You can use vSphere Lifecycle Manager images to perform firmware updates on the ESXi hosts in a cluster or on the standalone hosts. With a single operation, you update both the software and the firmware on the host.

In earlier vSphere releases, you could perform firmware updates on vSAN clusters by using system-managed baselines. For non-vSAN clusters, firmware updates had to be manual.

vSphere Lifecycle Manager enables you to easily update the firmware in any cluster or host that you manage with a single image. Firmware updates are not available for clusters or hosts that you manage with baselines.

To apply firmware updates to the hosts in a cluster or to the standalone host that you manage with a single image, you must include a special type of add-on, the firmware and drivers add-on, in the image and remediate the cluster or the host to apply the image to the hosts. The firmware and drivers add-on is a vendor-provided add-on that contains the components that encapsulate firmware update packages. The firmware and drivers add-on might also contain the necessary drivers.

Unlike vendor add-ons, firmware and drivers add-ons are not distributed through the official VMware online depot or as offline bundles available at https://my.vmware.com. For a given hardware vendor, firmware updates are available in a special vendor depot, whose content you access through a software module called a hardware support manager. The hardware support manager is a plug-in that registers itself as a vCenter Server extension. Each hardware vendor provides and manages a separate hardware support manager that integrates with vSphere. For each cluster or host that you manage with a single image, you select the hardware support manager that provides the firmware updates for the cluster or the host. After you determine the hardware support manager that you want to use for a cluster or a standalone host, the hardware support manager provides you with a list of the available firmware updates. When you select and include a firmware add-on to an image, that add-on might modify the specified image by adding or removing components. The firmware add-on also defines the firmware versions to be installed on the hosts. During remediation, vSphere Lifecycle Manager applies the image to the hosts and requests the selected hardware support manager to update the firmware on the hosts in accordance with the firmware add-on specified in the image.

Selecting a hardware support manager and including a firmware add-on in your image guarantees that during a compliance check, vSphere Lifecycle Manager also determines the firmware compliance for the cluster or the host. So, you can easily detect and remediate any unwanted drifts. The hardware support manager is also responsible for retrieving the firmware versions on the host hardware, and, in some cases, determining the appropriate drivers for the updated firmware version.

For vSAN clusters, the hardware support manager inspects the hosts in the cluster to determine their current I/O device controllers and firmware. During a hardware compatibility check for the cluster, vSphere Lifecycle Manager checks whether the firmware in the image is compatible with the hardware in the cluster as per vSAN Hardware Compatibility List (vSAN HCL). The hardware compatibility check ensures that when vSphere Lifecycle Manager remediates the cluster and applies the image to all hosts, the firmware and drivers on the hosts are certified for use with vSAN.

Firmware Updates on DPU Devices

In a DPU-based environment, you can update the firmware on the DPU devices of the hosts through the vSphere Lifecycle Manager remediation operation only if the server vendor has an integrated hardware support manager. For servers that don't provide a hardware support manager, firmware updates are manual.

Deploying Hardware Support Managers

The deployment method and the management of a hardware support manager plug-in are determined by the respective OEM.

Several of the major OEMs develop and supply hardware support managers. For example:
  • Dell

    The hardware support manager that Dell provides is part of their host management solution, OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter (OMIVV), which you deploy as an appliance.

  • HPE

    The hardware support managers that HPE provides are part of their management tools, iLO Amplifier and OneView, which you deploy as appliances.

  • Lenovo

    The hardware support manager that Lenovo provides is part of their server management solution, Lenovo XClarity Integrator for VMware vCenter, which you deploy as an appliance.

  • Hitachi

    The hardware support manager that Hitachi provides, Hitachi Unified Compute Platform Advisor, is infrastructure automation and management software for all Hitachi converged, hyperconverged, and integrated systems, which you deploy as an appliance.

  • Cisco

    The hardware support manager that Cisco provides is integrated with Cisco Intersight Infrastructure Service, which is part of Cisco Intersight and you activate the hardware support manager from within the Cisco Intersight SaaS-based management platform. No additional appliances are required on your vCenter Server instance.

You can find the full list of all VMware-certified hardware support managers in the VMware Compatibility Guide at https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php?deviceCategory=hsm.

Deploying and Configuring Hardware Support Managers

Regardless of the hardware vendor, you must deploy the hardware support manager appliance on a host with sufficient memory, storage, and processing resources. Typically, hardware support manager appliances are distributed as OVF or OVA templates. You can deploy them on any host in any vCenter Server instance.

