Downloading firmware for Intel Servers is a bear. IBM has tried to make it easier by providing an update CD that has all the various subsystems in it. This is a pretty good idea. But the problem is, in my world, I need to PXE boot all the servers to an image or run a package on the individual machines.
For example, if you have an HS21 xM server, you can go to this page and you are shown all the different subsystems that you can update. My goodness! That is a lot of work. Not to mention that you may not know what a lot of them are.
IBM is doing two things right:
1. They let you update packages right on the command line if you’re running Linux. This is great if I want to update the BIOS on my machines. I just scp the binary to all the machines and run the update and reboot. Boom! Just like that the BIOS is updated. Nice job IBM. In fact, they even let you change BIOS/CMOS settings from the command line. Much easier than waiting for the boot up screen and pressing F2.
2. They have a tool UpdateXpress System pack that has all the updates in it. This tool is basically a bootable CD that has all the updates. You stick the CD in the system then reboot the system and it updates ALL of the system components.
So that’s what they’re doing right. And the thing is, IBM is soooo close to getting it perfect. What do they need to do?
Well, I need the functionality of #2 in a PXE boot environment. Turns out you can’t network boot that UpdateXpress CD that you created. If you could then think how great it would be? You could just take that and put into xCAT and boot all nodes to this PXE boot environment. But they don’t.
I for one, can not afford to take a CD to every machine in my server farm and watch it boot up and do it. I need a PXE boot environment. On the other hand, it takes me a good 2 hours to go through IBM’s website and get all the binary updates that run on the Linux command line. Once I have them all I had to create my own PXE boot environment that would run under xCAT.
I took about 3 days of work to make such an environment work under xCAT’s service kernel. So when I want to update HS22s or LS22s I do:
nodeset compute runimage=http://mgmt/install/updates/hs22v.tgz
You can get my images for HS22′s and LS22′s here
I’ve been creating images like this since 2003 for IBM hardware. I hope that soon I won’t have to anymore. Before I was making DOS images and PXE booting those with memdisk. It’s great that I can now do everything with Linux. IBM is almost there. Once they get the Update Xpress to PXE boot, we’re golden.