System Firmware is delivered as a Release Level or a Service Pack. Release Levels support the general availability (GA) of new function or features, and new machine types or models. Upgrading to a higher Release Level is disruptive to customer operations. IBM intends to introduce no more than two new Release Levels per year. These Release Levels will be supported by Service Packs. Service Packs are intended to contain only firmware fixes and not to introduce new function. A Service Pack is an update to an existing Release Level.
Note: Installing a Release Level is also referred to as upgrading your firmware. Installing a Service Pack is referred to as updating your firmware.
For HMC-managed systems at or beyond System Firmware Release Level 230 (available May 2005), Service Pack updates can be concurrently installed. Concurrent installation minimizes or eliminates downtime needed to apply firmware patches. IBM cannot guarantee that all Service Packs can be installed concurrently, however, our goal is to provide non-disruptive installation of Service Packs.
Firmware file names
The file naming convention for POWER5 System Firmware is as follows:
XXX is the release level,
YYY is the service pack level, and
ZZZ is the last disruptive service pack level.
Using the above example, System Firmware 01SF235_185, as displayed on the Firmware Download page, would be described as Release Level 235, Service Pack 185.
The file naming convention for POWER6 Midrange System Firmware is as follows:
XXX is the release level,
YYY is the service pack level, and
ZZZ is the last disruptive service pack level.
Using the above example, System Firmware 01EM310_048, as displayed on the Firmware Download page, would be described as Release Level 310, Service Pack 048.
HMC firmware level recommendation
IBM support requires that the HMC firmware level be equal to or higher than the firmware level of the system(s) it is managing.
Key to HMC and POWER firmware levels
Use the following information to read the matrix tables for HMC and System firmware Release Levels and supported code combinations. You can also refer to the color key on the supported code level tables.
Latest Release Level
The most current Release Level available. This level of firmware is installed and shipped on newly built machines. During the first two to three months that a Release Level is available, Product Development Engineering assesses the quality and stablility of the release. During this time, the release is designated the Latest Release Level.
Maximum Stability Release Level
When the Latest Release Level of firmware is assessed as stable, it becomes the Maximum Stability Release Level. This Release Level is recommended to customers who require the highest level of stability.
Reduced Fix Support
A release that is within two or three months of its end of life, enters Reduced Fix Support mode. This release level is still supported, but fixes may be limited to only the most severe problems. Examples of problems that would be fixed are:
Problems that would not be fixed during Reduced Fix Support mode are:
End of Service Pack
IBM will continue to analyze problems, but no new Service Packs will be released for a firmware Release Level that has reach End of Service Pack support. Fixes, that is, Service Packs, will only be delivered at higher Release Levels.
Firmware update and upgrade strategies
Upgrade strategy (Release Level)
New functions are released via firmware Release Levels. Installation of a new Release Level is disruptive.
Unless you require the functions or features introduced by the latest Release Level, it is generally prudent to wait one to three months until Release Level stability has been demonstrated in the field. Release Levels are supported with fixes (delivered via Service Packs) for approximately two years. Supported releases will overlap, so fixes will usually be made in multiple service packs. Typically, customers are not required to upgrade to the latest level to obtain fixes. The exception to this is when the customer's Release Level has reached End of Service. This allows customers to stay on an older (typically more stable) Release Level and still obtain fixes (via Service Packs) for problems. Since the number of changes in a Service pack is substantially less than a Release Level, the risk of destabilizing the firmware by a Service Pack Update is much lower.
Update strategy (Service Pack within a Release)
The strategy to update to the latest Service Pack needs to be more aggressive than upgrading to the latest Release Level. Service Packs contain fixes to problems discovered in testing and reported from the field. The IBM fix strategy is to encourage the installation of a fix before the problem is encountered in the field. The Firmware Download page will provide downloads for the N and N-1 Service Packs, unless a problem was introduced with the N-1 service pack. In such cases only the latest level would be available. Our goal is to prevent the installation of a broken Service Pack. When Product and Development Engineering determines that the latest available (N) Service Pack has sufficient field penetration and experience (30 - 60 days), the download for the older (N-1) Service Pack will be removed from the Firmware Download web page.
Glossary of firmware terms
A fix that can be installed and activated on a running system without impacting customer operations.
The installation of a deferred fix is concurrent (nondisruptive) to customer operations. However, the fix will not become active until an IPL (system level) is performed.
A fix that requires an IPL to install and activate.
