Hardware Platform Management (HPM) Overview

The Hardware Platform Management (HPM.x) specifications augment the Hardware Platform hpm2-348x232Management layer of three key PICMG platforms: AdvancedTCA (as defined by PICMG 3.0), AdvancedMC (AMC.0) and MicroTCA (MTCA.0).  The foundation HPM layer for those platforms is defined by hundreds of pages in the corresponding base and subsidiary specifications. PICMG Hardware Platform Management in this broad sense is a key ingredient enabling system performance monitoring, predictive maintenance, software upgrades in live systems, and event logging. The HPM layer also enables the construction of High Availability systems, where individual subsystem failures can be detected and repaired using redundant resources.

HPM.1, the IPM Controller Firmware Upgrade specification, was adopted in 2007 and defines firmware file formats and IPMI command protocols for updating the firmware in ATCA, AMC, and MicroTCA management controllers (which are generically referenced as “HPM controllers” below).

HPM.2, the LAN-attached IPM Controller specification, standardizes methods for attaching management controllers to in-shelf LANs (usually Ethernet).

HPM.3, the DHCP-assigned platform management parameters specification, defines how a DHCP server can be configured to assign HPM parameters, especially IP addresses, for use by the HPM layer, all on an implementation-independent basis. Both HPM.2 and HPM.3 were adopted in 2012.

In the context of the image above, HPM.1 is represented by the upgrade agent in the lower left corner; according to HPM.1, it can communicate via a Shelf Manager with any of the listed management controller types to deliver relevant upgrade images for installation on those controllers.  HPM.2 adds standardized ways to those controllers to connect directly with an in-shelf LAN (shown in the figure with dashed red line); these connections allow an HPM.1 upgrade agent to communicate directly with any LAN-attached controllers, bypassing its owning Shelf Manager.  The direct connections facilitate additional applications, including serial over LAN, IPMI message tracing, and general communication with system managers and network clients, all as shown in the figure.  HPM.3 provides a standardized DHCP-based paradigm for automatic assignment of IP addresses (and other parameters) to enable all this communication.

All the HPM.x specifications use the term “IPM Controller” to refer generically to any type of HPM controller, including the base controllers of ATCA, with that same name, but also AdvancedMC Carrier IPMCs and Module Management Controllers (MMCs) and MicroTCA’s Carrier Managers, MicroTCA Carrier Management Controllers (MCMCs) and Extended MMCs (EMMCs).  Shelf Managers include an IPM Controller core and that HPM.x term applies there, as well.

Key Benefits and Features

HPM.1 (management controller firmware upgrades):

  • Implementation-independent firmware upgrade infrastructure for all HPM controllers
  • Upgrade images tagged with the type of the targeted management controllers, enabling upgrades of heterogeneous configurations
  • Supports back up firmware copies and automatic rollbacks for upgrade resiliency
  • Implemented by most HPM management controllers, with upgrade agent in widely used open source ipmitool

 HPM.2 (LAN-attached management controllers):       

  • Provides much higher speed LAN (usually Ethernet) connection for management traffic, complementing IPMB
  • In broadly applicable configurations, takes advantage of widely implemented sideband connections with network controllers to multiplex management traffic onto existing payload-oriented LAN fabrics
  • Enables order of magnitude performance upgrades for HPM.1 firmware upgrades
  • Supports IPMI’s serial over LAN (SOL) architecture for remote access to serial dialogue traffic, with extensions enabling up to 255 physical serial ports per board, with up to 15 accessible at a time via SOL
  • Provides IPMI messaging trace facility to ease visibility of IPMI traffic for diagnostic purposes
  • Potentially allows substantial portion of IPMB messaging to use LAN transport, instead, with possible performance benefits for HPM layer, overall, as HPM.2 support becomes broad and deep
  • Provides a standard discovery mechanism for acquiring information about the physical interfaces used by an IPM Controller to attach itself to the in-shelf LAN(s).
  • Provides a mechanism for IPM Controller-managed failovers between redundant LAN connections.

HPM.3 (DHCP-assigned platform management parameters specification)

  • Complements HPM.2 by standardizing ways to use DHCP to assign IP addresses and other parameters for LAN-attached management controllers
  • Allows controllers to fetch parameters directly from DHCP server or rely on proxies (e.g. a Shelf Manager) to do the fetching
  • Associates IP addresses and other parameters with board or module slot locations, so that the same parameters can be assigned to a particular geographic slot location, independent of the specific board or module occupying that slot, simplifying address assignment configuration

Family of Specifications

DHCP-assigned Platform Management Parameters
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description

DHCP-assigned Platform Management Parameters

LAN-attached IPM Controller
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description

LAN-attached IPM Controller

IPM Controller Firmware Upgrade
PICMG# Name Current Revision Date Description

IPM Controller Firmware Upgrade

Target Applications

  • HPM.x specifications define horizontal facilities and are applicable to any industry/application using  ATCA, AMCs, or MicroTCA

System Requirements

The overall format of HPM.1 upgrade images is standardized, but the detailed content of the upgrade images is defined by the IPM Controller implementer, who is responsible for providing a tool that creates upgrade images compatible with the IPM Controller implementation. An HPM.1-compliant, but implementation-independent upgrade agent can deliver arbitrary upgrade images to corresponding IPM Controllers. 

HPM.2 LAN-attached IPM Controllers can take advantage of network controllers that support a sideband interface to the management controller, allowing the management controller to share the network link(s) with the main network traffic. Such network controllers are not required to implement LAN-attached IPM Controllers, but they are often an effective way to do so. One open standard for sideband interfaces is the Network Controller Sideband Interface (NC-SI), which is basically a 10/100 Mbit Ethernet interface. In addition to a LAN attach mechanism, HPM.2 management controllers can maximize the benefits of HPM.2 if they and the boards they manage implement extended inactive state management, which enables the LAN attach function to operate in non-active states of those boards, potentially enabling diagnostic visibility for a remote LAN client during critical board startup and shutdown periods. 

Each HPM.2 LAN-attached IPM Controller must have one or more Internet Protocol (IP) address(es) in order to communicate over the attached LAN. HPM.3 provides an optional set of conventions for using the Distributed Host Control Protocol (DHCP) to assign those IP addresses (potentially along with other related parameters). The HPM.3 approach assigns addresses for a board or module on the basis of a geographic address for the board or module, say its HPM-defined shelf address, plus a slot address within that designated shelf. Under this approach, IP addresses for a given physical location are assigned independent of the specifics of the board or module that is installed at that location, or even the manufacturer of that unit. 

HPM.1, HPM.2 and HPM.3 all provide implementation-independent solutions for specific problems faced by ATCA, AMC, and MicroTCA architecture implementers. Compliance and interoperability testing for implementations of these specifications is very important. One valuable resource for such testing is the test suites offered by Polaris Networks, including ATCA Tester, AMC Tester and MicroTCA Tester.