[OmniOS-discuss] Supermicro IPMI based BIOS update

Paul B. Henson henson at acm.org
Tue Dec 10 02:37:00 UTC 2013

This isn't strictly an illumos question, but supermicro kit is pretty
popular for running illumos, so you guys are usually an excellent resource
for questions like this :).

I recently bought a supermicro X9SCL-F motherboard, which came with a new
version of the IPMI firmware, 3.15. This version is also becoming available
as an update for older boards, including my X9DRi-F. A new feature on this
version of the IPMI web interface is allegedly the ability to update the
BIOS completely hands-off.

Unfortunately, it seems supermicro decided to make this a "value added"
feature, so out-of-the-box all you see on that page is a request for an
activation key :(.

I've gone back and forth with supermicro technical support a bit, and gotten
a reasonable grip on the technical details of the feature. Supposedly you
can update the BIOS on a board that's not powered on and doesn't even have a
CPU installed, which would be handy for those intervals where an updated
processor has been released requiring a bios update, but boards are still
being shipped with the old bios. They also say that unlike the boot to DOS
installer, which always says you're required to completely remove power from
the system and short the clear CMOS jumper, when updating the BIOS via the
IPMI interface you don't need to do that. It also supposedly allows you to
fix a corrupted BIOS that normally would require RMA'ing the board back to
supermicro to reprogram, which is nice, I'm always nervous doing BIOS
updates that I might brick the board and causing extensive downtime.

As far as actually enabling the feature, they just tell me I should contact
my reseller. I don't exactly buy a lot of volume :), so that would be
somebody like Newegg, Amazon, Superbiiz... And so far they don't seem to
have "IPMI BIOS update activation keys" available for sale.

I was just curious if anybody else had looked at this, or possibly actually
activated it, out of interest in the details of buying the feature as well
as how well it worked out for anybody that's tried it.


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