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We have an Intel RAID Controller RS25DB080 (LSI SAS2208) with four ST2000NM0033-9ZM175 SN03 SATA disks. A hardware RAID10 volume is built using these disks and an Ubuntu Server OS is installed on it. Recently we've found out there's a firmware update for our hard disks. The server is a production server at a remote data center, so we can't afford shutting it down and booting off specific media to flash the firmware the old-and-reliable way. Also, the official PDF packaged with firmware states:

... DO NOT run this firmware update on RAID systems. ... RAID systems are extremely sensitive to disruptions to individual drives. It is not uncommon for low level disk drive diagnostics to cause RAID management software to fault a drive that is slowed down by testing or firmware download. For this reason, we highly recommend that you use disk management tools provided by your RAID controller manufacturer if they are available. ... Among others, RAID management software is available from 3Ware, Adaptec and LSI.

LSI controllers are managed with the MegaCli utility. Unfortunately, its documentation is extremely terse. Here's all it says about flashing firmware:

MegaCli -PdFwDownload [offline][ForceActivate] {[-SataBridge] -PhysDrv[0:1]}|{-EncdevId[devId]} -f -aN|-a0,1,2|-aALL

Flashes the firmware with the file specified at the command line. The firmware files used to flash a physical device can be of any format. The CLI utility assumes that you provide a valid firmware image, and it flashes the same. The physical device needs to do error checking.

Searching the web hadn't revealed much too. This link is the only example of practical application we've found.

The procedure described at the link seems pretty trivial, but we have one big question left unanswered: is it sane to flash the firmware this way to disks holding the active RAID array? Especially when the OS is booted off the partition that's a part of this array?

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Updating Disk Firmware works, I've done this several times. first check the drive numbers with -pdlist. IIRC SATA Drives need a reboot to activate new FW while SAS Disks use the new one instantly

  • Were the disks in use (e.g. mounted with data being written/read) while you had been flashing its firmware? – Jacob Becker Dec 20 '15 at 5:37
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    they were mounted. IOs are blocked until flash is complete – molli123 Dec 27 '15 at 8:11
  • That's an interesting note about blocked IO, thanks. I guess it means the overall impact encountered highly depends on the load level of the disks. We haven't decided to take our own try yet, but I'll accept your answer. – Jacob Becker Dec 27 '15 at 12:12
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Lacking more specific knowledge about the RAID controller model mentioned, I'd recommend:

  1. Check the release notes of that firmware update and decide whether its benefits are worth the risk.
  2. Take each disk drive offline before flashing its firmware. After taking it online again, allow the RAID rebuild to complete before proceeding to the next one.

By taking the drive offline you make sure the RAID management won't interfere with, or be adversely affected by, the firmware update processs.

  • 1. Ah, it was the very first thing I wanted to do, but it turned out there's NO release notes for this drive model's firmware updates! 2. It's very "expensive" and we would like to avoid it, but maybe we'd have to go this way if we won't get any detailed information. – Jacob Becker Nov 20 '15 at 13:13

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