Have you ever tried to update the firmware of a blade chassis full of blades from start to finish?  It’s an absolute pain!  There are so many different components and pieces that need attention and there is about five different processes for appying updates – some working some way and other requiring a completely different process.  Honestly, it’s a hot mess.  Below is a method that can be performed mostly from within the GUI of the CMC and iDRACs – there are other ways of doing so by creating a bootable USB drive however I wanted to try and get the process down without using a USB key at all – and this is the best I could come up with.

Keep in mind we will be using the Dell Repository Manager to perform some of these updates, so if you don’t have that setup for your m1000e or VRTX go ahead and check out this post which explains exactly how to export your inventory and create a CIFS share to pull your firmware from.  For the sake of this article I’ve applied the updates in the following order…

  1. CMC Firmware
  2. IOMINF Firmware
  3. iKVM Firmware
  4. Update iDRAC to version supporting network share updating.
  5. Apply any updates from the Dell Repository Manager (BIOS, LifeCycle, iDRAC, PERC, Network, Mez cards, Storage Controllers, Drive Firmware, etc…)
  6. Blade CPLD
  7. Remaining components in blades.

So with all this said let’s just get started.  First up we need to update the CMC on the m1000e.  This is a relativley easy process and is driven by navigating to Chassis Overview->Update on the m1000e.


You can see that the CMC is redundant, with and active and a standby component.  First update the standby by selecting cmc-standby and clicking ‘Apply CMC Update’.  Browse to your firmware image (ending in .cmc) and click ‘Begin Firmware Update’


This may take several minutes and depending on your initial version of CMC you may only see a simply ‘Transferring image’ message – either way just let it be and wait for it!  Once the component has been upgraded, again depending on your initial CMC version you may receive a ‘Done’ status or you may be forced to log into the CMC again.  You can then check that the standby firmware has indeed been updated by navigating back to the update page.  At this point we can switch our active and standby firmware in order to boot to the new firmware.  This is done by navigating to Chassis Overview->Troubleshooting->Reset Components and clicking the ‘Reset/Failover CMC’ button.  After a little time your CMC will reboot and come back up with the newest firmware now sitting in cmc-active and the older version in cmc-standby.

At this point you can either leave your old firmware in cmc-standby in case something goes horribly wrong or you can proceed to update it as well using the same process as above.  I normally go ahead and update it the second CMC in order to bring my chassis back into full redundancy but make that decision for yourself and once you do we are done with the CMC.

Next on the list to tackle is the IOMINF firmware.  IOMINF is a funny one as it may or may not be visible depending on the version of the CMC you are on.  This piece of hardware is essentially a bridge between the CMC and the IOM Device modules and is important to update as well.  The firmware for the IOMINF is actually included within the CMC firmware package that we just installed – so if there is an update for it you will see them listed as updatable devices, if there isn’t a firmware update available, you won’t even see them listed.  Kind of an odd design as I like to see everything that’s updatable within my system whether it’s up to date or not – odd!  Either way you can go into the CLI and check out the IOMINF if you want to but rule of thumb is if it is listed in the GUI it needs an update, if it isn’t, you’re golden!  As shown below I do indeed have an IOMINF update as it is showing within my list.


As for the update process you need to go through the listed components selecting one at a time and clicking ‘Apply IOM Update’, then ‘Begin Firmware Update’.  This again will take a few minutes per component, and after each and every update you should see the respective IOM device disappear from your list.  Go ahead and update each one that is listed, keeping in mind that you may lose connectivity to your environment during different updates depending on how you are configured, setup, etc…


Next is the iKVM switch – there hasn’t been any new release of this in a while, however I did see that the current release has been updated recently so for that reason, and for documentation purposes I’ll go over the install anyways.  You will need to extract a bin file that is included in the .exe that is downloaded from Dell.  The process of this is much the same as everything else, select your iKVM and click ‘Apply iKVM Update’, browse to your extracted .bin file and select ‘Begin Firmware Update’


Once the thrilling process of updating IOM’s, KVM and CMC’s has been completed it’s time to move on to the components that reside with the blades themselves.

We have a couple of options at this point – we could simply update each and every component one by one which could be time consuming and in my opinion just a tad bit maddening or we could use the Dell Repository Manager and connect our CMC to a prebuilt catalog and let it detect and install the updates.  I would recommend doing the the latter if possible!   Saves you the hassle of trying to find and download all the right files.   If you don’t have Dell Repository Manager setup then have a look at this post where I explain how to get a repo setup specific to the inventory that you have within your m1000e.  One of the prerequisites of using the CIFS/Repository method is that we need to ensure our iDRAC is sitting at the very least version 1.50.

Since my iDrac is below 1.5 I’ll need to update it first before going any further – to do so access the actual iDrac web gui (do not try and update through the CMC, it’s a nightmare).  Within the iDRAC web interface select ‘iDRAC Firmware Update’ and upload your payload (.d7) file.  You can find this file in the payload directory after extracting the Windows executable that is downloaded from the Dell Website.  Once the file is uploaded simply click ‘Next’ and wait for the update to report success.


Once it has complete you will need to give this a good 5-10 minutes before the iDRAC will become ready again!  Just relax for a spell!  Oh, and repeat on all of the blades that you want to update moving forward…

Now that we have our iDRACs up to a version that will support updating from network sharing and a repository created on a network share we can proceed with the rest of the updates in the order we specified at the beginning of this post, which means next up is the BIOS.  To rescan for any updated files on our repository click the ‘Check for Updates’ button after selecting ‘Update from Network Share’.


As we can see above we now have a nice listing of those items within our blades that can be and have updates within the repository.  At this point it’s as simple as clicking ‘Update’ (at the bottom of the listing) and letting Dell do the heavy lifting.  This should take care of updating the firmware of items such as mez cards, storage controllers, BIOS, backplanes, etc…

After you have updated all you can with the repository network share option we need to move on to a few items that are outstanding, with the first being the CPLD.  This update, just like the iDRAC update is done from within the iDRAC interface (under Update and Rollback).  Simply upload the 64 bit update package for Windows (yes, for windows even if you are dealing with ESXi), select it and click ‘Install’.


After a quick reboot CPLD should now be good to go and we can continue on…

The only item left within my M620 was the SD module in which I have ESXi installed on…In order to update this we need to use a process that is completely different than what we have been doing.. Gotta love Dell.  Anyways, the Internal SD module updates come in the form of a live cd – download the ISO, mount it to your blade and boot to it.


The update itself auto runs and should reboot once its complete!  And that my friends is a day or two of complete chaos updating an m1000e with a few blades in it!  I really wish that these big vendors could get all of these updates consolidated into one process as it’s really a pain jumping back and forth from method to method.  I’m not just picking on Dell here, the others are just as bad (good?).

Anyways, hopefully this helps someone with the process of moving through a slew of updates to their chassis!  Also, if you know of any other updates I may of missed, or a method that may simplify things for sure let me know.