RackN Digital Rebar is a single API that orchestrates everything in your data center, regardless of vendor. Our production-proven automation platform currently powers global enterprise data centers. However, it is designed to shrink down to manage distributed edge sites.
Digital Rebar is the Missing Infrastructure Automation Layer
The standardized best practices built into the Digital Rebar Platform enable the creation of consistent, portable processes.
What is Digital Rebar?
Digital Rebar is self-contained software that runs entirely inside your network. The extensible architecture pulls reusable modules from the our IaC catalog. This allows you to plug in API-integrations & user-extendable workflows that orchestrate multi-vendor infrastructure, giving you cloud-like flexibility. All together, Digital Rebar creates a single control API for your bare metal, virtual, and cloud infrastructure.
How does Digital Rebar work?
Digital Rebar combines a multi-protocol API manager with an agent/server orchestration platform [video]. It is written in Golang and provides a RESTful API for tracking infrastructure state. This can be extended with dynamic template rendering and binary plugins.
Digital Rebar Server hosts workflows that coordinate provisioning and integration activities.
Digital Rebar Agent is a cross-platform command runner to manage local system operations.
Unique Features of Digital Rebar
We combined Infrastructure as Code and multi-site workflow orchestration with a vendor-agnostic provisioning abstraction. Digital Rebar automates the full life-cycle of systems from the first bare metal boot through cluster building and cloud deployments.
Run your own control plane and keep your secrets and data safe.
As self-managed software, operators never open their networks or share their credentials or data with RackN.
Our modular design allows private IaC additions to stay within corporate boundaries.
Keep your options open with a modular architecture.
The Digital Rebar solution starts with the expectation that every system in an infrastructure will have different requirements, operating systems, and protocols. This helps you prevent vendor lock-in.
This focus on multi-vendor integration means you can keep supporting legacy platforms and tools while adding cloud-native IaC and API-driven processes.
Automate your IT infrastructure. The processes you need are built into the platform.
Operating Systems & Provisioning
Install and provision operating systems.
- Utility Libraries
- Universal Workflow
- Media Attach Based Bootstrap (boot without PXE)
- Classification & Validation
- Linux (Centos, RHEL, Ubuntu, BSD, Thin O/Ses, etc.)
- VMware ESXi, VMware Cloud Builder
- Image Deploy and Builder
- Windows Server
- Standardized NIC configuration
Use the extensive catalog of operating systems and provisioning operations that are built in to Digital Rebar.
Hardware Lifecycle & Firmware Management
Manage bare metal servers and firmware.
Automate beyond physical infrastructure!
Digital Rebar Feature Details
The following sections provide detailed descriptions about Digital Rebar features.
The processes you need to automate your entire infrastructure are core capabilities built into the Digital Rebar platform.
Digital Rebar Platform Features
Digital Rebar Platform (DRP) Service, CLI and Agent
The core DRP service runs as a single binary for the Digital Rebar API. However, there are also client components that are distributed with the service. The CLI and Agent (both available in the DRPCLI binary) interface with the core service to provide workflow and machine management.
Secure Hardware enables Machines to use secure components during network boot provisioning process. This is required for signed operating systems that use the trusted platform module (TPM) available in most server platforms.
Note: additional secure components are required for VMware ESXi secure install.
Single Sign On (SSO)
Allows operators to delegate user sign on to an external system, such as Active Directory, instead of using the integrated authentication system.
Automation Chains / Server Workflow Contexts
Contexts extend workflows to run from the Digital Rebar Server (or other external service) instead of a machine. This extends automation chaining capabilities to manage any type of device. Device types range from a switch, storage, or sensor to a complete platform as part of a normal infrastructure as code (IaC) workflow.
One important benefit of Contexts is that they leverage a device’s own APIs or CLIs running safely in containers used without specialized programming.
Role Based Access Control (RBAC) and Multi-Tenant
The fine-grained control provided by RBAC security is integrated into the user management API. Roles are defined with specific restrictions based on component, action, and data identifiers.
Multi-Tenant is an additional control beyond RBAC. Multi-tenant allows the partitioning of machines into resource groups that multiple users can access.
