unBIOSed? Is Redfish an IPMI retread or can vendors find unification?

Server management interfaces stink.  They are inconsistent both between vendors and within their own product suites.  Ideally, Vendors would agree on a single API; however, it’s not clear if the diversity is a product of competition or actual platform variation.  Likely, it’s both.

From RedFish SiteWhat is Redfish?  It’s a REST API for server configuration that aims to replace both IPMI and vendor specific server interfaces (like WSMAN).  Here’s the official text from RedfishSpecification.org.

Redfish is a modern intelligent [server] manageability interface and lightweight data model specification that is scalable, discoverable and extensible.  Redfish is suitable for a multitude of end-users, from the datacenter operator to an enterprise management console.

I think that it’s great to see vendors trying to get on the same page and I’m optimistic that we could get something better than IPMI (that’s a very low bar).  However, I don’t expect that vendors can converge to a single API; it’s just not practical due to release times and pressures to expose special features.  I think the divergence in APIs is due both to competitive pressures and to real variance between platforms.

Even if we manage to a grand server management unification; the problem of interface heterogeneity has a long legacy tail.

In the best case reality, we’re going from N versions to N+1 (and likely N*2) versions because the legacy gear is still around for a long time.  Adding Redfish means API sprawl is going to get worse until it gets back to being about the same as it is now.

Putting pessimism aside, the sprawl problem is severe enough that it’s worth supporting Redfish on the hope that it makes things better.

That’s easy to say, but expensive to do.  If I was making hardware (I left Dell in Oct 2014), I’d consider it an expensive investment for an uncertain return.  Even so, several major hardware players are stepping forward to help standardize.  I think Redfish would have good ROI for smaller vendors looking to displace a major player can ride on the standard.

Redfish is GREAT NEWS for me since RackN/Crowbar provides hardware abstraction and heterogeneous interface support.  More API variation makes my work more valuable.

One final note: if Redfish improves hardware security in a real way then it could be a game changer; however, embedded firmware web servers can be tricky to secure and patch compared to larger application focused software stacks.  This is one area what I’m hoping to see a lot of vendor collaboration!  [note: this should be it’s own subject – the security issue is more than API, it’s about system wide configuration.  stay tuned!]

OpenStack Day 2 Aspiration: Dreaming & Breathing

Between partnering meetings, I bounced through biz and tech sessions during Day 2 of the OpenStack conference (day 1 notes).   After my impression summary, I’m including some succinct impressions, pictures, and copies of presentations by my Dell team-mates Greg Althaus & Brent Douglas.

Clouds on the road to Bexar
My overwhelming impression is a healthy tension between aspirational* and practical discussions.  The community appetite for big broad and bodacious features is understandably high: cloud seems on track as a solution for IT problems but there are is still an impedance mismatch between current apps and cloud capabilities.
As service providers ASPire to address these issues, some OpenStack blue print discussions tended to digress towards more forward-looking or long-term designs.  However, watching the crowd, there was also a quietly heads down and pragmatic audience ready to act and implement.  For this action focused group, delivering working a cloud was the top priority.  The Rackers and Nebuliziers have product to deploy and will not be distracted from the immediate concerns of living, breathing shippable code.
I find the tension between dreaming aspiration (cloud futures) and breathing aspiration (cloud delivery) necessary to the vitality of OpenStack.
[Day 3 update, these coders are holding the floor.  People who are coding have moved into the front seats of the fishbowl and the process is working very nicely.]
Specific Comments (sorry, not linking everything):
  • Cloud networking is a mess and there is substantial opportunity for innovation here.  Nicira was making an impression talking about how Open vSwitch and OpenFlow could address this at the edge switches.  interesting,  but messy.
  • I was happy with our (Dell’s) presentations: real clouds today (Bexas111010DataCenterChanges) and what to deploy on (Bexar111010OpenStackOnDCS).
  • SheepDog was presented as a way to handle block storage.  Not an iSCSI solution, works directly w/ KVM.  Strikes me as too limiting – I’d rather see just using iSCSI.  We talked about GlusterFS or Ceph (NewDream).  This area needs a lot of work to catch up with Amazon EBS.  Unfortunately, persisting data on VM “local” disks is still the dominate paradigm.
  • Discussions about how to scale drifted towards aspirational.
  • Scalr did a side presentation about automating failover.
  • Discussion about migration from Eucalyptus to OpenStack got side tracked with aspirations for a “hot” migration.  Ultimately, the differences between network was a problem.  The practical issue is discovering the meta data – host info not entirely available from the API.
  • Talked about an API for cloud networking.  This blue print was heavily attended and messy.  The possible network topologies present too many challenges to describe easily.  Fundamentally, there seems consensus that the API should have a very very simple concept of connecting VM end points to a logical segment.  That approach leverages the accepted (but out dated) VLAN semantic, but implementation will have to be topology aware.  ouch!
  • Day 3 topic Live migration: Big crowd arguing with bated breath about this.  The summary “show us how to do it without shared storage THEN we’ll talk about the API.”
Executive Tweet:  #OpenStack getting to down business.  Big dreams.  Real problems.  Delivering Code.
Note: I nominate Aspirational for 2010 buzzword of the year.

Greg PresentingBig Crowd on Day 1