A Look At The Most Promising Next-Gen Linux Software Update Mechanisms

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 10 October 2016 at 09:10 AM EDT. 80 Comments
With traditional software package management solutions like APT and Yum showing their age and not adapting well to the embedded world and the slew of new areas for Linux like IoT, a new generation of atomic-based Linux software update solutions continue to be worked on. Matt Porter of the Konsulko Group is presenting at this week's Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2016 with a comparison of these update technologies.

Incremental atomic updates have been what's being pursued by multiple Linux software vendors for delivering more reliable distribution updates, smaller sized updates via binary deltas, and generally allow rollbacks in case of problems. Some of the new distribution update mechanisms covered included SWUpdate, Mender, OSTree, and swupd. Interestingly, not mentioned in the slide deck is Ubuntu's Snappy.

SWUpdate is a single/dual image update framework that's modular, supports signed images, makes use of Kconfig for configurations, can handle local or remote updates, etc. SWUpdate is particularly designed for embedded systems.

Mender meanwhile is a solution aimed at over-the-air software updates. Mender is written in the Go programming language and is a dual-image update framework.

One of the most well known talked about in this presentation is OSTree for incremental atomic upgrades. OSTree is Git-like and is used by Fedora / Red Hat and GNOME's container system Flatpak also makes use of OSTree.

Talked about lastly was swupd, the update system spearheaded by Intel's Clear Linux distribution. Swupd is hosted on GitHub with its client and server portions hosted by Clear Linux. Swupd is similar to OSTree but does not require reboots to activate bundles.

For those not in Berlin for the Embedded Linux Conference Europe, you can learn more about these different software update mechanisms with a focus on embedded Linux via these PDF slides.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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