Redfish Makes a Big Splash in the Management Pond

Data center managers got some good news this week with the release of Redfish 1.0, by the DMTF standards organization. The Redfish specification specifies a RESTful interface for managing scalable platforms.

Redfish was created in response to explicit requests from datacenter operators. They asked for a modern manageability interface which was easy-to-use and where they could use existing programming tools. Namely, data center operators requested HTTP/HTTPS and JSON technologies, for which they already have programming expertise.  They asked the platform vendors to construct manageability at the end of the data center's existing tool chain, instead of requiring them to learn new protocols and tools in order to manage their platforms.  Also, they wanted this quickly.

In response to this need, Dell, Emerson Network Power, HP and Intel came together to create a RESTful manageability interface specification to demonstrate the concepts and solutions. In additional, they sought to address the known shortcomings of existing manageability interfaces and support multi-node and scalable platforms.

Understanding that wider feedback, collaboration and openness were keys to the success of Redfish, the companies submitted their work to the DMTF standards body in September 2014, whose manageability standards are internationally recognized.  The DMTF created a forum (Scalable Platform Management Forum) to receive the work and develop a standard. The initial four companies were joined by a dozen world-class companies, all committed to the vision of delivering to an end-user request.  Ten months later, Redfish 1.0 was released by the DMTF as standard.

During the forum's work, it made public four work-in-progress releases to elicited feedback from broader server manageability ecosystem and demonstrate the speed at which it would meet the stated needs of the industry.  One notable addition is the use of the OData (an OASIS standard) to describe the JSON schema. OData allows external software to programmatically understand the specific implementation details of a Redfish implementation, it discovers.

At Intel, we joined the Redfish initiative early on because we saw: 1) a desire to quickly address an industry request, 2) the opportunity to simplify and streamline the development of datacenter management software and 3) a manageability baseline that could be extended to manage next-generation infrastructure like the Intel® Rack Scale Architecture disaggregates compute, storage, and network resources and introduces the ability to pool these resources for more efficient utilization of assets.

So what happens to today’s IPMI and CIM standards? They still fill an important need. The manageability façade design pattern helps illustrate their value. In management, when a system is performing well, one wants to interact with it at the highest level of abstraction.  However, when a system begins for function abnormally, one is willing to sweep aside the abstraction and deal with the underlying complexity of the system.  For example, when a car is running well, the dashboard, steering wheel and pedals is all you need.  But once you suspect an issue, you pop the hood to inspect the plugs, battery, fuel injection, etc. (objects beneath the abstraction).  Similarly, IPMI and CIM will continue to provide access to the underlying complexity for those who understand those mechanisms and tools.

Redfish lowers the development barrier to manage scalable compute platforms.  The developer does not need to learn bit-mappings, meta-models, profiles, or management protocols. Instead one issues HTTP requests (e.g. GET http://<ip-addr>/redfish/v1/Systems/<system-id>) and finds the property, of interest, in the JSON response.  The lowering of the development barrier will result in tighter integration of software development and IT operations (DevOps) for datacenter management software.

Redfish is a great example of what can be accomplished when technology leaders, along the supply chain, truly listen to requests and feedback of end-users, and come together satisfy those request in an open and broad manner.  However, the ultimate validation of the above will be the reception and acceptance by the end-user.

For a closer look at these new standards, visit the DMTF Redfish site.