Keeping Firmware Up To Date
October 6, 2015 Pete Massiello
Last month, Larry Bolhuis discussed PTFs and keeping them current. This is extremely important, and I want to continue along on that theme of staying current. So, this month we will discuss determining the level of firmware of your Flexible Service Processor (FSP). If you don’t know what level it is currently running, you won’t know if it is up to date or not. It’s just as important to keep this up to date as your PTFs, your release of IBM i, or your Hardware Management Console (HMC) firmware. In all my travels, it seems people aren’t keeping their HMC or FSP up to date.
Let’s start with some basics. Every Power5, Power6, Power7, and Power8 machine has an FSP. The FSP has three copies of firmware. There is a Temporary copy, a Permanent copy, and the Active copy. If you look at your bezel (the small, lighted display on your Power System machine, about two inches high by four inches wide), you will see either a T or P in the lower right-hand side of the display. If it has a T, you are IPLing the FSP from the T side, and if there is a P, you are IPLing the FSP from the P side. In normal situations, you should always be IPLing from the Temporary side. The third copy, which is the active copy, is what is currently running. This is very similar to the two sides of the Licensed Internal Code (LIC) of IBM i. We refer to those two sides of the LIC as the A side and the B side. The A side has all the permanently applied PTFs for the LIC, and the B side has both the temporary and permanently applied PTFs for the LIC. If you do a DSPPTF, it will tell you the IPL Source, as either ##MACH#B (The B side), or ##MACH#A (The A side). As you can see below:
We don’t actually apply individual PTFs to the FSP firmware as we do with IBM i. The FSP has a level of firmware that can be loaded from each side. Beginning with V5R4M5, and PTFed back to V5R4M0, there is a command called Display Firmware Status (DSPFMWSTS). This will easily show you the firmware levels as well as other information. Here is a display of a machine that has an HMC attached to it:
Let’s go over a few items on here. On this machine, we can see that the FSP Firmware gets its updates from the HMC, as the Firmware update policy is set to *HMC. That means you would use the attached HMC to update the FSP firmware. There are a few advantages to this, the first being that in some instances you can do concurrent updates to the firmware. When the Firmware update policy is set to *OPSYS, the updates are always disruptive, meaning they require an IPL. When the policy is *OPSYS, the FSP firmware is updated by the operating system when you install PTFs for the specified firmware product ID. The product ID is 5733-90x (where x is 5, 6, 7, or 8 for Power5, Power6, Power7, and Power8 respectively). When you load PTFs to that product, the firmware of the FSP will be updated during the next IPL. I will show you a screen shot of that shortly.
When you are updating the firmware via PTFs to the operating system, there are a couple of things to know for this to succeed. The first is that if there are multiple partitions on the machine, then all other partitions on the server must be shut down when this partition is IPLed to apply the PTFs. The second is if there is one partition or multiple, at that time, not only will IBM i IPL, but the Service Processor will also restart to load the new firmware to the FSP. This is known as a Deep IPL, as it includes the server firmware. You can imagine that this will extend the IPL time beyond the time require to apply IBM i PTFs.
Notice the Server IPL source. In this case it says Temporary, as the last FSP IPL used the temporary copy of the firmware. If the Server IPL source had shown Permanent, it would have used the permanent copy during the IPL. Next on the display are the three copies of the FSP firmware and their levels.
I want to now show you a screen shot from a Power8 machine, as this has a new field. Notice the Firmware entitlement date. Starting with Power8, IBM has provided a date until which you can update your firmware. After that date, you will need a new firmware entitlement key to update the server. Firmware with a later date will not be activated until a valid entitlement date is detected.
The next screen shot is from a standalone machine (one with no HMC). This shows a little different information. First, notice that the Firmware update policy is set to *OPSYS. This means the updates to the FSP will come from applying PTFs to 5733-90x (where x is the generation of Power). Second, column Operating system shows PTF information. Remember, you can use the command DSPPTF 5733-90x, where x is the generation of Power, to see which PTFs you have loaded to the operating system.
It’s important to keep your machine up to date with PTFs, OS levels, FSP Firmware, as well as HMC firmware. There is a compatibility guide for supported combinations of FSP firmware and HMC firmware that you also need to be aware of. When using the IBM chart, just select the tab of the generation Power System you have, and then find your machine and click on it to see the combinations of FSP and HMC Firmware that are supported. I can tell you from experience, it is easier to keep everything up to date, then to have to catch up when someone hasn’t been keeping up to date with any of these updates.
In our next piece, Larry will continue the keeping-current theme by discussing how to know and update the code levels of your HMC.
Pete Massiello has been working with the AS/400, iSeries, and IBM i since 1989, focusing on systems management and technical support. He has held numerous technical positions throughout his career. He is the President of iTech Solutions Group, an IBM Premier Business Partner delivering solutions and services to IBM i shops throughout the world. He is a member of IBM’s certification test writing team, and an IBM Certified Systems Expert with certifications in iSeries Design, Administration, Virtualization, Implementation, LPAR, and HMC management. Pete has a B.S. in Computer Science from Hofstra University and an MBA from the University of New Haven. He was President of COMMON from 2010 to 2012, and again in 2014. Pete is a COMMON Hall of Fame speaker and a frequent speaker at user groups all over the world. In 2011 IBM established the Champions award for Power Systems. Pete was one of the first recipients.