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Jean is a senior industry analyst focusing her research on server technology, storage technology, database software and the emerging market for Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI).

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Redfish Emerges as an Interoperability Standard for SDI

The world’s data centers are working to adopt Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI) – but they are far from reaching their goals. The single biggest challenge in SDI is achieving interoperability between many kinds of hardware. Without that, a data center’s systems become a Tower of Babel, preventing IT system admins from seeing a unified view of all resources – and managing them.

Built to leverage virtualized infrastructure, SDI will be easier to achieve if there are more bridges between platforms – leading to better management. This blog focuses on an emerging management standard called Redfish, which is designed to help make SDI a day-to-day reality for hybrid cloud.

 

Seeking More Unified Management for Software-Defined Infrastructure (SDI) 

Redfish addresses an everyday reality: Most large organizations have “inherited infrastructure” based on years of successive IT decisions – and waves of systems deployments. Multi-vendor and mixed-vendor environments are the norm in enterprise data centers – but most customers would prefer to see more unified views of all devices under management. While many have installed software-defined storage and servers – most have not yet adopted software-defined networks.

That’s why we see Redfish APIs a practical step toward SDI – especially for enterprise customers with large heterogeneous, multi-vendor installations.

Redfish offers a standardized way to address scalable hardware from a wide variety of vendors. Just as important is its growing ecosystem, as it is adopted by a large and growing group of vendors. To keep this multi-vendor technology effort moving along, the Redfish APIs are being managed by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) through its Scalable Platforms Management Forum (SPMF).

 

How the Technology Works           

Here’s how the technology  works:  Built on RESTful APIs, and leveraging JSON, Redfish is a secure, multi-node-capable replacement for IPMI-over-LAN links. It manages servers, storage, network interfaces, switching, software and firmware update services. This presents a wide range of data center devices that can be managed via the Redfish interfaces.

It’s important to note that standards efforts often fail if there is not enough buy-in by the vendors working to implement those standards. However, we’re finding that Redfish is drawing support from a broad array of hardware and software vendors.

 

What's New

A flurry of Redfish announcements came in August, 2016. Following that, there was, indeed, a long silent period. But in January, 2017,  a Host Interface Specification was added to the existing TCP/IP-based out-of-band Redfish standard. The new specification was expanded to allow applications and tools running on an Operating System to communicate with the Redfish management service.

If we were to take a snapshot of the development process, we would see that it has matured since 2015. Now, a parallel project called Swordfish, being developed by SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) members, is focused on storage management. Swordfish is designed make it easier to integrate scalable solutions into their hyperscale and cloud data centers. Because Swordfish is an extension of Redfish, it uses the same RESTful interfaces and JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) to seamlessly manage storage equipment and storage services, in addition to servers.

 

A Pragmatic Solution for Hybrid Clouds

In our view, the DMTF’s decision to support RESTful APIs is a pragmatic approach for customers, who won’t have to throw out familiar software tools in order to build unified views of all devices under management. For customers, the important thing is that Redfish can be used within enterprise data centers – and across hybrid clouds spanning multiple data centers and CSP public clouds.

It will fit with RESTful APIs and JSON, which are already widely adopted by data centers. Importantly, a growing group of hardware and software vendors already support Redfish. This group includes: American Megatrends, Broadcom, Cisco, Dell EMC, Ericsson AB, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Huawei, IBM, Insyde, Inspur, Intel, Lenovo, Mellanox, Microsemi, Microsoft, NetApp, Oracle, OSIsoft, Quanta, Supermicro, Vertiv, VMware and Western Digital.

Clearly, there is more work to be done, and more “pieces” to solve the interop puzzle need to be put in place. The fact that Redfish is being supported by many companies – and that some of them are direct competitors – is a good sign for wider adoption.

The reason for their cooperation: interoperability is table stakes for SDI.

 

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Bozman HeadshotJean S. Bozman is a seasoned industry analyst with more than 20 years of experience as a consultant and industry analyst focused on the worldwide IT markets for databases, servers, storage and software. Jean's full bio

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