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Ubuntu launches secure OS for IoT devices

William Payne
November 10, 2016

Major Linux distribution Canonical has launched a secure embedded OS with regular security updates designed for IoT devices, network communications systems, home devices, industrial control systems, and robotic systems. Ubuntu Core 16 incorporates new cyber-security and upgradeability features not found in previous versions of Canonical's embedded OS. Among early adopters of the new embedded IoT OS are major enterprise computing manufacturers Dell and IBM. The release of the new embedded IoT OS has also been welcomed by Intel.

Ubuntu Core 16 supports a range of chipset, SoC and Single Board Computer vendors including Raspberry Pi 2 and 3, the Qualcomm Dragonboard 410c and the Intel Joule.

Ubuntu Core is already in use in top-of-rack switches, industrial gateways, home gateways, radio access networks, digital signage, robots and drones. 

“Dell has been working with Canonical on Ubuntu Core for over a year, and our Dell Edge Gateways are fully certified for Ubuntu Core 16. This enables Dell to offer the long term support and security that IoT use cases such as factory and building automation demand,” said Jason Shepherd, Director of Strategy and Partnerships, IoT, Dell. 

Canonical says that the new Ubuntu Core delivers what it describes as "ground-breaking security", management, operations and upgradability in a "compact, developer-friendly" platform, thanks to its use of ‘snap’ packages. 

Ubuntu Core 16 Snaps are securely confined, read-only, tamper-proof application images, digitally signed to the integrity of IoT software.

"With the cognitive era producing more intelligent devices, fundamental changes are needed to handle the volume of data and real-time cognitive insight. "Snaps allow developers to build and deploy applications in a format that’s easily portable and upgradeable across a number of IoT devices so that a cognitive relationship between the cloud and the edges of the network can be established," said Mac Devine, IBM CTO, Emerging Technology & Advanced Innovation, Cloud Division.

Update Control allows software publishers and manufacturers to validate updates across the ecosystem before they are applied. Snap updates are transactional, which means that failures are automatically rolled back, giving developers the confidence to update their applications regularly.

“Among the many challenges arising from deploying robots into the real world, remote management and upgrading of robot software is a common and significant problem faced by the community," said Brian Gerkey, chief executive, Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF). "I think that Ubuntu Core 16, with the ability to deploy ROS applications as snaps, offers an opportunity to make the whole software management process easier and more secure, helping developers and organisations in their robotics deployment."

The operating system and kernel in Ubuntu Core are also delivered as snaps, so the entire platform according to Canonical is transactionally upgradeable. All Ubuntu Core devices, from all manufacturers, will have free, regular and reliable OS security updates, says Canonical.

James Jackson, General Manager, Maker & Innovator Group, Intel, comments: “Robotics has the potential to impact nearly every industry, from health to space exploration. This future will be based on a secure, reliable platform - and we see Ubuntu Core 16 as one of those platforms, where Ubuntu is already the leading platform for ROS."

The universal or device-specific snap app store supports developers throughout the device lifecycle from beta testing to general availability, allowing them to sell IoT software as easily as cloud, enterprise and mobile software. A white label app store helps device manufacturers build a branded, differentiated device and software experience.