Embedded systems and IoT devices in the field often are hard or impossible to reach and are vulnerable to hackers and crackers. That makes systems that are self-sufficient and inherently secure a good thing – and why Canonical has brought the features of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS to these devices in Ubuntu Core 18.
The platform was announced today but has been available since last month. Ubuntu Core is the version of the Ubuntu OS designed for IoT and container deployments. Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (long-term support), which was introduced last April, will add three elements to Ubuntu Core. Or, more accurately, it will reduce three things: time to market, software development risk, and security maintenance costs, the company says.
“Ubuntu Core helps device makers get to market quicker, with an operating system hardened against security threats,” wrote Eric Jensen, Canonical’s head of IoT products in an email. “Integration with snapchat.io builds on the advantages of the Linux app ecosystem, providing powerful update mechanisms for global device networks. We bring the massive Ubuntu developer community to the embedded space. Developers can now use Ubuntu for prototyping, build/test, cloud backend and IoT devices.”
A key focus is security. The snaps — Canonical lingo for the containerized software packages — are immutable and digitally signed, which the company says makes them resistant to tampering. They are constrained in reach, which limits vulnerabilities from compromised applications, and they are scanned to catch security issues before they become problems.
Several companies including Dell EMC and Lime Microsystems are using Ubuntu Core 18, according to the vendor.
John Dauskurdas, VP for global IoT/embedded PC sales at Dell EMC, says his company’s customers use Ubuntu Core to build “secure, stable IoT solutions.” In a statement, he added: “We see enormous interest in customers wanting to take advantage of the built-in app store infrastructure to securely maintain and deliver new functionality at the edge.”
Lime Microsystems develops field programmable RF transceivers, software-defined radio, and related technology for next-generation wireless broadband systems. “Ubuntu Core, snaps, and IoT app stores create a secure, open-source platform that enables our partners to develop and deploy new disruptive technologies quickly,” said Lime Microsystems CEO Ebrahim Bushehri in a statement.
Additionally, the CrowdCell project led by Vodafone and Telefonica, which provides cellular connectivity as part of the Facebook-led Telecom Infra Project (TIP), and the European Space Agency, which has an app-enabled satellite communication network open for developers to create a variety of applications, are both powered by snaps on Ubuntu Core, according to Bushehri.
Jensen says that use is broad-based across many verticals including industrial IoT, smart home, smart cities, robotics and commercial applications. “One example of Ubuntu Core in production is Rigado, which sells commercial IoT gateways for use in diverse environments, from shopping malls to warehouses to offices,” he wrote. “Rigado’s gateways utilize Ubuntu Core, snaps and our Brand Store.”
Ubuntu Core 18
Ubuntu Core 18, as part of the overall Ubuntu Core family, enables users to build apps using either that ecosystem or Snapcraft, Canonical’s app store for Linux. The attention to security includes a minimization of the attack surface. The base OS is minimal, which both opens capacity for applications and storage and limits the size and frequency of updates.
Ubuntu Core 18 includes a decade of security maintenance at what the company says is low cost. This will enable low-term and mission-critical deployments.