I’ve already mentioned one pain point with Cisco UCS – drivers – in my previous post concerning vSphere, but the same thing applies to other environments, including Windows servers. You better have the EXACT version Cisco wants for your specific environment. But how do you know which drivers to get, how do you get them, how do you know when you need to upgrade them, and how do you know what drivers you have installed? This post applies to Windows Server, which by extension, includes Hyper-V.
Why is getting the drivers so important?
I want to emphasize that getting the exact right version of Cisco UCS drivers is a big deal! I’ve personally now seen two vSphere environments that had issues because the drivers were not exactly correct. The best part is the issues never turned up during a testing of the environment. Just weird intermittent issues like bad performance, or VMs needing consolidation after backups, or a VM hangs out of nowhere a week or two down the road. Make sure you get the drivers exactly right! I don’t work with Windows Servers on bare metal nearly as much as VMware, but I’m sure getting the drivers right is equally, if not more, crucial.
How do I install Windows Server 2012 on Cisco UCS?
You have two choices. One is create a Windows Server installation ISO with the drivers slipstreamed into it, or you can insert the driver image during the routine to install the proper storage driver to see your storage to which you’ll install Windows, which is available from Cisco for download. Also, at least currently, remember that Cisco UCS does not support Windows in a boot from SAN configuration using FCoE.
Remember however you’re still not done. You’ll need to still update the network card drivers.
How do I know which drivers should be installed?
This is relatively simple. First, collect some info about your Cisco UCS environment. You need to know these (don’t worry, if you don’t know what info you need, Cisco’s Interoperability page will walk you through it):
1. Standalone C-Series not managed by UCSM or UCSM managed B and/or C-Series? For those of you who don’t know, if you got blades, you got UCSM.
2. If UCSM is present, which version is it running? Ex. 2.2(3c)
3. Which server model(s) are present? Ex. B200-M3. Also note the processor type (ex. Xeon E5-2600-v2). They can get picky about that.
4. What OS and major version? Note there is a difference between support for Server 2012 and 2012 R2. Cisco at least at the time of this blog post does not change support depending upon installed Service Packs.
5. What type and model of I/O cards do you have in your servers? Example – CNA, model VIC-1240
Then head on over to the Interoperability Matrix site. Fill in your info, and you get a clear version of the driver and firmware.
It’s very straightforward to know which drivers are needed from that.
How do I figure out which drivers are installed?
You can do this one of two ways. You can manually check them via Device Manager, or you can use PowerShell. I’m assuming everyone knows how to check these with Device Manager. To use PowerShell, use the following:
Get-WmiObject Win32_PnPSignedDriver | select-object devicename,driverversion
Note that you can use the -ComputerName parameter to check a remote system, or even a PowerShell array of remote systems for their drivers easily.
How do I update Cisco UCS drivers?
You need to go to Cisco’s support page for UCS downloads, and download the driver ISO that has your driver, which is typically just the driver ISO with the same version as UCS Manager. For example, if you’re running 2.2.5(a), you need the 2.2.5 driver ISO.
Next, use the virtual media option within the Cisco KVM, mount the ISO, so it’s ready to go. You could also extract the contents somewhere on the server, it doesn’t matter.
Next, login to the server, pull up Device Manager, and locate the adapter instances you need to update. If you’re using a VIC, which is pretty much everyone, you need to find the relevant storage and network adapters. This example, the customer wasn’t using the FC functionality, so we’re just doing the ENIC devices.
When the dialogue comes up, browse to select the zip file that was *contained* in the original zip file. If you select just the zip file you downloaded itself, it will fail. Repeat for the fnic and enic drivers.
Double click one of the VIC instances, click the Driver tab, note the currently installed driver version, and then Update Driver…
Next, click Browse my computer for driver software.
Next, click “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”. Don’t even bother trying any other options, it will continue to want to install the old driver because… REASONS!!!
Next, click Have Disk… and browse on the CD to the right folder for the hardware and OS you’re running. This is a Server 2012 non-R2 server, so as an example, it’s under Windows\Network\Cisco\VIC\W2K12\x64.
After the driver installs, verify the new driver version is now showing in Device Manager. Unfortunately, you’re not done yet. You gotta update the drivers on every other instance, but it’s a little easier for the rest.
For the other instances, double click each one, click Update Drivers…, “Browse my computer for driver software”, “Let me pick from a list of drive drivers on my computer”, and you will see both the old and new driver versions. Pick the new one, and click Next.
Rinse and repeat for all instances, and ensure the driver tab reflects the proper new version. Remember that FNIC HBA drivers will need to be updated on those instances separately under Storage Controllers.
I took a quick look to see if Microsoft made some device driver PowerShell cmdlets, but unfortunately I don’t see any at this time.
When should I check my drivers?
You should do this during any of the following:
• During initial deployments
• When UCS Manager or a standalone C-Series BIOS is updated
• If you update to a new major OS, although I’d check when planning to install Service Packs to Windows as well.
Also, remember, newer drivers aren’t the right drivers necessarily. Check the matrix for what the customer is or will be running to see which drivers should go along with it!