How Mender works
by Tom Rini, VP Engineering
Software Update solutions are a key part of our services offering. For open source over-the-air updates, we often we recommend and work with mender.io. In fact, Konsulko Group is a Mender Authorized Referral Partner. Recently, a prospective customer expressed an interest in knowing more about how Mender works. Here’s the brief, informal introduction to member.io that I prepared, and now I’m sharing with you.
As a high level starting point, https://mender.io/how-it-works provides a good overview of what’s supported and what it covers. In short, Mender starts off by providing support for a traditional “A/B” approach to system updates, where if the update isn’t marked as valid (and there’s hooks for the application(s) to verify the system before this is done), it’s assumed invalid and the system will roll-back automatically. While “OTA” implies over the network, it can just as easily be done by providing (and validating) a USB key that contains an update.
One of the reasons we recommend Mender is that it has very good in-depth documentation. The starting point for all of that is https://docs.mender.io/2.4/ which covers all of the topic starting from how to implement Mender support in a device and including how to create your own server infrastructure if you don’t want to use their paid service. While there are a number of important pages there, one that I like to highlight is https://docs.mender.io/2.4/artifacts/state-scripts as it shows the state machine for an update and talks about some of the common use cases that come up for user interaction or dealing with failures.
Another place I want to call out is https://docs.mender.io/2.4/devices/update-modules which is also mentioned in the first link. This is how Mender is extended to provide updates for other parts of the system that are not the rootfs itself. Since updating a Docker container is something that has been mentioned before I want to also note https://hub.mender.io/t/docker/324 as it is a well supported module for this specific case.
I hope you find this information useful. Please contact us if you have specific questions. We’re looking forward to talking to you about your own specific OTA needs.