We too often talk about the internet of things in the abstract, much the same way we started talking about the cloud when most of the world really had no idea what the cloud was or what made it possible. The reality is incredibly complex: IoT requires millions of devices from countless manufacturers to be equipped with increased intelligence and communications capabilities, and for all of those devices to speak the same language.
It’s not enough to build equipment capable of capturing, transmitting and receiving data. All of that equipment, regardless of who makes it or where, must speak a universal language. In the data center, more and more that language is Redfish, a specification designed to allow all data center equipment to communicate on a common, open and extensible platform. This is critical, because without this shared language, any form of management (DCIM, BMS and so forth) is going to be fractured, difficult to integrate and not as effective as it should be.
Since its introduction about 3½ years ago, the Redfish specification has gradually replaced IPMI, SNMP, Modbus, BACnet and other older, clunky and non-secure protocols, and expanded from servers to other IT-related equipment. Now, Redfish is starting to move into critical infrastructure to enable more effective, secure remote management of those systems, as well as participation in the larger IoT ecosystem. With Redfish ubiquitous across all devices, those devices can be incorporated seamlessly into a management architecture (DCIM, DMaaS or IIoT).
Vertiv worked with Dell, HP and Intel to develop Redfish, and introduction in servers was the natural first step. Gradual expansion into other IT systems and the critical infrastructure was the vision from the beginning — enabling easier, holistic management of the entire data center. We are in the process of making that vision a reality, but it will take time.
To bridge between now and a not-too-distant future when everything in the data center speaks Redfish, gateways are required to enable the management layer to operate more autonomously and relieve the burden of the many independent protocols and devices. Simply put, gateways act as translators between legacy protocols and Redfish-enabled devices and management systems. Eventually we will live in a world where all data center equipment is Redfish-enabled, but for now gateways are the key to effective management.
Remember: This isn’t just the data center in the traditional sense. It’s edge facilities, IT closets, anything on the network. Redfish is making all of it IoT-ready, enabling easier connections, two-way communication and management. It’s an important step toward a fully software-defined network.
When will we get there? Activity is high on many fronts. The DCIM working group with the Distributed Management Task Force started work on Redfish standards late last year. Feedback on works in progress is ongoing, but vendors are racing ahead of the evolving standard with plans to circle back to make modifications. What’s next? The first version of the standard could be introduced at any time, and that will trigger a wave of Redfish-enabled critical infrastructure equipment. Forward-thinking data center managers should consider infrastructure investment accordingly, and deploy gateways to bridge this gap between existing equipment and fully Redfish-enabled future.
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