Why is there no Android or Red Hat Enterprise Linux for IoT and Edge devices? The "one size fits all" approach of a modern Linux distro does not meet the requirements of the IoT and Edge markets because of the diversity of hardware and use cases - from cellular-connected sensors, to industrial IoT infrastructure, to gateways and even autonomous vehicle computing. More complex use-cases and more powerful processors almost universally use some variant of Linux. Simpler devices such as sensors typically use an RTOS. In this article we focus on Linux - a future article will explore the many RTOS options.
Linux comes in many flavors - both community driven (Debian, Fedora) and commercially supported (RHEL, Ubuntu, SuSE). These were developed for enterprise server and desktop applications. Some vendors offer “cut-down” versions of their enterprise product for IoT and Edge, but these often do not fit the need driven by the diversity of use cases in these markets. As a result most product developers end up building their own Linux, either starting with a mainstream community distro, or using the OpenEmbedded/Yocto project, which provides tools for building customized Linux distributions.
This approach meets the need for customization but comes at a high cost of building and maintaining a complete Linux distribution. Much of this is complex but ultimately non-differentiating technology, and not value-adding IP. A large expert team is needed to cover all the bases - firmware, kernel, security, communications, over the air updates and more. While some do this well, others lack all the necessary expertise, resulting in inter-operability, maintenance and security issues in their products. The IoT industry is fragmented as multiple product vendors duplicate these efforts.
At Foundries.io we have set out to solve this by focusing on creating a single open Linux-based platform - the Linux microPlatform - that is designed from the ground up using OE/Yocto for IoT and Edge applications. Key features include:
- Full customization with the ability to modify any part of the distribution and to easily manage your own derivative version with your IP/value add
- End-to-end security and CI testing, from firmware to the cloud
- Incremental over the air updates built in from the outset for the whole stack - from firmware to application
- Optional support for Docker containers to simplify services and applications development and management
- Support for any architecture and any cloud
- Can be used on any hardware that can run Linux
- Reference starting builds for industry standard products including Raspberry Pi 3 and 4, DragonBoard, Beaglebone, HiKey, Intel NuC, and SiFive Unleashed
This is an open source project and will always remain so - we welcome contributions from our customers and from the community. Our vision is that by creating this free IoT and Edge-focused open source platform we deliver a fit for purpose common starting point for anyone building their own Linux today. As more developers base their products on this platform many of the current costs of building and maintaining core product software will be eliminated, resulting in shorter development cycles, improved testing and quality, and more secure and interoperable products.
We believe that companies and developers worldwide will benefit from this initiative and encourage anyone to use this free platform, whether a major corporation, a maker or startup, or a student or enthusiast. We also recognize that while many will be able to use it “out of the box”, many companies lack all the expertise required to modify Linux, and to add their own value - from firmware and/or kernel changes, to incorporation of proprietary AI, Security, communications or other technologies.
As well as commercial support for the platform itself, Foundries.io offers a complete solution for customization of the open source microPlatform. This is provided as a cloud subscription service - FoundriesFactory™ - that provides the following components:
- Your own secure sandbox for your microPlatform derivative source code
- Continuous Integration and test for your version, running on your local hardware - automatic tests run on every change you make
- Lifetime Over the Air Updates for your products from our cloud servers (on premises also available), or use your cloud provider of choice
- Platform and Security updates from Foundries.io for the lifetime of your subscription
- UI driven platform hardware & cloud configuration (in development)
An evaluation and non-commercial subscription is available for $10/month, and commercial subscriptions start at $25K/year per project (with no per unit fees and a monthly payment option available). You can stop your subscription at any time and retain all of your product software.
In summary our vision is to deliver and maintain an open source platform that can be the universal base for global IoT and Edge products, and can benefit from the network effect of an ever-increasing number of users.
Please spread the word and join us on this journey.
George Grey, CEO