There are many of you out there that after buying an HP Proliant ML110 or ML115 find that the onboard SATA controller just doesn’t offer the functionality or performance that you require for your SMB or VMware virtualization lab. There are a few good cost effective alternatives such as the Dell PERC 5 or HP StorageWorks E200 array controller out there on the market which work quite happily with VMware vSphere, both of which you can pick up for a decent price on EBay from time to time.
I’ve been using an E200 array controller in one of my HP Proliant ML110’s (and ML115’s as I move it around depending on what I’m testing) for about 18 months now and although not as fast as the larger more expensive array controllers I’ve found it just fine for my VMware and general Microsoft lab requirements. I also run both SATA and SAS based disks from it without any problems.
As a fellow HP Proliant ML110 or ML115 server owner who runs an HP E200 Smart Array Controller in their production or lab environment you may want to consider checking the version of firmware you are currently running as some of the latest revisions have some worthwhile enhancements such as:
- Firmware enhancements to allow customers to configure logical drives that are greater than 2 TB in size.
- I/O performance enhancements.
- Allow Drive Write Cache to be enabled on SATA Hard Drives.
- Includes advanced error logging features for HP Array Diagnostics Utility (ADU) reports.
Upgrading your HP E200 Smart Array controllers is a straight forward process. Most HP E200 array controllers I’ve seen usually come with the earliest firmware applied (ie: 1.20). See here for the E200 firmware revision history.
If attempting to download the E200 firmware update from either the HP ML110 or ML115 support pages on the HP site you will notice that the last available download is stated as being v1.72 (25 Jan 2007) when the latest version (at the time of writing this article) is in fact v1.84 (26 August 2009).
So why not offer the latest version from the ML110/ML110 driver downloads page on the HP web site? After reading this VMware community forum post I thought it may be to do with the E200 controller not showing up to the ML110/ML115 after upgrading it past v1.72 though after biting the bullet and upgrading it all the way to v1.84 I can confirm that it works just fine both during boot up and from within Windows 2008 and VMware ESX/ESXi 4.0. So I’m still none the wiser as to the reason why and am just putting it down to HP being a bit slow in updating the ML110/ML115 driver downloads page.
As mentioned in the beginning of this post applying the firmware updates is quite straight forward but what does differ is the method by which you apply the different versions of the update. Leading up to and including v1.72 you are able to create a bootable USB memory stick that applies the update for you when booting from the memory stick which is particularly useful if you are installing a non Windows or Linux based OS or hypervisor onto your server. From version v1.72 the only methods of updating the firmware on your E200 array controller in your ML110 or ML115 is via either the Windows or Linux online ROM flash component for which you need a version of the particular OS installed from which to run it from.
Now ideally you’d think you could perform your firmware updates to the array controller or other components in the ML110/ML115 server via the HP Firmware Maintenance CD or HP Software Update Manager (SUM) but HP for some reason don’t allow either of these products to be run on any Proliant 100 series server. I can only think that this is down to HP wanting to reduce the amount of automation or ease at which you could update a number of the 100 series servers thereby driving corporate or larger customers to the 300 and 500 series of HP Proliants. These cheaper 100 series Proliants do offer a threat to the other larger Proliant servers as they do offer very good value for money and good performance especially with the release of the multi-core and faster processors.
How to Update the Firmware
Now before proceeding make sure you have backed up your data on the disks attached to the E200 array controller. The firmware updates aren’t technically destructive to the data on the disks though don’t tempt fate and double check that you do in fact have a backup handy – just in case.
Method #1: Online ROM Flash for Firmware Updates >v1.84 (Latest)
To install the firmware update via the online ROM flash component all you do is download and run the version matching the OS you are currently running on your ML110/ML115. Once complete just reboot the server for the new firmware update to take effect – nice and easy!
It’s as easy as Click.. Click..
Method #2: USB Firmware Flash Utility >v1.72
I thought I’d provide a step by step guide for those of you wanting to take it to v1.72 via a USB memory stick only. Although straight forward there are a few more steps involved than the online ROM flash method.
Next select ‘Firmware – Storage Controller’
Download ‘Part 1’ only.
Save it locally and then run the executable
Accept the license agreement – of course only if you want to, though you won’t get far if you don’t. 🙂
Select a folder to extract the contents of the file to – for simplicity I would recommend using the default directory specified.
Once extracted then press ‘Finish’
Start the windows command prompt as an ‘Administrator’ – it won’t work during the next step otherwise.
Once at the command prompt then change to the directory where you extracted the firmware files (ie: default directory c:sp38332). Now enter ‘install <drive letter of your USB memory stick – don’t select the wrong drive as it could end in tears>’ As you an see my USB memory stick is using the ‘e:’drive letter.
Press enter and you will be prompted to confirm that you want to format the USB memory stick and copy the firmware files to it. Press ‘Y’.
After the confirmation if now starts to format the USB memory stick…
…and then starts to copy the necessary files.
Once complete insert the USB memory stick, ensure that the boot priority of your server is set to boot from USB first and then power your ML110/ML115 server up.
Notice that my E200 was showing as being at v1.20 of the firmware. It displays it as being an E200i which is incorrect as it is an E200 (minus the ‘i’ – for integrated) – this is resolved in firmware update v1.66:
Fixed a display issue where the Smart Array E200 controller banners as a Smart Array E200i controller when installed in certain HP ProLiant 100-series servers.
The server now boots from the USB memory stick and starts to download the firmware update.
Once downloaded it prompts you to proceed – press any key (other than ESX) to apply the update.
It now applies the updated firmware to the e200 controller
Once completed successfully you will get the message ‘Auto Flashing Completed’
Remove the USB memory stick from your server and reboot it. When starting up you should notice that you E200 controller is displaying v1.72 (and it is being displayed as an E200 and not a E200i)
I hope this post has helped you update your controller successfully. Leave a comment and let us know about your experiences or thoughts on the E200 array controller (configurations, performance, reliability, etc) – always interested to hear.