HP Blade & Virtual Connect Firmware and Nic drivers for vSphere 5
One of the challenges with working with HP blades and HP Virtual Connect switches is ensuring all your software and firmware versions are in sync as unfortunately there have been many firmware incompatibility and reliability issues that have plagued the technology over the years and making sure you have firmware that works certainly helps with your sanity!
I’ve been tracking the firmware requirements in my Flex-10 ESX pre-requisites post.
With the release of vSphere 5, things are a little simpler as there is no longer an ESX platform, only ESXi so you don’t have to worry about tracking separate driver requirements for both hypervisor releases.
It’s good news for G6 blades which use a Broadcom bnx2x network card. The in-box driver version 1.61.15.v50.1-1 is supported with Virtual Connect so if you have at least NIC firmware version 5.2.7 and Virtual Connect firmware 3.1.0 there’s no additional patching required.
G7 blades are now becoming common place and they don’t use Broadcom Nics but rather Emulex be2net Nics with the following adapter names, NC551m, NC552m or NC553m.
Now, you would have thought that with all the historical issues surrounding the Broadcom driver support with ESX(i) and Virtual Connect, HP would have learned their lesson and worked far harder with Emulex and VMware to ensure driver and firmware compatibility with ESXi 5. This doesn’t seem to have been the case which to me is mind-boggling. Surely when you make a big decision to switch network cards to a new vendor for all your new blades and you are selling servers by the thousands for virtualisation, you make damn sure your drivers and firmware work. HP obviously didn’t think so.
The inbox ESXi5 Emulex be2net driver 184.108.40.206 didn’t work if you used VLAN tagging anywhere in your network path and also had issues with PXE which would have affected you if you wanted to use Auto Deploy.
HP then released a new driver version 4.0.355.1 which they then pulled as there were still issues with this driver and PXE.
HP then re-released the same driver but with a new Nic firmware requirement version 4.0.360.20. Although the numbers look very similar, 4.0.355.1 is the Nic driver version and 4.0.360.20 is the Nic firmware version.
You can download the Emulex firmware version 4.0.360.20 from the following link and then enjoy applying it to all your G7 blades:
The 4.0.355.1 driver version can be downloaded from VMware’s site.
This can be uploaded to Update Manager to patch your hosts or if you are using Auto Deploy you can build the driver into a custom ESXi 5.0 depot using VMware Image Builder.
To manually update each host you can enable ESXi troubleshooting mode as well as SSH. Extract the .vib file and copy it to the local /tmp folder and use esxcli to install.
esxcli software vib install -v /tmp/net-be2net-4.0.355.1-1OEM.500.0.0.406165.x86_64.vib
I’m keeping positive and hoping this driver and firmware incompatibility hiccup with G7 blades is just a bump in the road and all is good from now on!
I’ve updated my Flex-10 ESX pre-requisites post.