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When regarding server management, IPMI is one of the most commonly used acronyms. It has become a standard monitoring interface used by both hardware vendors and developers. Put simply, it is a hardware-based solution used for securing, controlling, and managing servers.
What is IPMI?
IPMI (i.e. Intelligent Platform Management Interface) is a set of standardized specifications for hardware-based platform management systems that provide management and monitoring capabilities independently of the host's CPU, firmware (BIOS or UEFI), and operating system. You can use it to connect to the server over IP, KVM over IP to be more exact.
Nowadays, nearly all of the modern servers have this technology built into the motherboard, however, it could also be added as an extra module to the older servers that do not come with it.
IPMI can be configured through BIOS or UEFI, however, please note that to do so you will need to have an IP and the default username and password. When the server is out of the main network, it can be monitored and controlled with the help of IPMI. There are multiple methods that can be used to manage a server over IPMI. They include web access or special applications such as IPMI VIEW, FREEIPMI, and OPEN IPMI.
Features and Components of IPMI
The following features help with monitoring the servers:
- A Baseboard Management Controller – This is the micro-controller component central to the functions of an IPMI.
- Intelligent Chassis Management Bus – An interface protocol that supports communication across chasses.
- Intelligent Platform Management Bus – A communication protocol that facilitates communication between controllers.
- IPMI Memory – The memory is a repository for an IPMI sensor’s data records and system event logs.
- Authentication Features – This supports the process of authenticating users and establishing sessions.
- Communications Interfaces – These interfaces define how IPMI messages send. IPMI sends messages via a direct-out-of-band local-area network or a sideband local-area network. IPMI communicates through virtual local-area networks.
Versions of Intelligent Platform Management Interface
Here are the different versions of IPMI available and what each one adds on to the previous version. So far there have been three official releases of IPMI: 1, 1.5, and 2. There were many significant improvements done across the new releases, however, this is how they could be best summarized:
- v1.0 - released in late 1998
- v1.5 - published in March 2001; added features including IPMI over LAN, IPMI over Serial/Modem, and LAN Alerting
- v2.0 - published in February 2004; added features including Serial over LAN, Group Management Systems, Enhanced Authentication, Firmware, Firewall, and VLAN Support
- v2.0 revision 1.1 - published in February 2014; amended for errata, clarifications, and addenda, plus the addition of support for IPv6 addressing
- v2.0 revision 1.1 Errata 7 - published in April 2015; amended for errata, clarifications, and addenda
What exactly can be done with IPMI?
With the help of IPMI, we can perform the following actions and much more, completely remotely, even if the server is turned off (i.e. if it has electricity and internet supplied to it):
- Server console management
- Startup or shut down the server
- Do a server reboot
- Read information from the sensors (i.e. fan speed, CPU temperature, etc.)
The Advantages of Using this Solution
The bread-winning value of this technology is the ability to manage many machines in different physical locations. Other monitoring tools simply cannot monitor and manage systems regardless of the machines’ operating systems; IPMI can as it is configured through BIOS or UEFI.
This solution also allows for predictive monitoring which helps reduce downtime in an event of a malfunction. IPMI tracks the status of a server and provides advanced warnings about possible system failures. IPMI monitors predefined thresholds and provides alerts when exceeded.
Intelligent Platform Management Interface does not require an agent to manage a server’s OS. It not needing the admin to log in or seek permission from the server’s operating system allows for adjusting settings while only working with BIOS or UEFI.
There are also other similar technologies available with different names, depending on the hardware manufacturer and sometimes even with different options. For example, HP products use ILO technology, which is similar to IPMI. Regardless, we hope you are now more familiar with IPMI and why it is so important to have in servers. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below.