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How does UCS manage Firmware


The Unified Computing System (UCS) has various components that work together to give the view of a single system. The firmware that drives these components is stored in storage chips within the components. In case of BMC, fabric extenders and adapters; one of these storage chip stores the active version (or the startup version) and the other chip stores the backup version. In case of fabric interconnects the number of firmware images is not limited to two (i.e. active and backup); but is limited to the flash memory available on the fabric interconnect. When a component boots-up it checks for the active firmware image in the storage chip and boots with this image. If the active image is corrupt then the component boots with the backup image. When the UCS system is running the firmware will have an active image, backup image and running image. The running image is usually the same as the active or startup image; but differs when the active image is corrupt or when a new firmware image has been installed and system has not been reloaded (in both cases the running image will be same as backup image).

Update Firmware

The UCS firmware is provided in two ways: Bundle and Individual images. In the bundle there is a package for each component that requires firmware. These components are 6100 series fabric interconnect (one kickstart image and one system image), the 2100 series fabric extender, the B-series blade (images are for the BMC, BIOS and SAS controller), and adapter cards: UCS M71KR-Q has 2 images and UCS M71KR-E has 3 images. The UCS 82598KR-CI card has no image. There is one image for UCS manager. Any OS related driver's are not part of Firmware packages and need to be installed separately.

To install a new package or the bundle, it needs to be first downloaded on the fabric interconnect's local storage. Make sure that both of the fabric interconnects have enough free space before downloading a new bundle or package; if not delete some older packages and make some free space. To download a firmware click on Download firmware under Equipment tab > Firmware management > Installed firmware > Download tasks.

Update Major Components

After downloading the firmware it needs to be updated in the respective components. Firmware update copies the new image to the backup storage location on the components and is non disruptive. To update the firmware go to Equipment tab > Firmware management > Installed firmware and click on Update Firmware.

After updating the firmware it needs to be activated so that the new firmware becomes the startup version and next time the device reboots it will use this new firmware. To activate the new firmware go to Equipment tab > Firmware management > Installed firmware and click on Activate Firmware. Keep in mind that when you activate the firmware it requires the corresponding component (fabric interconnect, fabric extender, server blade or the Mezz card) to be rebooted for the new firmware to become active (the component does not reboots automatically if "set startup version only" option was selected at the time of activating the new firmware). Each component reboots when its firmware is activated, however the blade server reboots when the firmware on Mezz cards is activated and not when the firmware on BMC is activated. The only firmware activation which is not disruptive for the traffic is the UCS manager firmware activation (only the connectivity to UCS GUI is lost).

Update Minor Components

Minor components like BIOS, HBA, LSI SAS storage, etc can be updated via service profile or from within the OS by using some application provided by the vendor. To upgrade using Service profile you need to create a Host firmware package (which contains adapter firmware, storage controller firmware, fiber channel adapter firmware and BIOS firmware; although it is not mandatory to have all of these in a host firmware package) and a Management firmware package (which contains package for BMC). Then these firmware packages are attached to a Service policy. Note that it is not mandatory to have both of these packages to be attached to the service policy. This is done in server tab > service profile {name} > policies. You can also create an auto-configuration policy which gets assigned to a blade the time it is inserted into the chassis and boots up. This policy can be helpful to do some basic level tasks with the blade.


If you are having two fabric interconnects and two fabric extenders, it is recommended that activation be done on one fabric interconnect at a time so that connectivity can be maintained using HBA multi-pathing and NIC teaming. Also remember that when a fabric interconnect reloads it reloads the corresponding fabric extender module. The reboot will disrupt the services and is recommended to be done during a service window.