Today I had a chance to work with one of the engineers on the floor at HP Discover 2012 to get an in depth, hands on look at HP Smart Update Manager (SUM) version 5. With SUM, administrators are able to do intelligent updating of software and firmware for their HP products using a graphical interface that has been further enhanced to be straight forward and feature rich. This struck a chord with me as it relates to updating components and blades within a c-class enclosure, as it has often required a lot of manual labor on behalf of the administrator doing the work.
Repositories and Service Packs
HP SUM version 5 offers the ability to create multiple repositories that contain anything from the regular Service Packs for ProLiant (SPP), hot fixes, or your own custom objects. It also has the ability to point to the HP website for the latest updates.
The Industry Standard Server guys are just a stones throw from my home away from home
I was a bit new to the SPP concept – they contain a full set of drivers, firmware, software, and whatever else is necessary for updating your gear in one package. Apparently, HP is making a commitment to release these Service Packs on anywhere from 3 to 5 times per year. From what I’m hearing, all drivers / firmware / etc. will align with this release schedule across the board, with the goal being to reduce how often you’ll need to ensure that your equipment has the latest updates. Even the HP custom ESXi 5.0 image will potentially follow this release schedule. Additionally, HP will support an SPP for 12 months, so you can limit yourself to annual updates if so desired (or just update when a problem occurs and you need support?).
If a major bug is discovered, HP has stated they will still make it available outside of the SPP process and labeled as hot fixes.
With the discovery page, you’re presented with the option to discover objects by various means, such as an IP scan. The options exist to find one or many servers, and you’re also given the option to input credentials for various types of servers so that it can log in and do further discovery. This seems handy for a Windows or Linux host, but probably not something you’ll be using for vSphere.
A shot of the discovery process
My favorite feature of the discovery process is that the relationships between modules and components are also discovered. In the demo environment, we pointed SUM to the IP of an Onboard Administrator (OA) and also found all of the blade iLOs, the Virtual Connect modules, and even the blades themselves. The SUM tool understood that all of these components were inside of an enclosure and listed them together.
The third screen was all about updating the discovered components. I opted to do a generic upgrade to the latest SPP for an enclosure and related components and used that repository for updates. A scheduling feature allows me to set a time for the updates, along with choices for rebooting: either do not reboot, reboot if necessary, or force a reboot. By default, SUM does not perform a reboot. All of the upgrades were done online without any interruption, but the blades may need a reboot at some point to finish their upgrade, so make sure to either schedule that with SUM or reboot them manually during a maintenance window.
A set of Gen8 blades in the lab environment on the HP Discover show floor
It was neat to see SUM handle all of the dependencies, necessary firmware / driver revisions, and all of the logic to update a chassis. It makes the update process nearly brainless, which allows the admin to get back to more important work.
I’m impressed with Smart Update Manager 5, it really shines as something that was given a lot of time for improvements, and fairly obvious that user feedback was involved. I’m not really doing all of the improvements to version 5 justice, as there are quite a few of them. However, I hope you get a sense of what it’s like to do maintenance with SUM 5 for your environment, and look forward to hearing of your experiences in the comments below.