Pooling / Cloud API
Pooling abstracts Machines into resource groups that can be allocated generically from a single API, enabling cloud-like behavior. Operators can request a Machine based on an attribute map rather than assigning a specific Machine(s).
The Pooling system also provides operator Workflows for allocation and reallocation processes. Pooling is used to interface with Terraform, ClusterAPI, and other clients that expect cloud-like behavior.
Digital Rebar Multi-Site Manager / Distributed Control Plane
A distributed management system connects multiple Digital Rebar sites in a federated way. Each site retains autonomous control over its own resources. At the same time, sites provide multiple single-pane-of-class management mirrors that get updates and delegate requests.
In addition to providing a view, Digital Rebar managers ensure that distributed sites synchronize IaC components based on specialized content catalogs.
High Availability (HA)
Integrated High Availability (HA) clusters enable Digital Rebar endpoints to create a local redundancy grid in the event of a failure. This includes provisioning, DHCP and workflow state information. The HA system leverages Digital Rebar internal transaction support, meaning no external data synchronization is required.
Sensitive information is protected by internally encrypting select data to prevent the storage of cleartext secrets. This feature is deeply integrated into the Infrastructure as Code models and can be controlled discreetly per parameter.
Digital Rebar supports multiple Ansible integration strategies to protect your investment in Ansible Playbooks.
- Digital Rebar API as a dynamic inventory source
- Tasks for running local plays during Digital Rebar workflow
- Running Ansible Playbooks on the Digital Rebar Server using the context system.
Customers may find that these options completely eliminate the need for Ansible Tower.
NOTE: Digital Rebar operates completely behind your firewall. No control or provisioning traffic leaves your network.
The RackN portal is an in-browser application that provides a graphical user interface (aka UX) for the Digital Rebar API. After downloading the application from portal.rackn.io, the UX connects directly from the user’s browser to the Digital Rebar Server without transiting external networks.
The UX also provides download access for online assets such as the curated catalog, product alerts and news, license management, and documentation.
Since the UX connects directly to Digital Rebar Servers, no control or configuration data is stored by RackN. In this model, RackN is simply provides consistent HTTPS access to the “single page” React application.
In addition to providing basic navigation and views of the data, the UX uses web sockets (WSS) to provide event-driven live updates. This allows operators to watch provisioning operations in real time.
Digital Rebar Customized Views
The UX Plugin for Digital Rebar enhances the RackN UX by enabling operators to define special site, role and user based behaviors. The behaviors include custom menus, columns, filters and pages for the RackN UX.
As a plugin extending the Digital Rebar data model, operators can define and manage specialized filters, menu items and views using our Infrastructure as Code system.
The ability to override the UX menus and pages is especially powerful to restrict UX options for different classes of users.
For customers who want to avoid using the RackN portal or need an independent on-site backup UX, the RackN UX can be self-hosted from the Digital Rebar Server or any modern web server. This option allows customers to manage their own domain name and security certificate.
When self-hosting the UX, customers may choose to keep the RackN online integrations or disable them to eliminate external traffic (aka air-gap). Air-gap configurations require specialized deployment consideration and management.
Operating Systems & Provisioning
RackN maintains a comprehensive catalog of tooling for operating systems (O/Ses) and basic provisioning operations. Since Digital Rebar is designed to be an integrated platform, components are designed to be used together in a modular way.
Core Task Library
The Task Library contains the foundational workflow and management capabilities that are used by nearly every other catalog item. Features include basic inventory validation, cross-machine cluster operations, network discovery, SSH key creation, bootstrapping operations and code modules used by other items.
RackN has consolidated years of experience into a repeatable, multi-environment base workflow that includes network and hardware configuration steps. The Universal Workflow jumpstarts operators’ automation process by provisioning a consistent and validated process from first discovery to final deployment. It fits most environments out of the box.
Media Attach Based Bootstrap (no DHCP or PXE environments)
Media Attach Bootstrap can be used environments that cannot support PXE or DHCP. In this process, Digital Rebar connects the selected installation image to the server’s Redfish out-of-band management interface. This allows the bootstrap process to bypass network booting and/or DHCP requirements.
