Please use Dell System Update (dsu)

Most of the information on this page is now out of date.
Please use "dsu" to find and install firmware and BIOS updates on your Dell servers.
See MPUDellSystemUpdate for details.

Firmware Updates for Servers

Servers, or more accurately their major hardware components, benefit from periodic upgrading of their firmware. This can be very important, for instance to prevent data loss from buggy RAID controller or disk firmware.

Web Queries (which servers need which updates)

From time to time we get new firmware updates then test them out to see if we can recommend them for our servers. To find out if there are any recommended firmware updates which still need to be applied, read the firmware upgrades page. It lists servers which appear to need a firmware update, together with the updates needed. You can find the page again by visiting http://ordershost then clicking on "Firmware upgrades".

The report lists suitable updates and where you can get them. Generally the location will be a subdirectory of the MPU firmware directory which is /afs/inf.ed.ac.uk/group/mp-unit/firmware.

The MPU maintains a list of its currently recommended firmware updates in the rfe goodfirmware map. You're welcome to browse this if you like, though if you want to modify it please talk to the MPU first.

You can also query the Server Component Details page, a searchable inventory of DICE servers' major components. The data in this inventory is updated every day. For example you could search for a 'Description' of '%hitachi%' to find all Hitachi disks in our servers (38 at the time of writing). The Server Component Details page is also linked from http://ordershost.

Types of Hardware Covered

So far the Firmware Upgrades list covers updates for:

  • BIOS
  • Disks
  • Most RAID controllers we have in common use
  • The server backplane
  • BMC and DRAC management controllers
  • Fibrechannel controllers

The ordershost firmware report does not yet list updates for NICs. Nevertheless we have such updates and they need to be applied to some servers. They're listed in the comments at the end of rfe goodfirmware.

Server Models Covered

We check critical firmware updates for these models, where we have at least one DICE server of that model:

  • HP ProLiant DL180 G6
  • Dell PowerEdge 1950
  • Dell PowerEdge 'R' series models.
In 01/14 the last of these expanded to R200, R210, R210 II, R310, R320, R410, R415, R420, R510, R520, R610, R620, R710, R715, R720, R805, R815, R900

Tips and Gotchas

Firmware updates usually install smoothly once you allow for arbitrary oddness:

  • Dell firmware updates should be installed while the machine is in single user mode, to ensure that nothing interrupts the flashing process.
  • Many Dell firmware updates will only apply if they detect that the machine is running RHEL. They check this by looking at the contents of /etc/redhat-release. Before applying an update, move /etc/redhat-release aside and replace it with one containing the correct text for the corresponding version of RHEL. For SL6.4 this would be Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server release 6.4 (Santiago). If you try to apply the update without doing this you're likely to get an error like Unable to get the System Generation and the update will fail. Remember to return the file to normal after having applied the update.
    • Note that some Dell firmware updates, even when marked compatible with RHEL7, require the above RHEL 6.x redhat-release string.
  • Many Dell firmware updates need certain 32 bit RPMs installed on the machine. One sign that some of these RPMs are missing is the message Error while loading shared libraries: libstdc++.so.5: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory. Check that these RPMs are installed:
    • glibc.i686
    • compat-libstdc++.i686
    • libstdc++.i686
    • zlib.i686
    • libxml2.i686
  • A BMC or DRAC or iDRAC firmware update may cut off the server's IPMI console, so it may help to apply these updates while on a physical console and with serial console redirection switched off. Doing this is somewhat fiddly:
    1. Connect the roving console then reboot the machine
    2. Wait until you see Press any key to continue
    3. Press a key and move the cursor to the Boot default kernel Single User option.
    4. Press p
    5. Enter the password.
    6. Press e
    7. Move to the kernel /boot/vmlinuz root line
    8. Press e
    9. Delete console=ttyS1,57600 from the end of the line. Your baud rate may vary.
    10. Press Return
    11. Press b
      The machine should boot single user. You'll need the grub password at this point.
  • Updating the iDRAC firmware on an R720 to version 1.23.23 had the effect of resetting some of the iDRAC's settings to a default value, including settings which need to be changed in order to get the IPMI serial console to work. After applying this update, check the settings with those in ForumIPMISOLConsoleConfiguration.
  • Some updates present an error when run from serial console along the lines of "This program is an suid-root program or is being run by the root user. The full text of the error or warning message cannot be safely formatted in this environment", followed by spurious errors about the DISPLAY variable and opening an xterm. The fix is simple: set the TERM variable to vt100 (rather than vt102 or similar).
  • Immediately after starting the updater you may get hundreds of warnings from prelink. Just ignore them and carry on.

Further Reading

Dell's Dell Update Packages documentation is comprehensive and helpful.
Topic revision: r17 - 03 Nov 2016 - 14:28:33 - ChrisCooke
 
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