HOWTO: HTTP boot the HPE Proliant Service Pack ISO DVD using RESTfulAPI to update firmware without messing with WDS or PXE

Most of my customer sites consist of one to four HPE Proliant DL3xx servers running VMware ESXi and an additional HPE Proliant DL3xx running Windows 2012 R2 / 2016. HPE offers some great tools for managing their servers, but unfortunately for smaller organizations, most of HPE’s management tools (and I’m looking squarely at you Insight Control and OneView) take more time to setup and get running correctly then the time you’ll save by installing / updating a small handful of servers manually.  Therefore, I usually don’t deploy these tools to help install OSes or update firmware at my smaller client sites.  I generally just rely on booting the HPE Support Pack for Proliant (SPP) to update firmware, use a USB key with a scripted ESXi install on it for installing ESXi, and utilize WDS to install Windows directly on my Proliants when required.

Prior to HPE Proliant Gen 9 servers, I would PXE boot the Proliant Service Pack using PXELINUX and mount the ISO via NFS.  Then along came Gen 9 with UEFI.  Unfortunately, PXELINUX suffers from a complete lack of support for UEFI.  A couple of times I pestered some of the HPE SPP developers and managers in person while at HPE’s campus in Houston, but they never really showed much interest in explaining or documenting how to get network booting working with the SPP when the server utilized UEFI, so I had pretty much given up on ever getting it to work.

The other day I was playing with the HPE RESTful Interface Tool and decided to try configuring HTTP boot on DL380 Gen10 with the current SPP ISO image (P11740_001_spp-2018.11.0-SPP2018110.2018_1114.38.iso).  Much to my surprise, after modifying only a single configuration file on the ISO image, I was able to successfully boot the current SPP ISO image via HTTP and run a full firmware update on the Gen10 I was playing with.

The nice thing about this method is that because it is all done via HTTP, you don’t have to mess with or disable your WDS (Windows Deployment Services) server to add Linux support (which is what the SPP ISO is based on).  So this is great news for pure Windows shops!  And as a bonus, these steps works with Gen 9 servers too.

So how did I do it?  Before I share that, as always:

Use any tips, tricks, or scripts I post at your own risk.

First, you need to slightly modify the SPP ISO image.  Copy the original SPP ISO image to your web server (i.e. c:\inetpub\wwwroot).

Open the ISO image with your favorite ISO editor and extract \efi\boot\grub.cfg, then open the grub.cfg with a decent text editor (i.e. Notepad++, but definitely not the built-in Windows Notepad).  Scroll down the first menuentry, which will be “Automatic Firmware Update”.  Then copy and paste the following just above that menuentry:

menuentry "HTTP Firmware Update Version 2018.11.0" {
set gfxpayload=keep
echo "Loading kernel..."
linux /pxe/spp2018110/vmlinuz media=net root=/dev/ram0 ramdisk_size=10485760 init=/bin/init  iso1=http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx/spp.iso iso1mnt=/mnt/bootdevice hp_fibre cdcache TYPE=MANUAL AUTOPOWEROFFONSUCCESS=no modprobe.blacklist=aacraid,mpt3sas  ${linuxconsole}
echo "Loading initial ramdisk..."
initrd /pxe/spp2018110/initrd.img
}

So your grub.cfg will look like this when you are done:

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Adjust the http address (xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx), path, and ISO image name as required for your network, then save the updated grub.cfg and inject it back into the ISO image, over-writing the existing \efi\boot\grub.cfg, and then save the updated ISO image.

Be sure to add the .ISO mime type to your web server so that the ISO file type can be handled correctly.  The command below will work with IIS 8.5 and above to add a new mime type to IIS for .ISO.

C:\Windows\System32\inetsrv\appcmd.exe set config -section:system.webServer/staticContent /+"[fileExtension='iso',mimeType='application/iso']"

Now, you need to install the HPE RESTful Interface Tool on your machine.  The current version at the time of this writing is 2.3.4.0.  Go to the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Support Center and search for “RESTful Interface Tool for Windows”, then download and install the .msi (there is a Linux version available as well there).

Once the HPE RESTful Interface Tool is installed, run it as an Administrator.  Next, you need to connect to your server’s ILO, select the Bios object, set the UrlBootfile Entry and commit the changes.

*** NOTE: Make sure the UrlBootFile entry matches the url of your ISO image that your put on your webserver and specified as the iso1 switch in the grub.cfg entry.

ilorest
login ilo_ip_address -u admin -p password
select Bios.v1_0.0
set UrlBootFile=http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx/spp.iso
commit

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This takes care of the changes you must make to your Proliant server (keep in mind each server that you want to HTTP boot needs to have this this done).

The next time your server boots, the UrlBootFile change will be applied at the end of POST, then server will automatically reboot and start to POST again.

2018.12.19 - 14.18.08 - SNAGIT - 0005

That’s it – your configuration is all done.  Now when you reboot your server, if you hit F11 for the Boot Menu, you’ll have an entry for HTTP there – select it.

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After maybe 30 to 45 seconds (depending on your network speed – I’m using 10GbE), you’ll see the familiar SPP boot menu, but with an extra entry which is set as the default entry.

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Select it, and after about a minute (again – I’m using 10GbE) you’ll see the ISO image get mounted.

2018-12-20_17-54-25

If the image fails to mount, verify you are able to download the image you specified as the UrlBootFile from your PC.  If that works, then verify that the grub.cfg is correctly updated, with no typos.  Also – verify your server has 16GB+ of RAM in it, as the grub entry creates a 10GB RAM disk.  You may also need to upgrade the ILO firmware and drivers to current builds (such as 2.61 for ILO4 or 1.39 for ILO5) before using the iLOrest tool.

If you so desire, you could also set the new grub entry to be totally automatic by grabbing the proper switches out of the “Automatic Firmware Update” entry.  I suspect it may also be possible to split the ISO and boot one ISO without the packages folder (so it boots quicker) and mount a second the ISO with the packages folders still there to run the upgrades from.  Just to be clear, I haven’t tested that yet – it’s just a theory at this point.

I have tested this by HTTP booting over a branch office VPN tunnel which tops out at 100Mbps – it took a while for the image to load (I didn’t time it as I was working on other things at the time), but it did eventually load and it successfully updated the remote server.

When the next Support Pack for Proliant is released, all you need to do is update the grub.cfg with the correct paths and copy the updated ISO to your webserver with the same file name you used here.  You shouldn’t need to adjust the UrlBootFile on your servers.

Happy updating!

 

 

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