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POWER8 Hardware Entitlement – Update Access Keys

All POWER8 servers must have a valid update access key present on a server before firmware updates can be applied. Learn how to check the expiration date and renew your key.

POWER8 servers have a new hardware service entitlement component called update access keys. Similar to server software entitlement, which is used to verify access to newer versions of system software, IBM has introduced the concept of hardware entitlement for system firmware updates. All POWER8 servers must have a valid update access key present on a server before firmware updates can be applied. This article will provide more details on the update access key including checking its expiration date and how they’re renewed.

Introduction to Update Access Keys

Update access keys provide a hardware entitlement check for all POWER8 servers. Each POWER8 server covered by an IBM warranty or hardware maintenance contract is entitled to an update access key. The initial update access key is installed by IBM Manufacturing. This key will have an expiration date, which aligns with the hardware warranty period for the server. If extended IBM maintenance services are purchased with the server or at a later date, you’ll need to request and enter a new update access key prior to the end of the server’s warranty period. This extends the expiration date to coincide with the end of the service contract. Thirty days prior to update access key expiration, informational messages will be generated by installed LPAR operating systems as well as the HMC. Update access keys are entered using the HMC’s CoD license key menus. Note that update access keys are new to POWER8 servers and they don’t apply to POWER7 or earlier Power Systems servers.

Checking the Access Key Expiration Date

As part of the firmware update planning process, you should verify that the server has a valid update access key. You can use one of the following methods to check the update access key’s expiration date:

  • ASMI – When you connect to the ASMI, the update access key expiration date will show in the upper-right corner of the ASMI welcome page
  • HMC – Choose the server of interest and then select view system information. On the next window, choose “None –Display Current Values” and click on OK.
  • AIX command prompt – Enter the command “# lscfg –vpl sysplanar0”. The expiration date will be listed in the output.
  • Linux command prompt – Enter the command “lscfg –p”. Note that you must have the following service toolsets installed: librtas, ppc64-utils, and lsvpd.
  • IBM i command – Use the display firmware status command “DSPFMWSTS” from an IBM i command line.

A server is entitled to all firmware updates that are made available during the time period for which the server has a valid update access key. If the update access key has expired, you can still install these previously available firmware updates. The firmware updates will continue to be available for download from a public IBM website even after an update access key has expired. Prior to upgrading firmware, you should also make use of the Fix Level Recommendation Tool (FLRT).

FLRT will check the validity and provide recommendations for specific combinations of server model, system firmware, HMC code version, OS level and attached disk subsystems.

Renewing Update Access Keys

If a POWER8 server’s hardware entitlement had been extended beyond the initial warranty period through an IBM Hardware Service contract, the server is eligible to receive a new update access key with a lifespan of 180 days that can continue to be updated through the end of the service contract. To renew the update access key, go to the My Entitled Hardware website.

After logging into this site, click on “My entitled hardware” in the left-hand column. You will be presented with an option to “View, Download and Request update access keys.” Select this option and you’ll be prompted to enter the 4-digit server type (e.g. 9119 for E870/E880 servers) and its full, 7-digit serial number. Click the add button. If you’ve provided a valid server type/serial combination, the update access key expiration date for this server will be displayed. For newer servers, this should correspond with the end of the warranty period. If you select the checkbox next to the server, you can then choose one of the following displayed options:

  • Delete - Removes this server from your working set of servers for this session
  • View Keys - Shows the license key information for this server
  • Download - Downloads and opens an update access key file with an ASCI file browser
  • Send - Sends the update access key to your email address
  • Request New Standard Key - Requests a new key when your current key is nearing its expiration date

When the Request New Standard Key option is selected, the system will check to see if there’s been a status change in hardware entitlement, such as a hardware maintenance contract renewal. If there has been a change and no update access key has been created based on this change, a new key will be generated. When you receive a new update access key, you can use the HMC’s “Enter CoD Code” panel to add it to the server. A new access update key won’t be created if there hasn’t been a change in the ending date for hardware entitlement.

Firmware Maintenance Strategy Refresher

The POWER8 flexible service processor (FSP) continues with the familiar flash memory design that has two sides: Permanent (P-side) and temporary (T-side). A generally accepted best practice for managing system firmware is to keep an “N-1” version of the firmware on the P-side and always boot the server from the T-side, which has the “N” or current version of firmware. When you’re ready to update the system firmware, it’s recommended that you copy the T-side to the P-side so that you have a safe copy of known, working firmware stored on the P-side. Proceed to install the new firmware version on the T-side. If everything functions as desired, continue to boot and operate from the T-side firmware version. If there’s an issue with the new firmware installation or operation, you can reboot the server from the P-side.

Add Update Access Key Verification to Your Checklist

As you plan for POWER8 system firmware updates, be sure to include a check of the update access key expiration date. This is also a simple way to verify that you have IBM hardware warranty or IBM maintenance service active for your POWER8 servers.


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