Why Redfish Data Center Model Holds Great Promise for IoT

NEWS ANALYSIS: A common firmware "language" for all the new IoT hardware to come is seen as an absolute "must" for the success of new-gen systems.

SAN FRANCISCO—A trio of well-respected IT companies—Emerson Network Power, Lenovo and OSIsoft—are putting the pedal to the metal on a fresh new firmware standard that could hasten the development of internet-of-things-oriented data centers.

The partner firms demonstrated the practical application of Redfish, a data model/schema structure/protocol stack that can manage anything inside a data center, this week at the Intel Developer Forum here.

With so many new-generation IoT/big-data analytics/mobile-optimized data centers coming online in the next several years, a common firmware "language" for all the new hardware to come was seen as an absolute "must" for the success of these systems. All these disparate parts simply need to plug in and work together; this is the promise of Redfish.

What Each Partner Company Brings to the Table

Emerson provides the overall data center control management, Lenovo the servers (pictured; to see a larger view, right click on image and select "View Image") attuned to the new protocol, and OSIsoft the operational data distribution and integration expertise needed to provide clean and efficient workflows.

Redfish, introduced in September 2014 by Emerson, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Intel, is starting to get momentum inside the development community. It is designed to speed up and improve the real-world implementation of IoT platforms in edge-computing environments.

Version 1 of the integrated system, announced at IDF 2015 and focused only on servers, enables full visibility and control across all systems through a REST-based Redfish API and represents the first application of Redfish beyond out-of-band server management. Since then, there have been two follow-on versions that add in networking devices and storage.

"Redfish is a new specification that enables heterogeneous data center hardware to work together in a unified manner," Patrick Quirk, global vice president and general manager of converged systems at Emerson, told eWEEK. "We designed Redfish to replace IPMI [Intelligent Platform Management Interface] and deliver a standard for data center and systems management that improves performance, functionality, scalability and security.

"Last year, we moved the ball forward, announcing that the Distributed Management Task Force [DMTF] had officially adopted Redfish as an open industry standard specification."

Designed to Replace Older IPMI Standard

IPMI is an older set of computer interface specifications for autonomous computer subsystems that provides management and monitoring capabilities independently of the host system's CPU, firmware (BIOS or UEFI) and operating system. Redfish takes this concept up several notches by adding automation—plus several other attributes—throughout.

Redfish addresses the need for operational efficiency at the network edge, where regulated industries, such as banking, manufacturing, health care and retail, have problems enabling connectivity and continuity of services across multiple sites not designed to host IT infrastructure, Quirk said.

The convergence of Emerson, Lenovo and OSIsoft IP addresses these challenges by increasing security, accelerating speed of deployment, simplifying lifecycle management, minimizing downtime and keeping total cost of ownership low through modern and easy-to-use REST APIs, Quirk said.

"Let's assume your data center requirements have grown along with your business. The chances are pretty good that your hardware isn't all from the same provider, or it doesn't use the same communications protocols. Up until now, you may have relied on IPMI to get everything working together. But IPMI is largely outdated, if for no other reason than its inability to handle today's massive multi-scale environments," Quirk said.

All Components in a Rack or Data Center Get Connected

Emerson Network Power's Connectivity Engine, in contrast, is designed to unify everything in a data center: Redfish messages come in via a RESTful web API. Data, like infrastructure telemetry, can be read; controls, like power-on and reboot, can be actuated. Back-end components interact with the framework through the plug-ins mentioned above and a publish-and-subscribe eventing mechanism, Quirk said.

"The plug-in interface uses connectors to translate the data into a format the back-end component can understand," Quirk said. "This means your web services framework can also translate Redfish commands into legacy protocols, even IPMI."

OSIsoft's PI System captures operational data from sensors, manufacturing equipment and other devices and transforms it into usable information streams that can be employed to reduce costs, optimize production or make critical business decisions. Worldwide, more than 1.5 billion sensor-based data streams are managed by the PI System.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...