This is helpful for customers in restricted network environments or who consider PXE to be a security risk since Digital Rebar injects unique configuration details directly into the the attached media during bootstrap.
Classification & Validation
RackN supports multiple O/S classification and validation options to help customers map discovered infrastructure into automatic processes. These checks are easily added to other workflows for environmental verification or to dynamically adjust behaviors based on operator defined conditions. RackN is constantly expanding these libraries based on customer requests.
Image Deploy and Builders
RackN uses an “immutable install” process to bypass traditional netboot; instead, our process writes cloud-style or zipped system files directly to images. These O/S images can be generated by a CI/CD pipeline or captured from an installed system. Once captured, the RackN process copies the image to the target system and handles pre- and post-provisioning operations.
Our image deployment process is faster, more secure, and more resilient than traditional netboot options; however, it takes additional operational discipline and infrastructure to implement. We encourage customers to consider this process as a primary delivery mechanism.
Standardized NIC configuration
We integrate a RackN network interface card (NIC) configuration subproject known as Netwrangler. Netwrangler provides a standard schema for building complex operating system network interface configurations that is also consistent across-operating systems. This allows operators to define network topologies at an abstract level and makes it easier to repurpose systems across operating systems.
Linux (Centos, RHEL, Ubuntu, BSD, Thin O/Ses, etc)
RackN curates an open, deep, and expanding list of Linux operating system provisioning templates (known as BootEnvs). These templates integrate with the individual operating system netboot tooling and then hand off to Digital Rebar to complete the installation. While each OS is different, RackN has standardized these processes to provide a consistent experience that allows operators to easily change between operating systems,
Digital Rebar Sledgehammer, our discovery operating system, is based on Centos.
Digital Rebar for VMware ESXi and Cloud Builder
RackN has specialized install processes that support VMware ESXi installations in a wide range of environments. This includes firmware configuration, HCL validation, secure boot processes, post-install configuration, and using VLAN tagged networks. As a VMware ecosystem partner, RackN components for provisioning ESXi have been signed and approved as commercial add-ons.
Using our fully automated VMware ESXi installation process as a foundation, Digital Rebar is able to inject verified JSON host configurations into the VMware Cloud Foundation Cloud Builder. This allows operators to bootstrap Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) clusters without resorting to spreadsheets.
Digital Rebar for Windows Server
RackN supports Windows Server provisioning using the Image Deploy process above. Not only is the image process faster, it also resolves licensing and patching issues typically encountered during a Windows network bootstrap process.
Hardware Life Cycle & Firmware Management
There are special extensions that facilitate interfacing with servers.
Inventory Classification & Validation
Digital Rebar performs a deep hardware scan, known as “gohai,” as part of our default Workflows. This scan enables subsequent steps to incorporate specific hardware attributes into configuration processes such as understanding the drive speed and type of storage or layout of the system RAM. This data is available via the API and plugin extensions.
RackN also supports multiple hardware classification and validation options. This helps customers map discovered infrastructure into automated processes. These checks are easily added to other workflows for environmental verification. They can also be used dynamically adjust behaviors based on operator-defined conditions.
RackN is constantly expanding these libraries based on customer requests.
Out of Band (OoB) Management (BMC, IPMI, Redfish, etc)
Digital Rebar does not require access to out of band management interfaces. However, a wide range of industry and vendor specific protocols are supported. Supported protocols include IPMI, Redfish, Dell iDRAC, HP iLO, and Lenovo ILM. RackN maintains these integrations in the open ecosystem, and the list of supported OoB management platforms is constantly expanding.
Power controls are exposed using Object Action extensions. These extensions are controlled via the integrated RBAC controls. This allows operators to limit and delegate power controls for self-service or tenant restricted users.
RackN maintains a library of tasks for setting firmware on a wide range of systems. Firmware update processes are primarily performed “in-band” whenever systems are in the Discovery stage. This design allows RackN to leverage vendor tooling in a general and highly parallelized way.
Please request our Hardware Compatibility List for details.