N Release Level
The latest Release Level available for installation in the field as well as the Release Level that is shipping from the factory.
N-1 Release Level
Normally the firmware level released immediately prior to the current Release Level. However, if the N-1 Release Level introduced problems and was removed (from manufacturing and/or the Firmware Download page), then the N-2 level (released immediately prior to the N-1 level) would become the N-1 Level.
No Longer Supported with Service Packs
Although problems reported from the field will continue to be analyzed, Service Packs (fixes for these problems) will not be released at this level. The system would have to be upgraded to a supported level to obtain the fix.
Not a Supported Combination
Any of the following examples:
- A combination of System Firmware and HMC code that could introduce problems if installed (usually on a particular machine type/model).
- A combination of System firmware, BPC and HMC code that was not tested and released together.
- A combination of a higher level of system firmware installed with HMC code that is at a lower level than what is recommended.
Note: IBM recommends that the HMC level be equal to or higher than the system firmware level it is intended to support.
A fix that can be installed concurrently but that only becomes active when a partition reactivate is performed.
These are the specific levels Product and Development Engineering have assessed the stability and would 'recommend' being installed during a firmware maintenance window. The recommended levels may also include Release Levels and Service Pack 'levels' as well as a recommended combination of System Firmware, BPC (Bulk Power Code) and HMC code.
Note: The BPC and/or HMC may not be applicable to some machines types and models or customer configurations.
A Release Level is the term for firmware that is released to support major new function (introduction of new hardware models and significant function/features enabled via firmware. IBM intends to limit the introduction of Release Levels to no more that three times per year. In addition to the new function/hardware support, Release Levels will also contain fixes. In the past, we have used the term Firmware GA to describe these Release Levels internally within IBM.
Upgrading from one release level to another will always be disruptive to customer operations. You can skip release levels. Meaning you can upgrade from release level A to release level D without having to install release level B & C.
A Service Pack contains a group of fixes within a specific release level. Service packs primarily contain only fixes however, minor function changes may be released within a service pack. These fixes will be for highly pervasive, critical, or security related issues. Release levels will be supported by Service Packs for one year following the release level. This will allow you to stay on a particular release level and still receive fixes without having to upgrade to a later release level. Service Packs are cumulative, so if Service Pack 3 is applied, all of the previous fixes contained within Service Packs 1 and 2 will also be applied.
Note: With the introduction of CFM (Concurrent Firmware Maintenance) in system firmware release level SF230 (released May 2005) updating from one service pack level to another (within the same release level) can be performed concurrently for systems managed by an HMC. This allows you to make firmware updates without requiring an IPL thus, reducing downtime to install firmware maintenance.
This is a supported level (Release Level and Service pack) or combination of System Firmware, BPC & HMC code. These are levels that have completed testing as a package and released (made available to the field) together. A supported level is usually a level (or combination of levels) that is either the latest release level (N) or an older release level (N-2) and is no typically a recommended level. Service Packs (fixes) will also be released for supported levels.
Refers to installing a Service Pack. With the introduction of CFM (Concurrent Firmware Maintenance) in system firmware release level SF230 (released May 2005) updating from one service pack level to another (within the same release level) can be performed concurrently for systems managed by an HMC. This allows you to make firmware updates without requiring an IPL thus, reducing downtime to install firmware maintenance.
Service Packs are cumulative, so if Service Pack 3 is applied, all of the previous fixes contained within Service Packs 1 and 2 will also be included.
Refers to installing a new 'Release Level'. Upgrading from one release level to another will always be disruptive to customer operations. You can skip release levels. Meaning you can upgrade from release level A to release level D without having to install release levels B & C.
Fixes that improve the availability of resources.
Fixes that resolve customer data errors.
Fixes that add (introduce) or affect system or machine operation related to features, connectivity or resource.
New Firmware Release level for a product.
Fixes that improve or resolve security issues.
Fixes that influence problem determination or fault isolation and maintenance related to diagnostic errors, incorrect FRU calls or false error (no operational impact).
Fixes that improve or resolve throughput or response times.
Fixes that improve user interfaces or messages.
|HIPER||High Impact/PERvasive||Should be installed as soon as possible.|
|SPE||SPEcial Attention||Should be installed at earliest convenience. Fixes for low potential high impact problems.|
|ATT||ATTention||Should be installed at earliest convenience. Fixes for low potential low to medium impact problems.|
|PE||Programming Error||Can install when convenient. Fixes minor problems.|
|New||New||New Firmware Release level for a product.|