“Facebook really challenged the notion of gratuitous differentiation for rack management,” Crawford says. “There’s a huge industry need for talking to our data centers at a level above IPMI,” the intelligent platform management interface that’s been the norm for out-of-band management of servers.
Crusading for ‘Open’
Note that Crawford doesn’t consider differentiation to be a good thing. It leads to proprietary hooks that lock customers into one vendor’s gear — which is what’s happened to IPMI. Dell Remote Access Controller and the HP Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) offering are two examples of incompatible rack management.
“When Facebook started Open Compute, they started it as Project Freedom, which literally means freedom from Dell and HP,” Crawford says. This wasn’t out of spite, but out of the complexity of a webscale data center; Facebook wanted a common management framework even if it ended up buying from different vendors.
To reintroduce openness to out-of-band management, the Redfish specification was launched last year by Dell, Emerson Network Power, HP, and Intel. But Redfish has wiggle room for proprietary versions as well, Crawford says.
“That’s part of why we’re giving the code away under the GPL license,” Crawford says of Open MistOS. “That basically eliminates a lot of the gratuitous differentiation you see today in other products like OpenStack.”
Rack management includes activities such as monitoring servers for overheating or fan failures; it also includes operating on computers where the OS isn’t loaded yet or has failed. (That’s where the “out-of-band” part becomes important.)
IPMI does those things, but it harkens back to the ancient 1990s.
“It was designed to be a one-to-one relationship between a server and a user, back when you may have had 1,000 servers in your data center, and that was a lot,” Crawford says.
The webscale environment calls for something more abstracted. “Certainly in the world to come, which is going to be 40 [billion] to 50 billion connected devices by 2050, we need to move. We need to move off of a high-touch, high-cost environment.”
Redfish is an attempt at tackling that problem, and now, so is MistOS.
Vapor IO announced its presence in March, when its Open Data Center Runtime Environment (DCRE) was accepted into the Open Compute Project. Vapor IO is not doing the same with MistOS, because the startup wants to stay in charge of maintaining the code, at least for now, Crawford says.