Drive firmware …

February 25, 2013

I recently copped a slam from one of my customers due to the fact that they had stability problems in their system and the customer was pointing the finger at the RAID card.

When I pointed out to the customer that yes, the drive was on our compatibility report but no, the firmware the customer was using was not the same version as we had tested, this did not seem to matter and the problem was still my fault.

Hmmm …

Can I really be put to the sword over this issue? RAID card vendors happily produce new firmware to fix anything and everything that crops up all the time, but disk drive vendors are little more loathe to create new firmware for their products, and even more loathe to tell anyone about them.

My basic take on this is that drive firmware updates are (a) not as common as RAID card firmware updates, but (b) they are every bit as important. Since the vendors seem so loathe to actually tell anyone about them, when they do produce an update it is very important (and therefore should be used).

So on our compatibility reports, beside the drive is a firmware revision. This is just as important as the drive being on the list in the first place. If it’s on there but your firmware is an older revision, the drive may as well not be on the list. So make sure … is the drive on the list and if so, is the firmware on your drive the same or newer than the version listed on our website.

Compatibility Reports for Adaptec cards can be found at: http://www.adaptec.com/en-us/_common/compatibility/
I suggest you make this a “must” web-page for your purchasers.

Ciao
Neil

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Drive firmware …

  1. I’ve been a long time linux guy.. so if my comments don’t apply in a windows server world please forgive my ignorance. Part of the problem is that in any given server there can 8-10 different components (not including the drives) that can require firmware updates. Usually the updates require downtime.. often there is little or no changelog and there can be unanticipated interactions. I once added a few new drives to a pair of (unnamed) high end storage arrays.. and exactly 14 days later both arrays crashed. Root case (according to the vendor).. an unexpected interaction between the new drive firmware and the array controllers. Solution involved updating the controllers and then all the old drives.. involving lots of array downtime and a difficult outage prep. It’s painful to update this stuff.. risky.. and that’s IF you even are aware of what versions you have.. and what updates are out there. Just collecting and maintaining that data in a heterogeneous environment can be a real challenge. It would make the components more expensive.. but firmware management really needs to be improved across the board.

    • Jared,
      Linux, Windows … (this will upset people for sure) … it’s pretty much all the same in this context.
      I agree 100% with your feelings regarding upgrading/updating/modifying a server – even with all the change logs, and correct information at your disposal there are chances of things going wrong. So let me put my comments into some context.
      I’m not saying you should just wander into your datacenter tomorrow and start upgrading everything in sight. The old “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ syndrome works wonders for me. However my original comments were really predicated towards initial server builds – ensuring that all is up to date and as per vendor specifications prior to releasing the product on the unsuspecting customer.
      Your experience shows that even the controlled environment of an (unnamed) high end storage array can have unforseen consequences, but in general rigorous testing by such vendors should minimise these risks (and to be truthful this is not that common an issue).
      So … check the compatibility reports and build carefully.
      As for firmware management … between so many different vendors … I seriously doubt it in my lifetime.
      Ciao
      Neil

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