Prior to performing any configurations on a server, it’s highly recommended to update the system firmware. This ensures support for newer operating systems / hypervisors and all known bugs / vulnerability have been resolved, ensuring stability and security on the system. Once a server has been deployed, it’s a best practice and recommendation to keep the firmware updated on regular intervals, a suggested time frame for updating a system would be every 4 months. Depending on the environment, no workload downtime may be required especially if the server is running virtualized workloads allowing for virtual machines to be migrated to another system while the server is being updated, this may also hold true if server is part of a bare metal high availability cluster where workloads can be moved to another system in the cluster.
Lenovo simplifies this process by providing numerous methods and tools to perform firmware updates. Different software tools are used in different scenarios, ensuring a flexible and consistent approach.
Lenovo Bootable Media Creator – If firmware update is required for a small number of servers (less then 5 systems) and there’s no operating system installed, Bootable Media Creator might be a suitable choice. The process to update a server using Bootable Media Creator involves running the tool on your PC, which retrieves the firmware updates and creates a bootable image (either an ISO Image, USB or DVD), which needs to be mounted to the server via remote console or a physical medium such as DVD or USB and booted up with that image. Bootable Media Creator provides a step by step graphical wizard to update a server’s firmware. An advantage using this tool is that it has no dependencies (no operating system is required to be installed on the server) and when retrieving the firmware updates, it acquires all the pre-requisites firmware revisions. However, Bootable Media Creator is not recommended for updating a large number of server (more then 5 systems) as this process might be time consuming and requires manual intervention for each and every server.
Lenovo UpdateXpress – A simple method of updating a server’s firmware within an operating system (in-band update) is by using UpdateXpress. A offline repository can be created and transferred to the server, which can be used to perform the update. It’s recommended to update UpdateXpress only on a small number of servers (less then 5) as this requires manual intervention and automating systems Update is limited. There is an option to use both a Graphical Interface as well as command line to perform the update.
Lenovo xClarity – To update a large number of servers (more then 5) and automate this process, xClarity is the application to use. xClarity isn’t a stand-alone tool but rather a management appliance. xClarity is a free appliance from Lenovo which provides the ability to perform and automate numerous tasks such as managing, updating, alerting, automating and deploying a wide range of systems. It provides the mechanism to retrieve updates and flash the firmware to multiple systems at set intervals and define policies for updating systems.
Lenovo OneCLI – To script, automate and update firmware using the command line interface, OneCLI is the tool to use which provides tremendous flexibility. This tool allows you to update the firmware in various ways including in-band (from within the operating system) and out-of-band (via the management interface). Similar to UpdateXpress, firmware updates can be performed within the operating system or firmware updates can be applied via a dedicated management interface, however, in this case an SFTP Server is required. This is the fastest way to perform updates where a single command can update the entire system.
Management Console – Firmware updates can be applied directly through the management console of the server, either the Integrated Management Module (IMM) for the Lenovo System X range of servers or the Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) for the Lenovo ThinkSystem range of servers. This is not a not recommended method to update the firmware due the dependencies and only certain components can be updated, components such as the RAID, Ethernet, Fibre Channel Adapters cannot be updated through here. Improper update through the management console can damage the components on the server. It is only recommended to use this method if suggested by support and in a specific support scenario.