Ubuntu Core 22 Release Addresses IoT and Edge Computing Challenges

Canonical pushes the security and usability conveniences of Internet of Things (IoT) and edge device management with its June 15 release of Ubuntu Core 22, the fully containerized Ubuntu 22.04 LTS variant optimized for the IoT and peripheral devices.

Combined with Canonical’s technology offering, this release brings Ubuntu’s operating system and services to a full range of embedded and IoT devices. The new version includes a fully preemptive kernel to ensure time-limited responses. Canonical partners with silicon and hardware manufacturers to enable advanced real-time features out of the box on Ubuntu-certified hardware.

“Our goal at Canonical is to provide secure and trusted open source everywhere, from the development environment to the cloud, edge and device,” said Mark Shuttleworth, CEO of Canonical. “With this release and the real-time Ubuntu Core, we are ready to extend the benefits of Ubuntu Core to the entire embedded world.

One of the great things about Ubuntu Core is that it’s actually Ubuntu. It is fully containerized. All applications, kernel and operating system are strictly contained snaps.

That means it’s ultra-reliable and perfectly suited for unattended devices. It has a reduced footprint with all unnecessary libraries and drivers removed, explained David Beamonte Arbués, product manager for IoT and embedded products at Canonical.

“It uses the same core and libraries as Ubuntu and its flavors, and that’s something developers love because they can share the same development experience for every Ubuntu variant,” he said. told LinuxInsider.

It has some out-of-the-box security features such as secure boot and full disk encryption to prevent firmware and data manipulation as well as firmware overwriting, he added.

Certified hardware key

from Ubuntu Certified Hardware Program is a main distinguishing factor in the industry’s response to Core OS. It defines a range of off-the-shelf, reliable IoT and edge devices to work with Ubuntu.

The program only includes a commitment to continuously test certified hardware in Canonical’s labs with every security update throughout the lifecycle of the device.

Advantech, which provides embedded, industrial, IoT and automation solutions, has increased its participation in the Ubuntu Certified Hardware Program, noted Eric Kao, director of Advantech WISE-Edge+.

“Canonical ensures that certified hardware goes through an extensive testing process and delivers a stable, secure and optimized Ubuntu kernel to reduce time to market and development costs for our customers,” he said.

Another use case, noted Brad Kehler, COO at KMC Controls, is the security advantage that Core OS brings to the company’s line of IoT devices, which are purpose-built for critical industrial environments.

“Security is paramount to our customers. We chose Ubuntu Core for its built-in advanced security features and robust over-the-air update framework. Ubuntu Core comes with a 10-year security update commitment, allowing us to secure devices in the field for their long lifespan. With a proven app enablement framework, our development teams can focus on building apps that solve business problems,” he said.

Solve the main challenges

IoT manufacturers face complex challenges in deploying devices on time and within budget. Providing security and remote management at scale is also challenging as device fleets grow. Ubuntu Core 22 helps makers meet these challenges with an ultra-secure, resilient, low-touch operating system backed by a growing ecosystem of silicon and original design maker partners.

The first key challenge is enabling the operating system for their hardware, whether custom or generic, Arbués noted. It’s hard work and many organizations lack the skills to perform kernel porting tasks.

“Sometimes they have the expertise in-house, but the development can take too long. This can affect both time and budget,” he explained.

IoT devices need to be unattended most of the time. They are usually deployed in places with limited or difficult accessibility, he proposed. They must therefore be extremely reliable. Sending a technician to the field to recover a stuck or non-starting device is expensive, so reliability, low contact and remote manageability are key factors in reducing operating expenses.

It also adds to the challenge of managing device software, he added. A critical and bulletproof update mechanism is essential.

“Manufacturers need to decide early in their development whether they’re going to use their own infrastructure or a third party to manage device software,” Arbués said.

Beyond the Ubuntu Standard

The containerized functionality of Core 22 goes beyond the containerized functionality of non-Core Ubuntu operating systems. In Ubuntu Desktop or Server, the kernel and operating system are .deb packages. Applications can run as .deb or as snaps.

“In Ubuntu Core, all applications are strictly confined snaps,” Arbués continued. “This means that there is no way to access it from other applications except by using well-defined and secure interfaces.”

Not only apps snap. The same goes for the kernel and the operating system. It’s really useful for managing the whole system software, he added.

“Although regular Ubuntu operating systems can use snaps, it is not required to be used in strict confinement, so that applications can access the full system and the system can access applications.”

In Ubuntu Core, strict containment is mandatory. Additionally, the kernel and operating system are strictly confined snaps. Additionally, regular Ubuntu builds are not optimized for size and do not include some of the features of Ubuntu Core, such as secure boot, full disk encryption, and recovery modes.

Other core Core 22 features:

  • Real-time compute support through a real-time beta core delivers high performance, ultra-low latency, and workload predictability for time-sensitive use cases in industry, telecommunications, automotive and robotics.
  • The dedicated App Store for each device running Ubuntu Core has a dedicated IoT App Store. This provides full control over applications and can create, publish, and distribute software on a single platform. The IoT App Store offers businesses a sophisticated software management solution, enabling a range of new on-premises features.
  • Transactional control for critical over-the-air (OTA) kernel, OS, and application updates. These updates will always complete successfully or automatically revert to the previous working version so that a device cannot be “bricked” by an incomplete update. Snaps also provide delta updates to minimize network traffic and digital signatures to ensure software integrity and provenance.

More information about Ubuntu Core 22 can be found at ubuntu.com/core.

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Steven L. Nielsen