Snappy Ubuntu Core is an IoT Linux Distribution for ARM and x86

Canonical has announced a version of Ubuntu specifically designed for IoT devices running Linux, with a low hardware requirements, and a new package manager called snappy, replacing apt-get for this version of Ubuntu, which provides simpler, faster, and more reliable updates, stronger security, and allows roll-backs in case something goes wrong. Easy firmware updates are something missing in most connected device, which means they are more vulnerable to potential hackers, but with snappy security updates should be able to make it regularly, so that if something like heartbleed occurs again, you know your router, home automation gateway, connected washing machine, or robot will be soon patched automatically.

Snappy Ubuntu Core Logo

Let’s go through the hardware requirements first:

  • Processor – 600 MHz processor (ARMv7 or greater, or x86)
  • System Memory – 128 MB RAM or greater (The system itself uses 40 MB RAM)
  • Storage – 4GB flash / storage for factory reset and system rollback

So the hardware requirements are not quite as low as something as OpenWRT, but still lower than what you’d expect from Ubuntu, so you could use an old laptop or PC as a development platform, and Canonical also recommends BeagleBone Black or ODROID-C1 ARM based development boards. The Raspberry Pi board won’t work with Snappy, because Broadcom BCM2835 processor is using an older architecture (ARMv6) not supported by Ubuntu.

Snappy Architecture

Twenty one companies and organization have partnered with Canonical on Snappy Ubuntu Core:

  • Home automation – Ninjablocks (Ninjasphere), Openhab (smarthub framework), Trasibot
  • Robotic – OSRF – ROS robots, , Erle Robotics with Erle-Copter
  • Development Boards – Hardkernel ODROID-C1, Beagleboarg community’s Beaglebone Black, Lemaker (Banana Pro), Udoo, LinkSprite (PCDuino), and Parallella
  • Silicon Vendors – Allwinner
  • IoT frameworks – Kaa, DeviceHive, IoTSys, Resin.io, OpenSensors.io
  • Misc- Riot-OS, Nwave, Fairwaves,  Docker with Weave

As mentioned in the introduction, apt-get is no where to be found in Snappy, as the distribution is using snappy instead, but the command line options remain familiar in some aspects:


with various new/different options like info, search, versions and more:


You can see in the list above two version of ubuntu-core, with one ACTIVE and the previous available for roll-back with the command:


You can find more example in Ubuntu Developer’s snappy page, and find out snappy can also be used to build software packages from source.

There’s also a work-in-progress web interface called WebDM (Web Device Manager) used to configure the device and install packages. It can be installed with sudo snappy install webdm, but Canonical warns it should not be enabled in production devices for now, as access control is not implemented yet.

WebDM

If you want to try it, you don’t even need extra hardware, as a Snappy Ubuntu Core instances can be launched from Azure, GCE or Amazon EC2  cloud services, or run in a Virtual Machine with KVM, OVA (VMWare, VirtualBox,…) or Vagrant. All you have to do is follow the instructions provided here. Complete instructions and a preview image are also available for the BeagleBone Black. There does not seem to be pre-built images yet for the other ARM boards mentioned in this article.

Via LinuxGizmos

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15 Replies to “Snappy Ubuntu Core is an IoT Linux Distribution for ARM and x86”

  1. “a version of Ubuntu specifically designed for IoT devices running Linux”

    I still have to fully understand Ubuntu Snappy, but AFAIK Ubuntu Snappy is NOT “a version of Ubuntu specifically designed for IoT devices running Linux” … as you imply at the end of your article: Ubuntu Snappy is also available for cloud and VMs.

    To me Ubuntu Snappy is a bare-minimum GUI-less Ubuntu, on which you run 1) built-in commands/programs 2) docker containers and/or 3) specifically built packages. But as apt-get is not available, you can not run the 30.000 packages that are available via apt-get.
    So, if – for example – you want to run SABnzbd (an apt-get package), you run it in a container (or you have to create a package)

  2. @Sander
    The announcement title is: “Ubuntu Core on Internet Things”, and starts with

    New Snappy Ubuntu Core on smart devices delivers bullet-proof security, reliable updates and the enormous Ubuntu ecosystem at your fingertips – bringing the developer’s favourite cloud platform to a wide range of internet things, connected devices and autonomous machines.

    I think the deployments in the Cloud and VM are mostly for evaluation, and development. So you can develop your app on PC, as it’s easier/faster, and once you’re done run it on the target hardware, which is likely to be a low cost low power board / device. Maybe other people will find other uses though.

    You could also watch Mark Shuttleworth video about Snappy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SugRYxEtEKQ, which explains what Snappy is, and why it came to life.

  3. The hardware requirements seem a bit unfortunate; AFAIK the only<$30 platform that meets them is Raspi A, and that's the 'wrong kind of ARM'. I guess this will change though.

  4. @G
    Sure, I’m not complaining about Canonical’s decision. But for true IoT ubiquity the hardware needs to be cheap & AFAIK outside Korea, nothing in that list can be had for <$50…

  5. They mention “$35 ARMv7 Odroid-C1”.

    And… they also mention an app store and this: “Commercial vendors [can] sell software to their customers, on an open platform.” Looks like app store selling proprietary applications.

  6. @cnxsoft

    “I think the deployments in the Cloud and VM are mostly for evaluation”

    I really don’t think so; I think Ubuntu Snappy in the cloud is a competitor to CoreOS, so a bare minimum OS on heavy hardware for running containers

  7. @Sander
    You’re right. But they already have Ubuntu Server and Ubuntu Core (without Snappy), so I’m not sure why this is needed for servers. I should probably read more about Docker, as I’ve recently often seen it mentioned in articles.

  8. I think Odroid have fixed the shipping cost issue – I’m not in Europe & just checked: $9. So $44 for a superior slice of pi 😉

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