capability secure_boot=true in capabilities within properties of that node. This is an optional property that can be used if node needs to be provisioned for secure boot. By default the behavior would be as if this property is set to ‘false’. The inspection feature in iLO drivers can auto discover secure boot capability of the node and create node capability into that node object.
  • If the user has secure_boot capability set in the flavor, pxe_ilo has ability to change the boot mode to UEFI and prepare the node for the secure boot on the fly using proliantutils library calls.
  • Even if the secure_boot capability is set to true in the node’s properties/capabilities, node can be used for normal non-secure boot deployments. Driver would use the secure_boot capability information from the node’s instance_info field to provision node for UEFI secure boot.

Preparing flavor for secure boot

  • The extra_specs field in the nova flavor should be used to indicate secure boot. User will need to create a flavor by adding “capabilities:secure_boot=”true” to it.
  • iLO driver will not do secure boot if “secure_boot” capability flavor is not present or set to “False”. Nova scheduler will use secure_boot capability as one of the node selection criteria if “secure_boot” is present in extra_spec. If “secure_boot” is not present in extra_spec then Nova scheduler will not consider “secure_boot” capability as a node selection criteria.
  • Ironic virt Driver will pass the flavor capability information to the driver as part of ‘instance_info’. Having capability information as part of ‘instance_info’ would help driver in preparing and decommissioning the node appropriately. With respect to secure boot feature, this information would be used by pxe_ilo driver for:-
    • During provisioning, driver can turn on the secure boot capability to validate signatures of bootloaders and kernel.
    • During teardown, secure boot mode would be disabled on the node.

Preparing bootloader and deploy images

To support UEFI secure boot for pxe_ilo driver, pxe driver for Ironic should support signed UEFI bootloader. Currently ‘elilo’ is the default UEFI bootloader for all pxe drivers. Not all major linux distros ship signed ‘elilo’ bootloader. They ship signed ‘grub2’ bootloader.

Enabling grub2 bootloader requires steps similar to elilo. Steps are:-

  • Copy signed shim and grub2 bootloader files into tftproot directory as bootx64.efi and grubx64.efi respectively .

  • Create a master grub.cfg file under /tftpboot/grub

  • Contents of master grub.cfg would look something like this. set default=master set timeout=5 set hidden_timeout_quiet=false

    menuentry “master” { configfile /tftpboot/$net_default_ip.conf }

    This master grub.cfg gets loaded first during PXE boot. It tells grub to refer to the node specific config file in tftproot directory configured for PXE. The name of config file is coined using DHCP IP address that would be allocated to the node. This is to ensure that multiple grub.cfg files could be created for parallel deploys. The contents of $net_default_ip.conf is dynamically filled by PXE driver using grub template file.

Ironic needs to support ‘grub2’ as an alternate UEFI bootloader for following reasons:-

  • No active development happening on ‘elilo’
  • All major linux distributions are supporting ‘grub2’ as a default UEFI bootloader.
  • All major linux distributions provide signed ‘grub2’ bootloader which could be used in UEFI secure boot deploy with distro supplied cloud images. Otherwise users would need to build their own signed images for secure boot deploy.
  • signed grub2 can be used for normal UEFI deploys as well.

All major linux distros ship their self signed ‘grub2’ and also provide Microsoft UEFI CA signed shim bootloader. The shim bootloader contains the UEFI signature of respective distros.

When node boots up using pxe, it loads Microsoft signed ‘shim’ boot loader which in turn loads the distro signed ‘grub2’. Distro signed ‘grub2’ can validate and load the distro kernel. Shim bootloader is required as it is signed using Microsoft UEFI CA signature and recognizes corresponding linux vendors certificate as a valid certificate. Secure boot enabled HP Proliant UEFI systems are pre-loaded with Microsoft UEFI CA signatures. User signed images can be supported but user need to manually configure their keys to HP Proliant system ROM database using Proliant tools.

User can configure ‘grub2’ as a bootloader by changing the following existing variables in /etc/ironic/ironic.conf under pxe section: uefi_pxe_config_template uefi_pxe_bootfile_name


Add support for signed ‘grub2’ as a default UEFI bootloader in Ironic. But such a change would have backward compatibility impact.

Data model impact


State Machine Impact


REST API impact


RPC API impact


Client (CLI) impact


Driver API impact


Nova driver impact


Security impact

This enhances security. Only correctly signed firmware, bootloader and OS can be booted. It provides users with the opportunity to run the software of their choice in the most secure manner.

Other end user impact

Users need to use properly signed deploy and boot components. Currently pxe_ilo driver would support deploy and boot images having ‘shim’ and ‘grub2’ signed by Linux OS vendors. If user wants to use custom signed images, then he would need to manually configure their keys to UEFI using HP Proliant tools. If user were to use an unsigned image for deploy with flavor requesting UEFI secure boot, then deploy process would go through successfully, but final boot into instance image would fail. The signature validation of unsigned components would fail resulting in the failure of boot process. The appropriate boot failure message would get displayed on Node’s console.

Scalability impact


Performance Impact

There is no performance impact due to signature validation in secure boot.

Other deployer impact

User can deploy only signed images with UEFI secure boot enabled.

Developer impact




Primary assignee:
Shivanand Tendulker (stendulker@gmail.com)

Work Items

  1. Add support for grub2/shim as a alternate UEFI bootloaders for Ironic pxe driver.
  2. Implement secure boot for pxe_ilo driver.


Signed user images. The necessary DiskImageBuilder changes has been done to build signed Ubuntu and Fedora images.


Unit tests would be added for all newly added code.

Upgrades and Backwards Compatibility

None. grub2 would be alternate bootloader, which user can use only if it needs UEFI secure boot functionality.

Documentation Impact

Newly added functionality would be appropriately documented.


  1. UEFI specification http://www.uefi.org
  2. Proliantutils module - https://pypi.python.org/pypi/proliantutils
  3. HP UEFI System Utilities User Guide - http://www.hp.com/ctg/Manual/c04398276.pdf
  4. Secure Boot for Linux on HP Proliant servers http://h20195.www2.hp.com/V2/getpdf.aspx/4AA5-4496ENW.pdf