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Redfish is the future of Data Center Management

Now Is the Time to Standardize Data Center Management on Redfish

Linda Huber Wang •

Vertiv™ Avocent® Core Insight Firmware Automates Management of Redfish Devices

This is the second blog in a series of four blogs on using open-standards-based tools to modernize data center management. This blog explores why data center teams should evolve from the IPMI to Redfish standard.

Modern data center management, long promised, is here. Data center and IT teams can use open-source-based, interoperable tools to simplify processes, spur innovation and scale results. These tools include new standards such as OpenBMC and Redfish that can be used to future-proof solutions as well as REST architectures and APIs that simplify design, development and connectivity of new solutions. They also encompass centralized management platforms that provide greater visibility and control over hybrid infrastructures and KVM over IPM devices that speed daily work.

Market demand for high-performance computing, a better user experience and analytics-driven services are fueling the development of distributed networks. Vast data growth means that data center and IT teams are managing larger workloads, setting up more edge sites, securing and managing more devices. Finally, as endpoints grow, security is becoming an ever-greater concern, requiring that data center and IT teams proactively harden the perimeter.

Similarly, hyperscale, cloud and managed services providers want to streamline IT management for their ever-growing customer base. They need to increase the productivity of existing data center and IT teams while ensuring continuous uptime of key compute resources. For this group, data outages are especially punishing, as they take thousands to hundreds of thousands of customers offline.

In a previous blog, we explored why organizations should innovate and scale with OpenBMC-based firmware. In this blog, we’ll explore why they should adopt firmware based on Redfish, which is rapidly emerging as the successor to replace the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI).

But first, a few definitions are in order.

What is Redfish – and how does it differ from IPMI?

IPMI has long been the standard for data center management. Created by Intel in 1998, it has been adopted by a host of technology leaders, who developed their own proprietary closed solutions based on the standard. IPMI enables remote monitoring and management of computer systems independently of both the compute resource and corporate networks. That means data center and IT teams can perform critical duties without being onsite, as well as troubleshoot IT issues when networks are down, to speedily restore service during unplanned outages.

While IPMI has been the de facto standard, it’s showing its age and limitations, which is why another standard, Redfish, is rising in importance.

According to DMTF, “Redfish® is a standard designed to deliver simple and secure management for converged, hybrid IT and the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC). Both human readable and machine capable, Redfish leverages common Internet and web services standards to expose information directly to the modern tool chain.”

Redfish enables data center and IT teams to use a consistent set of APIs to manage multiple devices. These teams can enable always-on data centers and edge sites, without adding more staff or requiring employees to visit far-flung sites to perform routine maintenance. 

Automation Is the Future of Data Center Management

Data center and IT teams want to be able to automate key processes and manage hardware remotely, performing such functions as:

  • Monitoring device health and receiving automated alerts on potential issues
  • Configuring BIOS
  • Controlling device power
  • Automatically updating firmware
  • Deploying bare-metal services
  • Authorizing and managing users and remote KVM sessions
  • Optimizing thermal management conditions
  • Streamlining inventory management
  • Logging events

Redfish Offers Compelling Advantages over IPMI

Many data centers are built on the IPMI standard. As a result, it can be difficult and costly to change. Here are some reasons why teams should press ahead with adopting Redfish in the near-term:

  • Redfish is backed by leading companies: Just like OpenBMC, Redfish is backed by a who’s who of industry leaders, including Broadcom, Dell, HP, Lenovo, VMware and Vertiv, who have implemented Redfish across their product portfolio. Redfish has already been widely adopted on Whitley generation servers and is now a standard requirement in marketing documents and RFPs. As a result, data center and IT teams can adopt Redfish-based technology with confidence, while also ensuring the interoperability of new solutions.

  • Using Redfish simplifies IT management: Data center teams may standardize much of their software and hardware equipment purchases, but still use multiple vendors, each of which provides their own proprietary APIs. Edge sites typically lack standardization, due to their diversity. Redfish, on the other hand, provides a reusable API that connects to all Redfish-enabled devices. That means teams can use one platform to manage servers, networking devices and storage at both data centers and edge sites, simplifying device monitoring and management. By so doing, teams work more productively, while achieving economies of scale with streamlined operational processes.

  • IPMI is increasingly becoming a legacy standard: IPMI was not built to handle the massive scale of compute resources that many data center teams encounter. It isn’t automation-friendly, requiring line-by-line bash scripts rather than using more standardized processes.

    Developers will focus innovation on Redfish, which means that IPMI solutions will decrease over time. As a result, organizations that use IPMI will need to pay for their own custom solutions, which will increase costs while creating greater business rigidity.

    Redfish specifies a RESTful interface and uses JSON and OData, enabling customers to integrate new solutions in their existing tooling. The Redfish Developer Hub offers files and other resources anyone can access to develop new solutions. The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is doing just that, developing Swordfish, a standard based on Redfish that provides remote storage management capabilities.

  • IPMI increases security risks: IPMI devices are shipped from manufacturers with default credentials that need to be changed before they’re deployed. But, what if they’re not? Data center teams must remember to reconfigure these credentials or create a workflow to do so to avoid having passwords saved in clear text. In addition, cyber attackers can easily identify systems running IPMI, making it easier to launch attacks. If attackers gain control over one IPMI password, they can then gain control over all computers in the IPMI group, accessing hardware, software and firmware.

    Redfish-based devices use secure communication protocols. They also can be cyber-hardened to provide memory protection from BMC-related vulnerabilities. By so doing, they significantly increase device security.

  • An equipment refresh is a good time to pivot to Redfish: Data centers tend to refresh their equipment frequently. A recent Uptime study found that 26 percent replace servers every three years, 15 percent every four years and 31 percent every five years. That is a huge change management challenge in and of itself. As a result, IT teams that are refreshing even a subset of equipment should consider migrating from the IPMI standard to the Redfish standard. By so doing, they can gain experience with the new standard and build a business case for moving more equipment to Redfish faster.

  • It takes time to migrate to a new standard: With new servers, storage and other compute resources to migrate to Redfish, it will take some time to upgrade everything. However, management platforms based on the standard is already available. So, the best time to start is now, so that developers have their tooling ready when new hardware arrives. IT teams will want to rapidly configure new devices, deploy them and automate processes to gain fast value from their pivot to the Redfish management standard.

Vertiv Offers Firmware Based on the Redfish Standard

Avocent® Core Insight Firmware is Redfish equipped, OpenBMC leveraged Firmware SDK. As a result, data center and IT teams can use Vertiv ACI to automate key processes and monitor and manage devices and sites more easily. 

With Vertiv ACI, teams also can easily customize logic to provide customers or the business with innovative solutions that offer added value.

In addition, Vertiv has partnered with RunSafe Security to eliminate an entire class of malware attacks with their patented cyber-hardening process designed to protect embedded systems and devices. That means data center and IT teams no longer need to fear backdoor attacks due to unsecured devices, an ongoing challenge with IPMI.

The market is moving to Redfish. By adopting the standard now, data center and IT teams can use modern data center management to help their business grow further and faster than the competition.

Learn more about Vertiv™ Avocent® Core Insight today.

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