Upgrading the HP Proliant ML115 G5 from Dual to Quad Core

I bought an HP Proliant ML115 G5 servers just before they were upgraded to include a quad core CPU.  I’ve been running VMware ESXi 4.0 and 4.1 on it without any issues, mainly due to the fact that I also bought an HP SC44Ge Raid Controller and an Intel Pro 1000 NIC (Gigabit, as the name implies).

Although it’s running quite happily I wanted to max out the spec of the box in order to have the option of hosting more VMs.  The CPU it shipped with was an AMD Opteron 1214, a 64bit dual core CPU running at 2.2GHz.  I was doing a little reading up after I bought the server and several news sites suggested that it might be possible to install a quad core Opteron 135x CPU.  At the time the quad cores had only just been released and so I didn’t pursue the idea.  Fast forward several years to the present day (28th October 2011) and the Opteron 135x CPU’s are now becoming hard to find; eBay has several sources but all in the US (I’m UK based).

Anyway, to cut the story short I ended up ordering a second hand (used) AMD Opteron 1356 2.3GHz quad core CPU from a source in the US for the grand total of £25 including delivery to the UK.

To prepare for the CPU upgrade I knew I also had to upgrade the firmware on the server.  The machine is physically capable of accepting the CPU but the firmware won’t know what it is unless it’s told.  So, looking on HP’s support site I found the latest firmware, version 2009.07.06 (A) (29 Jul 2009 in Softpaq SP44683 available here.

Also of note is the recommendation from HP: “***Please Note: BMC Firmware version 3.11 or later must be installed on the ML115 G5 when upgrading to this 07/06/2009 BIOS.”  You’ll definitely want to download load the Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) firmware in Softpaq SP44085 from this page.  You’ll note that the firmware is for the Lights-Out 100 Remote Management card, which you may or may not have installed (it’s not a standard feature AFAIK).  It doesn’t matter.  What’s important is that this firmware package also includes the BMC firmware you’re going to need.

In order to upgrade the firmware you’ll need a USB memory stick and to have set up the BIOS on the ML115 to allow booting from USB devices.  Once you’ve done that simply run the ML115 firmware update package (SP44683) and it will do everything necessary to turn your memory stick into a bootable device.  Put the USB stick into the server, reboot it and the firmware package will do the updating for you.

On rebooting the server you’ll notice that the fan will continue running at what sounds like full speed.  This is why HP recommended you also update the BMC firmware at the same time.  Simply repeat the firmware flashing process by running the second firmware package (SP44085) to create another bootable USB device with the BMC firmware on it, reboot the server with the USB stick in the machine and let the updater do its thing.  Reboot one more time and the fans will return to normal speed.

Finally, for anyone with the SC44Ge Raid controller the latest firmware appears to be version “06.18.05.00 (1.23.43.00A) (3 Sep 2009)” in Softpaq SP45154 available here.

One final suggestion: remember to check the BIOS settings after flashing the firmware.  Although my settings were preserved between firmware versions your mileage may vary.

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