An Update to my earlier Dell EMC PNU Blog

A few days ago I wrote a blog on Dell EMC’s new Patch and Update Automation Tool.  I had mentioned I didn’t find the documentation on the tool until pretty much after I ran the tool the first time.  Let this be another lesson learned by Kris!!!  Find the documentation and read it. It had some very useful information that would have helped me along the way.  As well as some steps I wasn’t aware of and didn’t d.  Which would have answered at least one of my questions.  I also heard back from a few peers at Dell EMC and have been updated on some of my other questions I had.  One important thing I need to point out is the bits I had downloaded when the tool was published happened to be the beta version of the tool.  Dell EMC had quickly fixed this and published the GA version of the tool after I had grabbed the incorrect version.  So, my experience even though it was good over all would most likely been a better if I had read the documentation and had grabbed the correct bits.  

Dell EMC OEM Extension Package

So I want to address some steps I skipped.  The first one will answer the question I had about the Current OEM Version not updating to 1.0.1809.1. 

In the documentation there is a step called Upgrading the OEM Extension Package.  This is a manual process that will one day be included in the automation tool.  This is fairly easy process and if you have already had experience with manually added the Microsoft PNU to your stamp then this should be a piece of cake.

First, locate the Cloud For Microsoft Azure Stack VxRackAS Customer Toolkit you had downloaded earlier for the Automation tool.  Extract the entire folder or just the three files we need.  The files are:

  • DellEMC-VxRackASPowerEdgeR740xd-xxxx.exe
  • DellEMC-VxRackASPowerEdgeR740xd.bin
  • oemMetadata.xml

Login to the Azure Stack Admin Portal.  Go to Storage Accounts, and look for the updateadminaccount storage account. Create the new container.  I will name it after the update number:  1-0-1809-4-dellemc. Then upload those three files above into the newly created container. Within a few minutes after the URP processes the files, the new update should now show up in your update blade.

Note:  The Dell EMC PNU has a prerequisite of 1.0.1711.1 currently.

Now, this process has me asking another question.  I noticed in the steps that the above process will ReImage Host during this update.  Which means on average each node will be down again for an hour or more while it does these steps.  

name": "ReImage hosts",
"description": "Update hosts using image based update.",
"errorMessage": "",
"status": "Unknown status",
"steps": []

I suggest planning for a longer maintenance windows.  If this is the case then we will have 3 maintenance windows to plan around each month.  The Microsoft PNU which will take on average 16-20 hours for a 4 node stamp.  Then the automation tool will take down each node to update firmware.  That time period depends on the firmware being updated, etc.  Then the manual process to update the OEM Extension Package.  This time around the Extension Package took a little over 11 hours.  So that will need to be planned as well.

I have reached out to Dell EMC to ask if the OEM Extension package will one day be included in the automation tool.   I did find out that the OEM Extension Package actually belongs to Microsoft’s product team with some assistance from the OEM as well.  So being able to automate the installation of the Extension package at the same time that the nodes are rebooting for firmware installation will be something both Dell EMC (OEM’s) and Microsoft will need to work on together. That explains the seperate manual process for this part.  

I did do some testing while both the Dell EMC Patch and Update Automation tool was running and the OEM Extension package was installing. Outside of nodes being taken offline one at a time, I didn’t see any performance issues with running workloads.  I would still not try and deploy things to your stamp for the entire update process as Microsoft suggest.  

The Dell EMC Extension update has now completed and I now have a current OEM version of 1.0.1809.4.  All is good now and we are now all patched and updated.

Prerequisites for Dell EMC PNU.

There are also some prerequisites that I skipped because I wasn’t following the documentation.  A few of these wouldn’t have been to big of a deal to skip but they are nice to document here on my blog for anyone managing their Dell EMC Azure Stacks. 

WDAC Policy

One of the prerequisites for the Dell EMC update process is putting Windows Defender Application Control into audit mode.  This is one step I didn’t do before running the automation tool.  Is is documented in the Update and Installation guide. 

They also will document how to update the WDAC policy as well.

Upgrade OpenManage Essentials

In the documentation they also will walk you through updating OpenManage Essentials on the OMEVM.  

Verify and Apply GPO Policies on HLH

There may also be some GPO policies that have changed.  There is a process documented on how to verify the HLH GPO policy and how to apply the policies.

Final Thoughts?

My final thoughts today??? Read the documentation!!!!!  That and I am very pleased with the response from Dell EMC on some of my questions I had.  It is always a good experience working with their teams.  As I mentioned in the earlier blog I am excited for this tool and the capabilities it will bring to our Azure Stack operators. It is a good work in progress and looking forward using it each month. 

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