By Eric Brown
A Cambridge, UK based startup called Foundries.io, which is funded by Linaro, has launched a microPlatforms service with managed, subscription-based Linux and Zephyr distributions. The microPlatforms offering will target IoT, edge, and automotive applications, and provide continuous over-the-air (OTA) updates to improve security. Linaro CEO George Grey also serves as CEO of Foundries.io.
The distributions are designed to work with any private or public cloud platform, with the microPlatform cloud service acting as an intermediary. The microPlatforms packages include firmware, kernel, services, and applications, “delivered continuously from initial product design to end-of-life,” says Foundries.io.
Linux microPlatform architecture
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Subscriptions range from $10 per month for evaluation and non-commercial use to $10,000 or $25,000 per year for professional Zephyr and Linux packages, respectfully. There are no per unit fees, and Foundries.io notes: “We regularly upstream our open source work; you can end your subscription any time and keep using the software.” There’s also a community website with forums and support services.
The Linux microPlatform (LmP) supports support Arm, Intel, and RISC-V based devices. The initial targets include the Raspberry Pi and several 96Boards (see farther below). LmP starts with a minimal Linux distro built with OpenEmbedded/Yocto and “a recent stable kernel.” The distribution is designed to be compact and resource efficient, with minimal attack surfaces.
Linux microPlatforms with containers
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LmP also includes a cloud management service, which offers a “continuously tested and stabilized stream of updates,” says Foundries.io. The platform lets you “securely and remotely manage your product’s software” using standard tools such as Ansible and Kubernetes.
The initial LmP targets include:
- Toradex Colibri i.MX7 SoM
- Raspberry Pi 3 (using 64 bit Linux and supporting Docker containers)
- Qualcomm DragonBoard 410C and 820C (96Boards)
- BeagleBone Black Wireless
- Intel NUC 7
- SiFive HiFive Unleashed
The Zephyr microPlatform is the first downstream distribution for the Linux Foundation hosted, open source Zephyr RTOS. ZmP
builds on the Zephyr RTOS foundation with “MCUboot software, services, and reference applications to provide a continuously tested, secure, updatable, cross-architecture solution for microcontroller-based products,” says the startup.
Zephyr microPlatform architecture (left) and combined Linux and Zephyr microPlatform
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Toradex and Linaro partnerships
Foundries.io’s launch partners are Toradex and Linaro — the open source code development organization backed by Arm and several of its major licensees. Linaro will offer microPlatforms support for its 96Boards SBCs. Toradex, whose Colibri iMX7 is a target platform, is “using the Linux microPlatform as a secure and updateable base for its upcoming software offering,” says Foundries.io. Toradex CTO Roman Schnarwiler adds: “Toradex will be announcing exciting news about our upcoming software offerings for our SoMs, based on the Foundries.io Linux microPlatform soon.”
Also today, Toradex announced a software development partnership with The Qt Company. Toradex will provide the Qt development platform on its modules including Qt Device Creation. It will also Boot2Qt with Toradex Easy Installer.
OTA and containers in IoT
Continuous OTA updates are widely seen as one the best ways to improve IoT security. OTA is central to several recent IoT frameworks, including Google’s recently announced Cloud IoT Edge for devices equipped with its new Edge TPU machine learning co-processor chips. OTA is also central to Microsoft’s secure, Linux-based Azure Sphere IoT platform, which was further detailed today at the Hot Chips 2018conference.
Container technology, meanwhile, is seen as a way to ease embedded Linux remote management and automated updates. For example, Resin.io provides an embedded Linux container technology with its OTA-enabled ResinOS. Canonical’s Ubuntu Corealso uses a container-like scheme to provide transactional updates.
The Foundries.io microPlatforms subscriptions are now available, ranging from $10 per month for evaluation and non-commercial use to $10,000 or $25,000 per year for professional Zephyr and Linux packages, respectfully. Downloads of microPlatforms source code, binaries, and documentation are available at the Foundries.io website.