By: Ryan Ollenburger, Senior Solution Architect

New infrastructure management software like HPE OneView eases the pain of firmware updates by automating tasks that have traditionally involved multiple steps and various utilities. As of version 2.0, OneView is even capable of managing system drivers in the same fashion. But you may be asking yourself, “What do I do if I don’t have OneView installed?”

In this post, we answer these questions:

  1. How do I manage firmware and drivers in an HPE Blade environment?
  2. Where do I find the utilities required to do so?
  3. How do I make sure the firmware and drivers I’m installing are compatible?

Locating Firmware and Drivers

HPE Service Pack for Proliant (SPP): “The SPP is a comprehensive package that includes firmware, drivers, and tools across ProLiant Servers and infrastructure including a broad range of many generations of HP ProLiant BL/DL/ML/SL 100, 300, 500, 700, and 900 series servers.”

The HPE SPP is your source for a compatible, tested and interoperable set of firmware and drivers for just about any HPE ProLiant server. By using the packages included on the ISO we can ensure that the Onboard Administrator (OA), Virtual Connect (VC), and blade firmware, as well as drivers, are compatible with each other. Download it here.

For Linux environments, the SPP is also published in HP’s Software Delivery Repository. For online updates of drivers, simply add the SPP as a YUM repo (RHEL/CentOS). See how here. Similarly, there is a repository for firmware called the Firmware Pack for ProLiant. Like the SPP, it too can be added as a YUM repo.

(NOTE: this simply stages the flash utility and firmware payload on your filesystem at /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/hp-firmware-type-vendor-version/. Run “./hpsetup” in this directory to physically flash the firmware).

Individual component firmware and driver packages can also be downloaded from the HPE Support website: http://support.hpe.com. You may need an HPE support account in order to login, so check out another one of our blogs about how to get started on the HPE Support site if needed.

Manually Updating a Blade Enclosure and its Components

The proper order in which to manually update firmware and drivers on an HPE blade enclosure is as follows:

  1. Onboard administrator (OA) – via web interface and bin file
  2. Virtual Connect – via VCSU (Virtual Connect Support Utility) and bin file
  3. Blade Firmware – via HPE SPP (Service Pack for Proliant)
  4. OS Drivers — method depends on OS

Some will argue that steps 3 and 4 should be reversed (OS drivers before blade firmware), but I haven’t run into a situation where this has been a factor yet, knock on wood…

Lets walk through each of these steps in more detail.

Updating the Onboard Administrator is easy. Simply source the .bin file and upload it via the OA web interface. Download the latest OA firmware here or grab it from the SPP. Estimated time: 15-20 minutes.

Upgrading Virtual Connect is not quite as simple. While not difficult, it requires a special utility called the Virtual Connect Support Utility (VCSU). Download the latest version here (Windows only). I install and run this on my laptop, but it can be installed anywhere in your environment that has access to the enclosure management network. Once installed, it can be started in interactive mode or cli mode. Use the “update” command in interactive mode to get started. You will also need the Virtual Connect firmware .bin file for the utility to use. Get the latest version here or grab it from the SPP. Estimated time: 30-60 minutes.

**A note about availability while upgrading Virtual Connect. Using the VCSU in its default mode will likely cause a network outage. There are ways to get around this by using manual activation mode or editing the time between module activation. Results are highly dependent on the underlying OS network teaming configurations.  

The Different Ways to Update Blade Firmware

The easiest, although maybe the most time consuming method, is to boot each blade off of the SPP. By default the SPP will boot into automated firmware update mode, which requires no user input. Simply mount the SPP (using iLO virtual media), reboot the server, and go to lunch. It should be done when you return. Estimated time: 30-60 minutes per blade (you can do multiple blades simultaneously).

Another option for blade firmware is to use the “Enclosure Firmware Management” capabilities of the Onboard Administrator. You can set up the OA to point at an SPP ISO hosted on an http server and choose between manual or automated firmware updates. In manual mode, simply select a blade from the device bay list and choose to update the blade firmware. In automatic mode, whenever a new blade is inserted into the enclosure it will boot off of the hosted SPP and perform an unattended firmware update. Estimated time: 30-60 minutes per blade.

Automating Firmware and Driver Updates Using SUM

Smart Update Manager (SUM) can greatly simplify the process of firmware and driver updates in any HPE Proliant server environment. In fact, this is what HPE OneView uses in the background to automate updates. SUM is included on the SPP and can be run via a browser-based GUI or scriptable CLI.

SUM automatically discovers the installed hardware and the current versions of firmware and drivers across your environment and compares them to an SPP baseline that you have established. It will automatically handle any interdependency issues during firmware and driver remediation and no agents are required. SUM will even manage and update the blade enclosure OA and Virtual Connect firmware.  Detailed information about SUM can be found here.

Conclusion

Managing firmware and drivers in an HPE blade environment does not have to be an overwhelming task. The SPP and features available in the Onboard Administrator simplify what used to be a more manual process. Additional tools like SUM and OneView can come close to fully automating the firmware and driver updates on most HPE Proliant server platforms.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Please reach out to Dasher at marketing@dasher.com.
For further reading check out A Quick Look Into Hewlett Packard Enterprise OneView 2.0.