What Is IPMI And Why You Should Care



Ensuring server hardware runs optimally and is carefully maintained can be tricky. Even if you’re an experienced server administrator, it’s likely that you’ll face challenges monitoring the status of your company’s servers effectively. And there’s nothing worse than damaging this expensive hardware and losing the company’s valuable data from overheating due to lack of foresight.

So how do you avoid such an unfortunate outcome without breaking the bank and losing your sanity? Well, one of the best ways to manage and monitor your servers is with IPMI, which we’ll discuss in detail below.


An Overview Of IPMI

Briefly, IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) is a set of standardized specifications for hardware-based platform management systems making it possible to control and monitor servers centrally. The primary functions of such management systems are to monitor hardware temperatures and power consumption, initiate boot up and shut down, and log all event states of the servers.

IPMI has become an industry standard and was originally developed by Intel in cooperation with Dell, Hewlett Packard, and NEC.


What Is IPMI And What Are Its Key Benefits?

We’ve already established that IPMI is a hardware solution for controlling and managing your servers, but we must stress that it offers significant differences and benefits to that of system diagnosis software. One of these differences is its ability to manage servers in various remote physical locations regardless of the operating systems installed on these. Firmware running on the server motherboards makes this possible and allows for one-click management directly from the client portal.

Several IPMI key benefits:

  • It’s a universal standard supported by the majority of hardware vendors.
  • It constantly monitors server health and issues warnings of possible system failures in advance.
  • IPMI acts independently of the server and is always accessible.
  • Configuration changes are simple with just a basic PC setup.
  • Enables user to access and make BIOS changes without SSH login or operating system access.
  • Server recovery is possible regardless of its state, even if it’s switched off.
  • Servers are managed without the need for any onsite staff.


Main IPMI Features and Components

By design, IPMI strives for a software-neutral approach while functioning independently from a server’s BIOS, CPU, and operating system. This may seem like some form of high magic, but the secret sauce behind IPMI’s success and versatility is its ability to execute the following four features effectively:

  • Monitor and supervise servers
  • Recover and restart servers
  • Log server states
  • List all server inventory


However, none of this would be possible without the following key components:

  • Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) – A micro-controller that’s a central and essential component of any IPMI.
  • Intelligent Chassis Management Bus (ICMB) – An interface that allows communication from one chassis to another.
  • Intelligent Platform Management Bus (IPMB) – Extends the BMC with management controllers while complying with IPMB communications protocol.
  • IPMI Memory – The IPMI’s Sensor Data Record, System Event Log, Field Replaceable Units, and Repository store data.
  • Communications Interfaces – These consist of local system interfaces, serial interface, LAN interface, ICMB and PCI Management Bus.


Differences Between IPMI v1.5 & v2.0 Specifications

The IPMI specification has undergone several updates since version 1.0 with various important additions made for v1.5 and v2.0 that we’ve listed here:

IPMI v1.5

  • Boot Options
  • Alert Policies
  • Serial Port Sharing
  • Serial Messaging and Alerting
  • LAN Messaging and Alerting
  • Platform Event Filtering (PEF)
  • Extended BMC Messaging in Channel Mode
  • Additional Sensor and Event Types

IPMI v2.0

  • Firmware Firewall
  • SMBus System Interface
  • Serial Over LAN
  • VLAN Support
  • Encryption Support
  • Extended User Login Options
  • Enhanced Authentication
  • Standardized and OEM-specific Payload Types


How IPMI Is Accessed Through Your Core Client Portal

Accessing your IPMI manager is a relatively simple process, but we recommend IPMI v2.0 since it has more defined protocols maximizing administrative control of your servers. Once you connect to the IPMI manager via LAN or the internet, the manager utilizes IPMI over IP to connect with the BMC on the server motherboard. Then, the BMC uses the system bus to connect with the BIOS, CPU, OS, power supply, and sensors allowing the administration of CPU speeds, fan speeds, voltages, temperatures, event log, and rebooting of the server.


Final Thoughts

System administrators no longer need to stress about the status of their server hardware with an IPMI in place. Moreover, it makes sense for companies to invest in IPMIs as this reduces the need for onsite staff in their server rooms, resulting in reduced overhead costs.


Zenlayer’s dedicated servers come with IPMI capabilities. To discuss your IPMI needs, contact a Zenlayer expert today.


  1. Christian A Buerger on July 17, 2018 at 9:10 AM

    What are your thoughts on DMTF RedFish vis a vie IPMI?

    • Jay on November 10, 2018 at 9:40 AM

      Redfish as yet is not ubiquitous, and where implemented, it’s currently usually flaky and slow.

      One challenge is that the specification in several places is intentionally open ended, making it difficult to write commands in a way that will work across multiple vendors.

      On the flip side, redfish does allow for representing more sorts of data, for example complex information about adapter firmware.

      Security is a mixed bag. Ipmi uses a shared secret for security, which means it isn’t vulnerable to cert spoofing/sniffing or quantum attacks. On the flip side, ipmi cannot be used with ldap and worse the server sends challenge first, so there’s no protection for offline crack attacks and ipmi passwords must be impossibly human hostile to be safe enough for ipmi.

  2. Chris on September 25, 2018 at 6:28 AM

    Hello, thanks for your article, what are the issues with security allowing external access to the server through IPMI ?

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