Eric Schrock's Blog

Solaris platform integration – libipmi

March 17, 2007

As I continue down the path of improving various aspects of ZFS and Solaris platform integration, I found myself in the thumper (x4500) fmd platform module. This module represents the latest attempt at Solaris platform integration, and an indication of where we are headed in the future.

When I say “platform integration”, this is more involved than the platform support most people typically think of. The platform teams make sure that the system boots and that all the hardware is supported properly by Solaris (drivers, etc). Thanks to the FMA effort, platform teams must also deliver a FMA portfolio which covers FMA support for all the hardware and a unified serviceability plan. Unfortunately, there is still more work to be done beyond this, of which the most important is interacting with hardware in response to OS-visible events. This includes ability to light LEDs in response to faults and device hotplug, as well as monitoring the service processor and keeping external FRU information up to date.

The sfx4500-disk module is the latest attempt at providing this functionality. It does the job, but is afflicted by the same problems that often plague platform integration attempts. It’s overcomplicated, monolithic, and much of what it does should be generic Solaris functionality. Among the things this module does:

  • Reads SMART data from disks and creates ereports
  • Diagnoses ereports into corresponding disk faults
  • Implements an IPMI interface directly on top of /dev/bmc
  • Responds to disk faults by turning on the appropriate ‘fault’ disk LED
  • Listens for hotplug and DR events, updating the ‘ok2rm’ and ‘present’ LEDs
  • Updates SP-controlled FRU information
  • Monitors the service process for resets and resyncs necessary information

Needless to say, every single item on the above list is applicable to a wide variety of Sun platforms, not just the x4500, and it certainly doesn’t need to be in a single monolithic module. This is not meant to be a slight against the authors of the module. As with most platform integration activities, this effort wasn’t communicated by the hardware team until far too late, resulting in an unrealistic schedule with millions of dollars of revenue behind it. It doesn’t help that all these features need to be supported on Solaris 10, making the schedule pressure all the more acute, since the code must soak in Nevada and then be backported in time for the product release. In these environments even the most fervent pleas for architectural purity tend to fall on deaf ears, and the engineers doing the work quickly find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

As I was wandering through this code and thinking about how this would interact with ZFS and future Sun products, it became clear that it needed a massive overhaul. More specifically, it needed to be burned to the ground and rebuilt as a set of distinct, general purpose, components. Since refactoring 12,000 lines of code with such a variety of different functions is non-trivial and difficult to test, I began by factoring out different pieces individually, redesigning the interfaces and re-integrating them into Solaris on a piece-by-piece basis.

Of all the functionality provided by the module, the easiest thing to separate was the IPMI logic. The Intelligent Platform Management Interface is a specification for communicating with service Pprocessors to discover and control available hardware. Sadly, it’s anything but “intelligent”. If you had asked me a year ago what I’d be doing at the beginning of this year, I’m pretty sure that reading the IPMI specification would have been at the bottom of my list (right below driving stakes through my eyeballs). Thankfully, the IPMI functionality needed was very small, and the best choice was a minimally functional private library, designed solely for the purpose of communicating with the Service Processor on supported Sun platforms. Existing libraries such as OpenIPMI were too complicated, and in their efforts to present a generic abstracted interface, didn’t provide what we really needed. The design goals are different, and the ON-private IPMI library and OpenIPMI will continue to develop and serve different purposes in the future.

Last week I finally integrated libipmi. In the process, I eliminated 2,000 lines of platform-specific code and created a common interface that can be leveraged by other FMA efforts and future projects. It is provided for both x86 and SPARC, even though there are currently no supported SPARC machines with an IPMI-capable service processor (this is being worked on). This library is private and evolving quite rapidly, so don’t use it in any non-ON software unless you’re prepared to keep up with a changing API.

As part of this work, I also created a common fmd module, sp-monitor, that monitors the service processor, if present, and generates a new ESC_PLATFORM_RESET sysevent to notify consumers when the service processor is reset. The existing sfx4500-disk module then consumes this sysevent instead of monitoring the service processor directly.

This is the first of many steps towards eliminating this module in its current form, as well as laying groundwork for future platform integration work. I’ll post updates to this blog with information about generic disk monitoring, libtopo indicators, and generic hotplug management as I add this functionality. The eventual goal is to reduce the platform-specific portion of this module to a single .xml file delivered via libtopo that all these generic consumers will use to provide the same functionality that’s present on the x4500 today. Only at this point can we start looking towards future applications, some of which I will describe in upcoming posts.

2 Responses

  1. This library is private and evolving quite rapidly, so don’t don’t use it in any non-ON software unless you’re prepared to keep up with a changing API.

    When do you expect that API stability will reach status “stable”, and that there will be public interfaces?

    Although I suspect that your schedule is very tight and the pipeline full, please continue writing on your blog. It is details like these about what happens behind the scenes that help us customers understand the whys and hows, and empower us to make informed decisions about Sun’s technology and our own companies’ future strategy.

    The most important thing that blogs such as yours do though, is give a human face to the most excellent engineers behind Solaris and promote the product more than any marketing strategy ever did.

  2. As the original author of this module, I underscore your comments about the short time frame in which the module had to be delivered. That, coupled with internal resource issues conspired to force a short-term solution. Thanks for picking up where I left off.

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