Reeling in the Business Value of the Redfish Standard

The modern data center never stops. Your infrastructure needs to deliver around the clock, but your staff has limits.

If you have followed the IT industry for any length of time, you are familiar with our love of obfuscation. Every discovery must be protected with a code name. Once it’s released to the public, the product name is inevitably shortened to a 3 or 4 letter acronym. So, you will understand my feigned curiosity when the term Redfish entered the IT lexicon in 2014.

Is this a product? Is it a consortium? And most important, what’s the real name? So, as I listened to the product engineer talk about Redfish as a game changer for edge computing, I was only mildly interested.

Fast forward, four years later, and my feigned interest has evolved into excited promotion. While, edge computing is still a significant use case for Redfish, the impact of the standard goes well beyond our ability to manage at the edge of the network. The Redfish standard is unique in that it enables management of discrete and distributed components of the IT infrastructure; across technology implementations and vendors. The level of cooperation required to develop and implement the Redfish standard is almost unprecedented in the IT industry.

What is a standard?

The Redfish standard is a set of specifications designed by the Redfish Forum, one of the many forums supported by the DMTF (formerly known as the Distributed Management Task Force). Corporate members of the Redfish Forum — including Dell* – work to deliver on the objectives of the Redfish Forum charter.

Create and publish an open industry-standard specification and schema that meets the expectations of Cloud and Web-based IT professionals for scalable platform hardware management utilizing existing tool chains as well as being usable by personnel with minimal experience.

  • Excerpt: Redfish Forum Charter

The standards, outlined in the Redfish specification documentation enable more efficient and secure methods to monitor, manage and control IT systems over a secure connection. Basically, the Redfish standard is designed to enhance operation of the data center today and build a foundation for the data center of tomorrow.

The most innovative standards are useless without adoption

The Redfish standard has broad support across the IT industry. Vendors who support Redfish agree to exchange information about their systems using the specifications of the standard. This cooperation between systems and vendors helps expand control beyond like systems and enables centralized, end-to-end management of multi-vendor infrastructures.

Previous standards like the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI), were designed for server centric environments. But, Redfish was designed for the modern data center. The modern data center is virtual. It adopts innovative technologies and enhancements without interruption. The modern data center is web-connected and cloud-enabled. Security is a priority, across technologies and devices. The modern data center is prepared for the future.

Web-connected and cloud-enabled

In most industries, interactions are no longer face-to-face but enabled by our almost constant connection to the internet. With a smart phone at our side, we can order a pizza just as easily as we can check our corporate email. IT departments continue to adapt to help organizations take advantage of the hyper-connected consumer.

Just 20 years ago, creating multiple connections to secure and public systems from a single device was impossible for all but the largest organizations, with the most skilled staff. However, the introduction of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol-Secure (HTTPS) and the Representational State Transfer (REST) architecture made secure interaction possible between different devices, systems and organizations.

The REST architecture, is well known to most developers and met a key objective of the Redfish charter – it was usable by personnel without specialized skills. REST is also commonly used to interact with cloud systems and applications, making it an ideal choice for cloud management.

Together, REST, HTTPS and Redfish are not synonymous. REST is an architectural style. HTTPS is a method for transmitting data. And Redfish is a specification for IT management. When implemented into an application, these tools and methods are called the Redfish RESTful API.

Always on

The modern data center never stops. Your infrastructure needs to deliver around the clock, but your staff has limits. They are often pulled in multiple directions. They are monitoring systems to ensure performance and maintain security. They are retiring old systems and replacing them with new, more powerful ones. And they are doing all of this at scale.

The Redfish standard enables the always on data center, without taxing your staff. Management can be performed across systems, subsystems and devices. Administrators can request health and status information, so they can monitor the infrastructure. They can also issue commands. For example, a server could report down level firmware (like for BIOS or a PowerSupply) and a command can be executed to update the firmware.

Management functions can be initiated directly on the system or through a secure remote connection. Commands can be entered individually, or processes can be automated using scripts that help make IT administrators more efficient. For example, configuring a typical server can take up to 200 steps when each step is performed individually. Through scripting, all these steps can be documented in a machine-readable format that can be deployed in one step.

Your data center can’t stop. Redfish, helps keep it running.

The value is clear

The technology industry has a history of creating exponential value out of simple ideas. The Redfish standard is no exception.

The term Redfish is now forever part of the lexicon of IT history. Those of us steeped in the details, would define the Redfish standard as a RESTful interface over HTTPS in JSON format based on OData v4. However, the technical details are only interesting if they can deliver genuine business value. The Redfish standard helps you manage the modern data center by enhancing manageability through automation, and interface consistency across products, generations, and vendors, while reducing operational complexity. More robust managability and less complexity means you have the resources to deliver the most comprehensive offerings to your customers, constituents and partners, wherever they are, and without interruption.

A more technical overview of the Redfish standard is presented in the Direct2Dell blog: Fish On! Dell Nets Enhanced and Expanded Redfish Support for PowerEdge

Details on the Dell implementation of the Redfish standard can be found in the following whitepaper: Introducing the Dell PowerEdge Redfish API

Complete details on the Redfish standard can be found on the DMTF website.

*Dell is a founding member of the Redfish form and currently chairs the executive board of the DMTF.

About the Author: Angelia McFarland

Angelia McFarland shares the benefits and importance of embedded systems management, automation and change management. Angelia has driven customer-focused, global marketing programs across the technology industry with companies including Dell, IBM and Emerson Network Power (now Vertiv). These assignments have provided her with a broad range of technology marketing expertise in server, storage, software, cloud and mobile.