Canonical Embeds Ubuntu Linux Into Devices to Secure IoT
The new effort will extend Ubuntu's Snappy Linux technology to help enable the Internet of things.Canonical, the lead commercial sponsor behind the open-source Ubuntu Linux operating system, is getting into the embedded device market in a bid to help secure the Internet of things (IoT). Ubuntu is best known as a popular Linux operating system for servers, cloud and desktops. Now Canonical is positioning Ubuntu to be relevant for embedded devices and IoT by taking advantage of the Snappy Ubuntu Core technology. Snappy Ubuntu Core was first announced on Dec. 10, 2014, as a minimal version of Ubuntu, with the optimized Snappy system that can improve security and application updates. Snappy, initially positioned as a technology for the cloud, is now being brought to embedded devices. "We identified some time ago that for mobile devices we really had to raise the bar on the reliability, efficiency and security of the update mechanisms, as well as the isolation of apps from one another," Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu and Canonical, told eWEEK.
Shuttleworth explained that with Snappy, updates can be delivered as smaller, more efficient transactional updates. Snappy also has an update rollback feature, which can enable an application to be reverted (or rolled back) if the update is unsuccessful for some reason. Snappy has very efficient bandwidth usage, making it ideal for IoT embedded devices, according to Shuttleworth. With Snappy there is also a division of responsibilities for updating that can also help protect IoT devices and users.
"Yocto is aimed at the world where people roll their own operating system," he said. "It provides tools that let developers create an entire operating system from scratch." Shuttleworth explained that Yocto is a way for a device vendor to build a single operating system image for a device, while Snappy Ubuntu Core enables a vendor to compose a device's operating system out of a set of images from different parties. From a product perspective, the plan for Snappy Ubuntu Core and IoT vendors is to have a commercial offering that provides legal indemnification as well as update management services and support. Shuttleworth said Canonical will disclose more information on its commercial IoT efforts in the run-up to Mobile World Congress (MWC) in March. While x86 has long been the standard silicon architecture on servers and desktops, Canonical also has a history of working with ARM, which is increasingly becoming the standard for IoT. "We have been working with ARM for five years now," Shuttleworth said. "We will be announcing a set of major SoC [system-on-chip] and board vendors that have signed contracts with us for the update stream and the optimization of the platform." Ubuntu 15.04 Ubuntu has two major Linux distribution releases in any given year, with the most recent release being the Ubuntu 14.10 platform that debuted in October 2014. The next major update is the Ubuntu 15.10 milestone, which is not set to be generally available until April of this year. "What people are installing in the cloud and on devices for Snappy Ubuntu Core is in fact the rolling development of Ubuntu 15.04," Shuttleworth said. "There will be an Ubuntu 15.04 stable release, and you can expect to see devices shipping that, and the release after that will be the 16.04 LTS [Long Term Support]." Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.