Note: If vCenter Server is configured with a proxy for internet access, the proxy must be able to reach any hardware support manager registered with that vCenter Server instance. You must either assign the hardware support manager a private IP address within the 10.x.x.x range, which is automatically exempt from proxy use, or enable a direct access to the registered hardware support manager by configuring the proxy settings with an exception for its IP address.

After you deploy the appliance, you must power on the appliance virtual machine and register the appliance as a vCenter Server extension. You might need to log in to the appliance as an administrator. Each hardware support manager might register with only one or multiple vCenter Server systems.

A vCenter Server plug-in user interface might become available in the vSphere Client after you deploy a hardware support manager appliance, but the hardware support manager might also have a separate user interface of its own. For example, OMIVV, iLO Amplifier, and Lenovo XClarity Integrator for VMware vCenter all have a vCenter Server plug-in user interface, which helps you configure and work with the respective hardware support manager.

Each hardware support manager has its own mechanism of managing the actual firmware packages and making firmware add-ons available for you to choose.

The successful integration between the hardware support manager and vSphere Lifecycle Manager might require a specific configuration of the hardware support manager. For example, with OMIVV, you must first create a connection profile. Then, you must create a cluster profile and associate it with a cluster before you can add a firmware add-on from Dell to the image for that cluster.

For detailed information about deploying, configuring, and managing hardware support managers, refer to the respective OEM-provided documentation.

Use an Image for Firmware Updates

vSphere Lifecycle Manager allows you to manage the firmware lifecycle on ESXi hosts that are part of a cluster or on a standalone host that you manage with a single image.

Prerequisites

  • Deploy the vendor-provided hardware support manager and register it as a vCenter Server extension. For more information about deploying and managing a hardware support manager, see the respective OEM documentation.
  • If you use the hardware support manager provided by Dell, create a cluster profile and associate it with the cluster. For more information, review the OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter (OMIVV) documentation.
  • Verify that all hosts in the cluster are from the same vendor.
  • Verify that you have the proper privileges. See vSphere Lifecycle Manager Privileges For Using Images.

Procedure

  1. In the vSphere Client, navigate to a cluster or a standalone host that you manage with a single image.
  2. On the Updates tab, select Hosts > Image.
  3. In the Image card, click the Edit button.
  4. In the Edit Image card, for the Firmware and Drivers Addon, click Select.
    The Firmware and Drivers Addon dialog box appears.
  5. In the Firmware and Drivers Addon dialog box, select a hardware support manager from the drop-down menu.
    The selected hardware support manager must be from the same hardware vendor as the hosts in the cluster or as the standalone host. Otherwise, during a compliance check, the hardware support manager reports the selected firmware and drivers add-on to be incompatible with the host or hosts that are from a different vendor. Firmware remediation fails.
    A list of all available firmware add-ons appears.
  6. Select a firmware add-on from the list.
    An information panel appears on the right. The panel contains information about the supported ESXi versions and whether the selected add-on contains the necessary drivers.
  7. Click Select.
    The selected firmware and drivers add-on is included in the image.
  8. In the Image card, validate and save the image.
    After the image is saved, a compliance check against the new image is triggered for the cluster or host.
  9. In the Image Compliance card, review the compliance check results for the cluster and for the host.
  10. If any host in the cluster or the standalone host has firmware that is non-compliant with the new image firmware, remediate the respective host or the cluster.
    1. (Optional) In the Image Compliance card, run a remediation pre-check to ensure that remediation finishes successfully.
      • To run a pre-check for all hosts in the cluster, click the Run Pre-check button.
      • To run a pre-check for a single host in the cluster, click the vertical ellipsis icon for the host and select Run Pre-check.
      • To run a pre-check for a standalone host, click the Run Pre-check.
    2. In the Image Compliance card, initiate remediation.
      • To remediate all hosts in the cluster, click the Remediate All button.

        During cluster remediation, if the remediation of a single host fails, the remediation for the cluster ends prematurely.

      • To remediate a single host, click the vertical ellipsis icon for the host and select Remediate.
      • To remediate a standalone host, click the Remediate button.
    You are not obliged to start remediation immediately after setting up an image for a cluster or a standalone host. However, nothing is installed on the hosts unless you remediate them against the image for the cluster or the host. The firmware on the hosts is actually updated only after successful remediation. You can remediate the objects in your environment at any time that is convenient for you.

Results

The firmware on the hosts in the cluster or the standalone host is updated to the firmware version specified in the firmware add-on for the image.