HP is moving away from the release sets that it introduced in 2010 to a unified Service Pack for Proliant (SPP) model for updating firmware and software on the HP BladeSystem along with all Proliant servers. I had previously reported about the software release sets back in June of 2010.
In the latest realignment, HP is consolidating these release sets with its Proliant Support Packs (PSP’s) and the Firmware releases that were previously three separate distributions. In addition, HP is adopting a date style of numbering, matching the release set scheme, rather than the version numbering previously used with PSP and Firmware releases. This will allow administrators to quickly recognize how behind a system is from the current release.
Consolidation also allows a single interface, qualification schedule and unified release for customers on all systems. Although a solid step, the release sets did not completely match the release of Firmware DVD’s from HP and sometimes there were issues with support where case workers asked that you update firmware out of compliance with a release set. During their first year of existence, release sets came out often and in many ways, shored up stability in our blade environment, but in the past year, they seemed to have lagged behind in releases.
Back when I first covered release sets, I also noted that it the release sets were a very good thing for customers, since the sets gave a supportable configuration and schedule of compliance. Although I didn’t say it, compliance meant that the customer could finally force the support side of HP to work a case instead of hiding behind the ‘please patch to latest firmware’ excuse. My hope is that the SPP will do the same in a unified firmware and driver software release.
On many of our critical systems, we have observed an increased interdependency between the firmware versions and the driver versions which need to be loaded together to gain stability. Consolidating all these separate releases into a single engine and distribution makes logical sense as these dependencies increase.
In an effort to target exactly what customers need, there will be a master distribution of the SPP along with 6 additional subset versions targeted towards specific needs, per the HP website. These will be smaller, which translates to faster downloads and a more customized installation, including only what is required for these solutions.
HP touts four major areas of improvement by introducing the SPP — it reduces customer qualification cycles, reduces resource usage, maintenance windows and downtime. Since firmware patching is typically not the most fun part of a system administrators job, reducing the frequency of these upgrades is a welcome change.
HP plans to offer 3 to 5 of these SPP’s per year. The first version released is version 2011.09.0 and 2012.01.0 is expected soon.