A: Firmware is essentially software that is embedded on a hardware device and directly controls it (resets, initializes and configures) before the operating system (for example, the Oracle Solaris Operating System, Linux, or Microsoft Windows) is booted. The firmware is what actually boots the OS, and it is usually contained in some sort of Flash PROM on a system board.
Unlike an OS, which is designed to run on lots of different configurations of hardware and occupies a lot of room (10's or 100's of megabytes) on the disk, firmware is usually space-constrained to a few megabytes (sometimes less than that), so it usually contains only the code needed for that specific hardware configuration. That is why each Sun Server gets its own separate release of firmware. Firmware specific to one type of server system will usually not function on a different server system.
A: All Sun Servers ship with firmware already installed on them from the factory. However, like any piece of software, Oracle is constantly improving its firmware over time, even after a system has started shipping. So, yes, there are situations when updating the firmware on your system is recommended. Some of these reasons include:
Often, Sun Servers might be power-cycled or rebooted only a few times per year, so you might think new firmware is not needed if the current system works fine and the configuration has not changed. If so, then there may be no reason to update your firmware.
The Oracle VM Server for SPARC (LDoms) virtualization feature depends on the Hypervisor running in the System Firmware and the Oracle VM Server for SPARC Manager software to operate, in addition to requiring the latest improvements at the Oracle Solaris OS level. The virtualization feature sets in Oracle Solaris are closely tied to the corresponding releases of the Hypervisor in System Firmware. Along with new features you also get bug fixes and performance improvements. If you need to update or patch your Oracle Solaris OS, then you should also be upgrading your System Firmware.
READMEfile that describes what changes have been made in this firmware release. The
READMEwill contain a standard header area, and also the following sections of note:
It is recommended that you always review these Notes before installing the System Firmware on your server.
Second, Sun System Firmware uses a common source base for all of the Sun CMT server systems. The Bugs Fixed list in the
README for a given system will include bug fixes that are specific to that system, as well as bug fixes that are known to be relevant to more than one (or all) systems, and as the number of supported systems grows, the number of shared bugs grows as well. It is impractical to fully describe the relevance of each bug fix to a given system, so we list all bugs that are either known to be relevant or otherwise in known common code, under the theory that more disclosure is better than less. That said, we do exclude bug fixes known to be specific to a given system from the
README list of all other types of systems.
So, while all Oracle Solaris patches are delivered with a patch-ID as an identifier, not all patches deliver things that are actually Oracle Solaris patches. In fact, a patch could be a simple text file with a favorite cake recipe (to use a silly example). There is no limitation on the type, number or purpose of "thing" released by a given patch-ID.
So, in the case of Sun Server firmware, each release is a complete, self-contained and fully functional image that completely replaces the image being upgraded. There is no such thing as a partial upgrade when it comes to Sun Server firmware. Thus, for each separate firmware release, Oracle packages up a
zip file, including a
README, various legal and documentation support files, the complete binary replacement image, and often the Oracle Solaris utility used to download the release to your target system. Oracle never releases anything less than a complete fully functional firmware image, so the first definition of "patch" listed previously has no meaning for Sun Server firmware.
Install.infofile included with each firmware release provides information on how to determine what firmware component revisions are installed on your Sun Server.
For most OBP and Sun Server System Firmware (SysFW) releases, Oracle dedicates a single SunSolve base patch-ID to a single MINOR release family of a single server system. For example, the Sun Fire T1000 server has had releases spanning six minor versions, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Sun Fire T1000 Server Minor Versions
Sun Fire T1000 SysFW Minor Releases
SunSolve Patch Base ID
Although several other server systems have released SysFW 6.7 versions, no other server uses the 139435 base patch-ID except the Sun Fire T1000 server.
Furthermore, for a given MINOR release family, a given system might have released several MICRO versions, usually to fix important bugs. When a new MICRO version is released, Oracle uses the same base patch-ID and just increments the patch version (for example, 01 is incremented to 02). For example, the Sun Fire T1000 server has released three MICRO versions of SysFW 6.5, as shown in Table 2.
Table 2: Sun Fire T1000 Server Micro Versions
Sun Fire T1000 SysFW 6.5 Micro Versions
Note that the micro versions are not consecutive (6.5.3, 6.5.5, 6.5.11) for the Sun Fire T1000 server. This is because the SysFW versioning is relative to the firmware itself, not the system, and Sun does not release every version of SysFW on every system. So, it is not unusual for consecutive micro releases for a given system to skip several MICRO version numbers. That said, consecutive MICRO versions for a given system do have consecutive SunSolve patch versions, as seen in Table 2.
You can also search the My Oracle Support Patches and Updates tab and in the Patch Search window use the Product or Family (Advanced) search for your Sun system's Product name and available Releases. There might be several different firmware patches available for a particular system. For example, the Sun Fire T2000 server has had multiple firmware minor releases (6.1.x, 6.2.x, 6.3.x, 6.4.x, 6.5.x, 6.6.x and 6.7.x). Each of these 6.x minor releases is given a unique patch-ID number and each 6.x.y micro release becomes a subsequent revision of the patch.
Here is an example of the available firmware patches for the Sun Fire T2000 system:
The Sun System Handbook and the Oracle Solaris OS Hardware Compatibility Lists (HCL) also provide some information on available firmware patch updates for your Sun Servers.
Install.infofile. The system needs to be powered off to flash update the firmware.
A: Prior practice, as noted in above FAQ's, was to release Sun System Firmware patches in a similar form to what was used for Oracle Solaris 10 content. Sun System Firmware patches were distinguished with Patch ID's of the form 123456-01. Starting with the release of Sun System Firmware 9.0 on T5 and M5 server systems, Oracle will release this firmware via standard 8 digit Oracle Patch identifiers used by MyOracle Support.
What has changed:
SPARC T5/M5 Firmware patches will now use native MyOracle Support (MOS) patch numbering. These numbers will be unique for each incremental release, unlike before where the base Patch ID (e.g., 123456) remained the same for a given series of MINOR release versions while the 2 digit patch revision number would be incremented for each new release.
The MOS release identifications are improved. The searchable Product is the hardware platform name, but now instead of always only seeing a single 1.0 Release which contained ALL of the released patches for that platform (which was hard to search and filter), now each type of Release will be searchable. For example, previously for the Product "SPARC T4-1", a search would return just a single Release "SPARC T4-1 1.0". Now the search for the Product "SPARC T5-2" will show all of the Release types, including Sun System Firmware, HW Programmables and LSI Firmware. You will be able to filter your searches on MINOR releases (e.g., 9.0, 9.1, etc.) as they are released.
The Platform name is now "Generic Platform", instead of the redundant and inaccurate "Oracle Solaris on SPARC (32-bit)" and "Oracle Solaris on SPARC (64-bit)".
The README file for the Sun System Firmware Release has been simplified and is now in HTML format.
The Top Level directory of the downloaded MOS Patch has changed slightly. It now includes a new Firmware subdirectory where the actual firmware binary objects and related metadata are located, along with associated installation instructions and tools for this hardware platform. The content is largely identical to the old firmware patch release content.
The format and content of the Sun System Firmware .pkg file is unchanged along with the sysfwdownload utility used to load it onto your platform.