So I’ve been writing the blog since 2006, during that time I’ve played with nearly all of the Compaq/HP Proliant servers from the olden days Compaq Proliant 4500s (Pentium 90) through to their latest and greatest BL460 G7 blades. The one common theme which we learned quite quickly and which I have written about was the driver and firmware thing, my interest even resulted in our infamous server firmware spreadsheet (which we love) and our FindMyFirmware iPhone application.
If you’ve never owned a server, had a fault with a server or managed servers in volume this may not be something with which you are overly familiar, however in the server world drivers and firmware are key. When you log a call to either any of the big vendors or a service provider they will ask:
- Have you upgraded the firmware?
- Are the drivers up to date?
- Please supply a diagnostic report.
My pain point as a server support guy, as someone who has written about driver and firmware over the years is not so much upgrading the drivers and firmware as much as it is version management. I know that I need to have the latest and greatest, but as an engineer and working for an enterprise you quickly come to realize that you end up aiming instead for N-1, so you’re not quite the latest and greatest but not out of date, so that when you have to log a call there are not a series of updates that need to be applied to the server before we can progress through to getting the parts we need or the assistance we need to fix our problem. With this in mind I actually developed with some of my colleagues the bladewatch bundle, this was quite simply, a folder which contained firmware which I had downloaded once a month, plus a copy of the HP Diagnostic utilities (online) and ISO, as well as copies of the PSP and firmware dvd (in case it was needed), a bundle that an engineer could carry around on a USB, and know when you’ve got the downtime or if you’re doing maintenance, run this against it so we know it’s all up to date.
Anyway back to the purpose of this post, HP appear to have made further innovations in this space which is brilliant news. Their service pack includes support for Windows, Linux and VMWare:
HP Service Pack for ProLiant is an enhanced, re-packaging of ProLiant systems software and firmware and is based on the rich legacy of Windows and Linux ProLiant Support Packs (PSPs) and HP Smart Update Firmware DVD that were found in the Insight Foundation suite for ProLiant. It is comprehensive systems software and firmware release offered as a tested solution on all ProLiant and BladeSystem servers.
It provides a single image for combined firmware and systems software for a single step installation instead of a two step installation of HP Windows and Linux PSPs and the HP Smart Update Firmware DVD. It repackages firmware, drivers, utilities, agents, non-agents, and other utilities that are required to keep pace in today’s rapidly expanding technology infrastructure as well as improves process for releasing these products to HP customers. Additionally, VMware drivers and offline firmware will be supported.
They had already made in roads with the work that they had done on the blade firmware bundle:
- »The HP BladeSystem c-Class requires firmware and management tool upgrades
- »BladeSystem for ProLiant Release Set Compatibility Table
- »Release Set Downloads
- »HP BladeSystem Release Sets for Integrity
- »Additional information
NOTE: HP BladeSystem c7000 enclosures properly configured with redundant Onboard Administrator and Virtual Connect modules can be updated online without disruption to production workloads. Firmware and PSP updates to blade components may require individual blades to be rebooted, which can be scheduled during an appropriate maintenance window for each server blade workload.
It’s great to see ongoing investment and effort being made in the systems management, driver and firmware space, anything HP can do to help their customers and end users maintain their systems not only empowers customers to learn and take interest in running their products, but also reduces the complexity for the customer in terms of systems management and should hopefully reduces’ HP’s support costs and time to resolution which works for everyone both sides of the sales and support space.
Some example articles about drivers and firmware that I’ve written over the years:
My the innovation from HP and their competitors continue, the more we break down the barriers, make the product support information more accessible and empower the user, the more we can further empower how users use their equipment and their confidence in using it, creating opportunity for vendor and end user alike.