Redfish, RESTful and x-UEFI: Modern Data Center Firmware

Look, I get it … the cloud sounds cooler than firmware. But today’s data center isn’t very cool if it can’t be easily managed, and modern firmware is designed to simplify server management.

Data center management: It ain’t what it used to be

The problem with the cloud is that it’s someone else’s computer … unless you do security badly, then the cloud is everyone else’s computer. In reality the cloud is lots of computers, and that someone else is a weary IT administrator. Cloud admins have hundreds of systems that require proper configuration and consistent deployment. Firmware may be an afterthought in modern data center, or at least a forgotten element, since the classic stand-alone server has been replaced with racks upon racks of headless computers.

Redfish*: Not just for Dr. Seuss

Modern firmware using UEFI has features designed for this data center scenario, which isn’t compatible with the classic “Press <DEL> to Enter Setup” BIOS configuration mindset. Fortunately, UEFI plays well with other standards designed for remote configuration.

Designed to meet the expectations of end users for simple, modern and secure management of scalable platform hardware, the DMTF’s Redfish is an open industry standard specification and schema that specifies a RESTful interface and utilizes JSON and OData to help customers integrate solutions within their existing tool chains.
dmtf.org/standards/redfish

 

Redfish is pretty powerful on it’s own, but it’s even better when combined with UEFI. Out-of-band management devices can use the RESTful API for Servers to configure platform firmware. HPE has shown examples combining Redfish with UEFI HII to script pre-boot settings in firmware setup, rather than force data center admins to provision systems by hand.

HPE Redfish example for data center management

x-UEFI: No mutant powers required

One of the problems with machine-to-machine (M2M) configuration of UEFI setup is consistency when referencing variable names. UEFI supports multiple languages, so you don’t want a script referencing ‘UEFI Secure Boot’ to break if the system ships with Simplified Chinese as the default language. Fortunately, x-UEFI addresses this issue. The UEFI Specification defines x-UEFI as another platform language, designed as a HII namespace for M2M configuration.

x-UEFI example for data center configuration

The UEFI Forum maintains a standard namespace definition (x-UEFI-ns) for common platform settings. Vendors still have room to define proprietary, but a standardized namespace makes it easier to configure common options across a variety of platforms. This helps administrators deploy firmware manageability across data centers using standards like UEFI and the Redfish RESTful API.

Accelerating Firmware Development With UEFI Advanced Features (firmware.intel.com)

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