This past week, we had an IBM guy come in for a quick-start session on implementing IBM Director. Maintaining dozens or hundreds of servers can be a chore, and Director is supposed to make it easier by automating hardware checks, firmware updates, and even phoning home when there’s a problem.
Part of this package is IBM UpdateXpress Server, a central repository for all of the IBM firmware updates. Admins are supposed to set up Director, point it to their UpdateXpress repository, and then match up to see which servers need which updates – and deploy them easily from inside Director. This beats doing a sneaker shuffle around the datacenter, carrying CDs and floppy disks from machine to machine.
The reality didn’t match up with the promise. UpdateXpress Server is horridly out of date. It fetches internet updates from a different web server than the public hits, and that server is way behind what the public server has. For example, our x460’s have had several critical bios updates in the last three months, and none of those updates were available to the UpdateXpress server.
That immediately set off alarms with the IBM guy, who couldn’t believe what he was seeing. We repeated the same update tests with other servers (x346’s and x366’s) only to get the same results. None of the firmware updates that had come out in the last 6-9 months were available inside UpdateXpress Server.
To make matters worse, IBM Director only allows Windows software packages to be deployed – not floppy images. When a bios update comes out only on floppies, like the CPLD updates for the x460’s, Director can’t do anything about it. It’s still time to do the sneaker shuffle. Since these updates often come out simultaneously, some in Windows and some in floppies, then I’m really not saving any time at all.
My experiences have been echoed by others who had bad experiences with UpdateXpress Server. I only wish I’d seen these on IBM’s forum before we bought the Jump Start package.
We were all disappointed with the results, and I’m posting this just to warn anybody else who’s considering the IBM Director jump start program. IBM’s servers are phenomenal, but the firmware update system is just as bad as the hardware is good.