RackN maintains a library of tasks for inventorying and configuring RAID on a wide range of systems. RAID update processes are primarily performed “in-band” whenever systems are in the Discovery stage. This design allows RackN to leverage vendor tooling in a general and highly parallelized way.
To normalize vendor features, Digital Rebar uses a RAID abstraction model that can be used to create both general and highly specialized RAID configurations.
Please request our Hardware Compatibility List for details.
RackN maintains a library of tasks for inventorying and configuring BIOS on a wide range of systems. BIOS update processes are primarily performed “in-band” whenever systems are in the Discovery stage. This design allows RackN to leverage vendor tooling in a general and highly parallelized way.
Since Digital Rebar Workflows are designed to manage state through multiple reboot cycles, RackN is able to perform complex and multi-step BIOS configuration steps in a fully automated way.
Please request our Hardware Compatibility List for details.
Burn In & Decommission
The RackN library includes a series of tasks used to help ensure new systems have been load tested before deployment (burn in) and repurposed systems have been adequately cleared of sensitive data (decommissioned). Together, these modules support a critical feature of a self-service Bare Metal Cloud.
Operators may have their own tools or scripts for these functions. By design, Digital Rebar processes are very flexible and can accommodate additional custom steps without having to modify shared code libraries.
RackN is constantly expanding the Digital Rebar integration catalog. Our priority is to leverage existing data center tooling for customers rather than disrupting operations. This approach allows Digital Rebar to become an integration hub that helps customers chain automation platforms into a seamless system.
Terraform Provider for Digital Rebar
RackN maintains an open Terraform Provider for Digital Rebar. This provider allows operators to write Terraform Plans to automate bare metal infrastructure using the DRP API. Since the provider uses the API, these requests leverage Users, Roles and Workflows structured by operators to enable pooling behavior in Digital Rebar. That enables Terraform users to have a cloud-like experience even on physical infrastructure and operators to have high visibility into how self-service requests are fulfilled.
In addition to the provider, RackN can drive Terraform plans as part of an integrated workflow including injecting and retrieving state data.
Rack (CSV Import) Plugin
RackN customers often have detailed information about their infrastructure even before it runs through the Digital Rebar discovery process. The Rack plugin allows customers to import server manifests to pre-populate machines and their attributes into the system. It also helps organize servers into racks for easier tracking.
Once imported, Digital Rebar workflows can be used to validate discovered machines against manifests and automatically complete configuration sequences.
Filebeat and Elastic Search Plugin for Digital Rebar
RackN enables live offloading of data and events for external analysis by integrating with Elastic’s Filebeat service. This allows operators to quickly capture and analyze the provisioning and security event streams from Digital Rebar in Elastic Search or other stream analysis tools.
To Digital Rebar, there is nothing unique specific about the Filebeat plugin except that it uses that service’s APIs. All plugins have the ability to subscribe and act on event and model data; consequently, it is possible to interface with other event subscription systems as needed.
Kubernetes (and k3s) Integration for Digital Rebar
The Kubernetes Rebar Integrated Bootstrap, KRIB, catalog item provides a comprehensive Kubernetes installation process. This process uses open source, community offerings based on Kubeadm and Digital Rebar clustering strategies. The KRIB process includes certificate generation via the Cert plugin and a variety of HA, security and local options.
In addition to KRIB, RackN has provided other Kubernetes integration approaches such as Kubespray and expects to support ClusterAPI also.
Ansible Tower Plugin (includes AWX)
The Ansible Tower plugin incorporates remote playboot run requests into Digital Rebar workflows. This allows operators to correctly prepare infrastructure for automation by Ansible Tower, start the play, and then resume after the play completes. The RackN design encourages reuse of existing Ansible Tower without limiting scope of control for Digital Rebar.
RackN supports several Ansible integration strategies that fully duplicate Ansible Tower functionality. Contact us to understand how RackN can be used to replace this platform with improved performance and without incurring additional license fees.
Edge Data Center (EdgeLab.Digital)
EdgeLab.Digital is a fully functional version of Digital Rebar available for very small and inexpensive environments such as desktop labs and edge data centers. Since the initial Rasberry Pi version uses the same code as RackN Enterprise, it can be used to run any infrastrastructure in the RackN catalog.