It's important to keep your Hardware Management Console firmware reasonably up to date. The HMC looks after the server hardware management. It also allows you to manage LPARs - create them, start and stop them, access the console and even assign resources dynamically. The HMC interacts closely with the hypervisors of the IBM POWER™ Systems so the HMC needs to be at a level which is compatible with the firmware of the managed system itself. Check your firmware compatibility on the IBM Systems Support web site.
With physical access to data centres getting more secure, it's good to know you can update your HMC remotely. Version 7 of the HMC introduced a web browser which allows you to manage LPARs from your yacht on Sydney Harbour instead of inside a data centre wearing your winter woollies.
(not the managed system)
Using the HMC you can also update system firmware, that is the firmware of the Managed System, (such as the Power6 570). But what we're talking about in this post is updating (and upgrading) HMC firmware - the version of the HMC itself.
... and in broad daylight
You don't usually need to schedule HMC updates at 2 o'clock on a Sunday morning. As the Hardware Management Console V7 Handbook explains:
The HMC is completely independent from the server. The server and all partitions can remain active while maintenance is performed on the HMC, allowing you to easily keep your HMC at the latest maintenance level. The HMC software level has to be maintained same as managed system firmware.If you're logged into the HMC, you can see your current version. In the Navigation area, click Updates. (This may be different on older versions of the HMC). Or by logging in using ssh to the restricted shell, run
Here's the output of that command from an HMC I recently updated to V7R7.1.0:
Service Pack: 1
HMC Build level 20100225.1
Update or upgrade?
If you're staying at the same Version of the HMC, and installing a new release, this is called an update. This can be done using an ftp server as outlined in the document how to update the HMC. You would use this, for example, if you are updating the HMC from V7R3.3.0 to V7R7.1.0. You can download the HMC updates to your own FTP server instead of connecting from the HMC directly to IBM.
If you're migrating to a new version, this is an HMC upgrade. Upgrading your HMC to a new version (e.g. from V6 to V7) can also be done remotely. The documentation accompanying the official instructions on how to upgrade the HMC give instructions on upgrading from media, but it can be done via FTP from a remote host. A remote host could even be an LPAR on a managed system which the HMC itself manages, but if that LPAR went down during the HMC upgrade, it could get ugly.
Let your fingers do the walking
IBM does have a technote on upgrading the HMC remotely, and I have done it by putting the downloads onto a local FTP server. It involves the HMC command line rather than the GUI, but it does work. Once you've upgraded the version of your HMC, you can use the update instructions via the HMC GUI to install any updates and service packs.
It's worthwhile having the HMC up to date with the latest features and fixes. It's quite straightforward, especially if you can do it from the comfort of your living room ... or while sailing past the Opera House. Don't forget the sunscreen.