Firmware upgrades on HP 3PAR StoreServ 7000 systems

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A few months ago we bought a 3PAR StoreServ 7200 system as demo equipment for our lab. The system was delivered with InformOS (aka 3PAR OS) version 3.1.2 patch 1, pretty old nowadays. As new features came out and are only available with newer firmware versions, it was time to upgrade the system.

For a pretty long time HP itself was the only authorized authority to upgrade/update 3PAR systems. That makes absolutely sense for F- or T-class 3PAR systems.These systems are pretty complex and upgrading the Inform OS on these systems is a pain. You wouldn't flash a XP system on your own, too. But with the release of the mid-range system StoreServ7000 things changed. The 7000 series is a bit comparable to EVA systems (not in terms of functionality or performance but rather in easiness of use) and you definetly wouldn't call HP to upgrade your EVA system.

So I decided to give it a try and upgrade our system to the latest version 3.2.1 MU2 patch 7 on my own.

The system itself is pretty basic, consists of the two controller nodes without any additional interface cards, a second drive cage für 3.5" disks and in sum 12x600GB SAS 2.5" disks and another 12 NL SAS disks with 2TB.

The configuration is quite simple, we left the default CPGs and used them. Adaptive Optimization is in place and several volumes are exported to three ESXi 5.5 hosts via FibreChannel.

With the old version 3.1.2 patch 1 a virtual storage processor (VSP) was deployed on one of the three ESXi hosts. This is not a recommended setup but the VSP is stored on another volume outside the 3PAR. The VSP version is 4.1.

If you look at the latest versions available (3PAR OS 3.2.1 MU2 patch 7 and VSP 4.3), the build numbers do not defer really much but don't think this is a one step upgrade. HP is quite strict regarding the uprade way. To be on the safe side, always use SPOCK to see which version of the 3PAR OS works with the used VSP. SPOCK itself is quite hard to understand because it contains that much information, you will be overwhelmed if you use it for the first times.

Let's go back to our environment. First to mention here is with 3PAR OS 3.1.2 customer self-uprades are NOT ALLOWED by HP. Starting with version 3.1.3 this functionality is officially given to any user that has a valid support contract. So in our case, the first step to go from 3.1.2 to 3.1.3 was at our own risk and should never be done in a production environment.

If you look at the general uprade procedure than the first thing you have to do is to upgrade your VSP to a version that supports the target version of your next 3PAR OS upgrade. Do not simply use the latest VSP as it is possible that the latest VSP doesn't support your current old 3PAR OS level.

Upgrading the VSP is quite simple. Download the new version in form of an ISO that contains the OVA or Hyper-V image, deploy the new version beside the currently active one, shutdown the old one, boot up the new one and open the link https://IP/sp/SpSetupWizard.html . Use "setupusr" without any password for access. You will see the same wizard that you probably have seen during initial configuration of your 3PAR system. To setup the VSP simply have your serial number, the IP of your 3PAR system and the 3paradm account at hand.

In the first step enter the serial number of your 3PAR and choose that this VSP replaces the current one. Enter all needed information and let the wizard create a new SP-ID for you. This will be the same ID as the old SP had. Clicking through the wizard and entering the same network information as the old VSP had and you are done. The SP will reboot and after that, the uprade is nearly done.

The last step is to add the 3PAR system to the list of managed systems in your VSP. To do that, goto your VSP homepage, logon with user 3parcust and the password specified during the initial setup, goto SPmaint and then choose "StoreServ Configuration Management". Now click "Add" and enter the network and logon information for your 3PAR. After a few seconds the system will be shown in the table.

This was the first step. In my case, I used VSP 4.2 to upgrade my InformOS from 3.1.2 to 3.1.3 (SPOCK says, VSP4.2 can be used up to 3.1.3). The good news, VSP 4.2 already includes the customer-self-uprade modul so you can even use it to upgrade from 3.1.2. 

Proceeding with the 3PAR OS upgrade.... first step is to download the ISO that contains the next version of your 3PAR OS. This is the most difficult step. As HP doesn't give you a simple "From-version-to-version" list, you have to get this information from somewhere else. For me I found it a good way to always use the latest MU (Maintenance Update) release for the version that is currently installed before I upraded to the next major version. So in this case, version 3.1.2 MU5 was the next version to be installed. (Don't care about wrong versions, if you upload the ISO and it doesn't contain a valid version the wizard won't let you install it).

To update logon to your VSP, goto SPmaint, then "StoreServ Product Maintenance", then "Upgrade 3PAR OS", then "HP 3PAR OS Update". This will startup the wizard.

The initial screen will show you the steps taken by the wizard. Pretty simple. First upload the ISO the the VSP to check version and compatibility. After successful test a pre-uprade hardware check will be done. If there is any problem on the system, the uprade will stop here until you solve the problems. (This can be difficult and could afford a 3PAR specialist but as long as your hardware is under warranty contract this shouldn't be a problem) If all steps are passed, you will get asked if you want to do the uprade online or offline. Online will reduce the performance up to 50% (becasue one controlelr will be offline) but as lonmg as your system isn't at 100% load, this will probably be no problem. In offline mode all access to the system has to be stopped.
Next step is to check the hosts that are served by the storage system. This will give you another chance to check if everything is fine from a client-side.
Last step is to start the upgrade. In my pretty small environment uprading from one MU to another took ~45min, upgrading to a new major version took up to 1,5h. So plan your time.

To upgrade my system to the latest level (including three VSP upgrades as described above) took me nearly 2 days. Sometimes patches installed new firmware but didn't start the firmware upgrade process leaving the 3PAR system in a warning state. This made further upgrades impossible. So I had to go on the CLI and start the firmware upgrades myself. Perhaps this is why HP warns every user to do an upgrade on his own but with a bit of 3PAR know-how the update isn't a big thing.

So at the end, if you want to upgrade your 3PAR on your own make sure you have:

  • serial number of your 3PAR system
  • network information of your 3PAR and your (V)SP
  • account information for 3PAR and (V)SP
  • SPOCK information on compatible 3PAR OS and VSP versions
  • SPOCK information on compatible client OS, SAN switch firmware, HBA firmware
  • all ISOs containing any relevant upgrade firmware version
  • latest 3PAR Management Client (4.6.2 is the current version)
  • some 3PAR know how on how to upgrade firmware of disks and cages, delete old problem states, hardware check etc.
  • a lot of time (depending on the version you are coming from)


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