Reading Time: 4 minutes

Redfish is an open industry standard specification, API and schema developed by DMTF (SPMF) group that specifies RESTful interface and utilizes JSON and OData. Redfish has been designed to deliver simple and secure management for converged, hybrid IT and the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).

Created in September 2014 with the first standard and specification in 2015, now there are 16 member companies. Promoters of this standard are: Broadcom, Dell, Emerson, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Supermicro, and VMware.

But why build a new interface RESTful/JSON style if there was already the IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) standard and the CLI approach? Basically the answers came from Redfish FAQ:

  • Market shifting to scale-out solutions
    • Massive quantities of simple servers, reliability achieved through software
    • Usage model different than Enterprise (servers as “cattle”, not “pets”)
    • Customer demand for standards-based, multi-vendor deployments
  • Functionality lags in scale-out
    • IPMI feature set is limited to low “common denominator” (e.g. Power On/Off/Reboot, temperature value, text console)
    • Customers increasingly developing their own tools for tight integration
    • Increasing fragmentation of IPMI specification as OEM extensions proliferate
  • Customers exhausting basic IPMI functionality
    • Security and encryption support no longer meets customer requirements
    • Increasing occurrence of proprietary extensions fragment the specification
    • SMASH/CIM not an option for these customers (see further section)
  • New system architectures cannot be modeled in standard IPMI structure
    • Bit-wise encodings cannot represent complex architectural relationships
    • Aggregation points, multi-node systems
  • Customers are asking for a modern interface
    • Expect APIs to use Cloud / Web protocols, structures and security models

But probably the best answer is the purpose of this project:

The DMTF’s Scalable Platforms Management Forum (SPMF) is working to create and publish an open industry standard specification and schema that meets the expectations of end users for simple, modern and secure management of scalable platform hardware.

The Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) protocol has held a central position in unified server management for years due, in large part, to its ability to use common commands to control servers from multiple manufacturers. However, IT administrators are up against the limits of efficient automation using IPMI, and are looking for something better.

And what about the proprietary solutions like HP’s ILO (Integrated Lights Out Manager) or Dell’s iDRAC (Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller)? They provide a better set of functions compared to IPMI and usually a centalized management option. But they are limited in the specific vendor world.

Redfish could be a common platform for different vendors, but also an easy way to build unified managed tools (for example think about at the VMware Cloud Foundation, and how Redfish could help in host lifecycle management).

Redfish is readily supported by scripting languages like Python and PowerShell. With native support for RESTful APIs from the most widely used scripting languages, Redfish is extremely easy to use while being a very powerful way to centrally manage and automate server configuration, deployment, update, and monitoring. Using a RESTful interface, Redfish readily supports integration with the growing range of open source Orchestration and Management (O&M) tools such as Ansible, Chef, Puppet and Salt Stack. As administrators expand the use O&M solutions to provide “desired state” management automation for server hardware in addition to their operating environments and workloads, Redfish support is growing in importance.

And now it’s mature enough to be used as a better replacement of IPMI, but also as a possible replacement of proprietary solution, also if still there isn’t yet a full features match.

And note that Redfish is limited to server management, for storage management there is a different standard called Swordfish.

See also: Redfish and the Future of Bare Metal Server Automation