Upgrading a Google GB-7007 / U1 firmware

For many years Google has produced a range of “Search Appliances”, the idea is that you have a miniture Google search engine within your business that is able to index all your internal files and make them available in a nice interface that everyone is use to. Over the years they’ve produced many iterations of the product with the most recent ones being essentially rebadged Dell hardware.

The “current” generation (and I use that loosely) is a rebadged Dell R710 with the bare minimum fitting options:

  • 2 x Intel Xeon E5620
  • 48GB ECC RAM
  • PERC H700 with 8 x 2.5” SAS drives
  • iDRAC Express

Extra niceties have been left out to cut costs, so no internal SD card reader, no CD/DVD drive. The hardware was generally given free with a license so you can find these devices popping up on the market every so often when people’s licenses expire and they don’t want the hardware filling up their racks.

Google actually publishes some quick guidelines on repurposing the hardware after the end of the license which should be good enough for the vast majority of people, but the BIOS is out of date and its still tagged up with the Google Search Appliance boot screen, finding updates for the BIOS is near impossible. If you want to run ESXi with all the fluffy bits it can be a bit of a pain.

But, this is a R710, can’t we just use Dell’s version?

Actually, yes you can. On the Dell R710 support page, grab the latest BIOS package in the “Non-Packaged” format and put it on a bootable USB stick with FreeDOS on it. Then just follow these steps:

  1. Pop the lid off your GB-7007 and disable the BIOS password (check on the back of the lid for details)
  2. Boot the system and enter the BIOS, change the boot order to USB first.
  3. Reboot with the USB stick in one of the ports, wait until you hit the FreeDOS prompt
  4. From the prompt run R710-060400C.exe /forcetype

OK, that last item may look a little scary. The update process has a check in it to see if the system you’re trying to flash the BIOS to is the target system, this appliance will identify as a Google Search Appliance so will always fail this check, even though the hardware is identical to the R710 system. The /forcetype option disables this check and forces the BIOS to install.

After a minute or two your system will reboot and you’ll get the normal Dell boot logo and options, congratulations, your Google Search Appliance is now a Dell R710 sporting a lovely yellow case.