Product of the Week: Pantacor’s Pantavisor Linux Adds Device Update for Azure IoT Hub

October 19, 2021

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Product of the Week: Pantacor’s Pantavisor Linux Adds Device Update for Azure IoT Hub

Device Update for IoT Hub provides the scalability and reliability of Windows update technology optimized for IoT devices. By combining Device Update with the Pantavisor container engine for embedded Linux devices, release teams can maintain, update and secure IoT device fleets regardless of their architecture using modern DevOps best practices.

 

This week’s Embedded Computing Design Product of the Week is Pantavisor Linux from Pantacor with added support for the Device Update on Azure IoT Hub. The combination provides an open-source solution for streamlined over the air updates and IoT fleet management across diverse embedded architectures.

Device Update (DU) for IoT Hub is an end-to-end update solution that securely enables release teams to manage and deploy over-the-air updates to IoT devices. Customers can respond rapidly to security threats and roll out new features to meet business requirements without the added cost of building and maintaining an inhouse over-the-air update solution.

Pantavisor Linux leverages LXC containers to build modular containerized embedded Linux systems that are fully customizable and easily managed with standard open-source technologies. The portability of containers simplifies the lifecycle management of embedded Linux firmware and applications across IoT fleets. Virtualization at both the system and application levels also allows for embedded Linux engineering teams to adopt agile and modern cloud native methodologies such as microservices and other automation strategies to secure device fleets, speed up time to market and increase innovation. 

IoT Fleet Software Lifecycle Management from a Unified Dashboard

Pantavisor containerizes the DU agent, enabling developers and operators to manage and update every component of the system stack with containers, including the DU agent itself. As a result, teams can now secure, update and maintain the software life cycles on containerized IoT device architectures and others from a single unified dashboard.  In all, the portability of containers and the reliability of Microsoft's proven update technology simplifies releases and overall IoT lifecycle management through the use of more agile DevOps practices. 

“The Device IoT Update Hub supports a range of devices from the smallest sensors to your gateway class edge devices, including directly connected devices and those that are in complex topologies where they’re disconnected or nested on multiple levels. Now, thanks to the addition of the Pantavisor update handler for DU, our users benefit from end-to-end OTA deployments that bring LXC Linux container support to achieve modular and streamlined updates for both application containers and system firmware alike,” says Jeff Davis, Principal Group Program Manager Microsoft. 

Pantavisor and Device Update for Azure IoT Hub in Action

Pantavisor Linux is a framework for building containerized systems using LXC containers technology that transforms single-function edge devices into multi-purpose systems. The Pantavisor Linux runtime is partitioned into lightweight containers that place applications, libraries, filesystems, and other software and firmware into individual packages on 32- or 64-bit Arm or x86-64 architecture devices. 

Containerized embedded systems are managed as building blocks through Pantacor Hub, a cloud-based device state management system that functions as an open-source system revision and app repository. It also offers operational controller functionality that empowers users to configure devices, application metadata, and perform OTA updates. Now the software lifecycle of Pantavisor-enabled devices can also be managed using the Device Update dashboard for Azure’s IoT Hub.

Device Update for IoT Hub includes support for a wide range of artifacts, and compatibility with devices ranging from tiny sensors to gateway-class devices. OTA updates can be executed individually or for entire fleets at global scale.

"Combining the Device Update for IoT with Microsoft Windows market-leading Update technology and Pantavisor Linux creates an all-in-one solution for Azure customers who want to modernize their embedded Linux IoT device fleets at the smart edge and bring management and security to the next level of operational excellence," says Ricardo Mendoza, CEO Pantacor. 

All that’s needed to start preparing, exporting, and applying updates to embedded Linux IoT devices through the Azure IoT Hub dashboard is a quick installation of the Device Update (DU) agent onto a Pantavisor-enabled device. From there, the platform can be leveraged as a fleet management and observability, software lifecycle management, or software-defined IoT solution in no time.

Getting Started with Pantavisor Linux and Device Update for Azure IoT Hub

Despite its sophistication, enabling DU on Pantavisor devices is relatively simple. After creating an account in the Azure portal, users can configure existing Pantavisor devices for Azure IoT Hub update services from within the DU UI. 

This requires installation of the DU agent, which, like the rest of the Pantavisor runtime, is deployed as a container.. DU containers consist of an update service (including a content handler), a delivery optimization service, and the pvcontrol utility. Once deployed, this container takes control of Pantavisor Linux’s lifecycle management and is in charge of updating all containerized software of the device, including but not limited to the main OS, applications, kernel and modules.

Installation starts by downloading the latest Pantavisor image compiled with the DU client and flashing it to a storage device. After configuring the storage drive and plugging it into a target (such as a Raspberry Pi or 64-bit x86 hardware with a UEFI BIOS), the device should connect to the Device Update IoT Hub on startup. Next, a current version of the device software must be cloned from the client to the Pantavisor command line interface (PVR cli). 

The cli can be used to make changes (like installing new containers from DockerHub), which must be converted to DU format using a script called pvr2adu. This will generate a manifest that can be deployed from the Device Update dashboard.

More detail on this OTA process can be found in a hands-on tutorial at www.pantacor.com/blog/azure-iot-hub-over-the-air-updates-with-pantavisor. Additional documentation is also available that explains how to start working with devices like the Raspberry Pi

To learn more, visit www.pantacor.com, watch Pantacor CEO Ricardo Mendoza explain his vision for the future of embedded Linux distros on Arm’s Innovation Coffee, or check out the additional resources section below.

 

Additional Resources:

About Pantacor

Built from industry insights and real-life customer requirements, Pantacor combines modern DevOps and cloud-native technology like containers with embedded-first technologies to help you develop and manage services deployed to the Smart Device Edge and the Internet of Things.

The company headquarters are in London, UK, with a worldwide distributed team. More information is available at www.pantacor.com.

 

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