SOTA system

Introduction and goals

The SOTA System is responsible for distributing and applying updates using over-the-air mechanisms so that machines running PELUX can get new functionality and security fixes.

Requirements overview

Basic usage

  • A Release manager generates update artifacts from a PELUX build tree

  • A Release manager pushes update artifacts onto a SOTA server

  • A SOTA client automatically fetches update artifacts from a SOTA server

  • A SOTA client extracts the update artifacts and updates PELUX components such as the kernel, bootloader, rootfs etc...

Basic requirements

A SOTA system should allow over-the-air updates of PELUX installations. Given the automotive context, the following requirements are critical:

Requirement ID

Requirement description


Atomic updates


Automatic revert when a non-working update is applied


Integrity and signatures of updates are verified


Fleet management (controlled deployment and monitoring)

More information on requirements in the Approach to Software Update Management.

Quality goals






A PELUX system should never end up in a corrupted or inconsistent state as a result of a SOTA system operation.



If configured accordingly, any update artifact which has not been signed by a PELUX Release manager should not be applied.



The result of an update should be exactly the one intended by the Release manager.



PELUX release managers should be kept informed of all update failures and able to cancel an update deployment.



Update artifacts should be distributed in a compressed format to minimize the time needed for an update and the network usage.




Goal, Intention

PELUX Release manager

Decides when a new PELUX is released

Wants to publish an update of PELUX to the currently running instances

Server administrator

Maintains a publicly accessible server

Wants to install and maintain a SOTA Server

PELUX Developer

Maintains the distribution

Wants to configure the SOTA Client for new use cases

BSP Developer

Adapts PELUX to new platforms

Wants to integrate the SOTA system on new platforms

UI Developer

Develops a user interface on PELUX

Wants to integrate SOTA Client to the GUI


The SOTA system should:

  • work on a typical embedded Linux context, for instance with a bootloader such as U-Boot or a build system such as Yocto

  • be free software

System scope and context

The purpose of this section is to put the SOTA system into a broader context, and show how this subsystem interacts with other parts of the larger PELUX system.

Business context

The business context shows how the SOTA system uses other subsystems and is being used by other software.

node "GUI"
node "ECUs/FPGAs" as satellites
node "Partitions"
node "Bootloader"

database "Updates Database" as updatedb
node "Web Browser" as webbrowser

node "SOTA System" {
    [SOTA Client] <-> [SOTA Server]

updatedb     <-- [SOTA Server]: Requests
webbrowser    -> [SOTA Server]: Controls
GUI           -> [SOTA Client]: Triggers
[SOTA Client] -> satellites   : Updates
[SOTA Client] -> Partitions   : Updates
[SOTA Client] -> Bootloader   : Switch Rootfs



Updates database

Used by the SOTA Server to store update artifacts and meta-data


Uses the SOTA Client to trigger an update


Used by the SOTA Client to atomically switch rootfs


Used by the SOTA Client when updating a rootfs


Used by the SOTA Client to update offboard processing units

Technical context

The following diagram shows the participating computers with their technical connections.

node "Build server" as buildserver
node "Release manager computer" as releasemancomp
node "Update distribution server" as updatedistribserv {
    [SOTA Server]
node "Machine running PELUX" as peluxmachine {
    [SOTA Client]
node "ECUs/FPGAs" as satellites

buildserver -down-> releasemancomp: SSH/FTP/HTTP/...
releasemancomp <-> [SOTA Server]: Management API or UI
[SOTA Server] <-> [SOTA Client]: Direct Device Integration API
[SOTA Client] -> satellites: Automotive buses



Build server

Where update artifacts are built

Release manager computer

Where update artifacts are uploaded to the SOTA Server

Updates distribution machine

Where update artifacts are stored and distributed.

Where updates are monitored.

Machine running PELUX

Where update artifacts are meant to be received and applied


Satellite machines that can be updated

Solution strategy

  • Implement the SOTA client using the SWUpdate framework.

  • Implement the SOTA server using Hawkbit

Details on those choices are given in the appendix of this document.

Building blocks view

Level 0

() "Client UI API" as clientuiapi
() "Management UI & API" as mgmtapi
() "Direct Device Integration API" as ddiapi

clientuiapi <-> [SOTA Client]
[SOTA Client] <-> ddiapi
ddiapi <-> [SOTA Server]
[SOTA Server] -> mgmtapi

Level 0 - SOTA Client

() "DDI API" as ddiapi
() "Client UI API" as clientuiapi

package "SOTA Client" as sotaclient {
    node "Surricata Daemon" as surricata
    node "Artifact Extractor" as extractor
    node "Descriptor Parser" as parser
    node "Handlers" as handlers {
        node "Flash Handler"
        node "UBI Handler"
        node "Bootloader Handler"
        node "Lua Handler"
        node "Shell Handler"
        node "..."

    surricata -> extractor
    extractor -> parser
    parser -> handlers

ddiapi <-> surricata
clientuiapi <-> sotaclient

Level 0 - SOTA Server

() "Management API" as mgmtapi
() "Management UI" as mgmtui
() "DDI API" as ddiapi

database "Updates database" {
    node Artifacts
    node Metadata

package "SOTA Server" as sotaserver {
    cloud "HTTP Server" as httpserver
    node "Rollout policy and monitoring" as rollout

    rollout <-> httpserver

Artifacts -> rollout
Metadata -> rollout
mgmtapi <-> httpserver
mgmtui <-> httpserver
ddiapi <-> httpserver

Runtime view

Update rollout

"Release manager" -> "SOTA Server": Uploads new .swu
"SOTA Server" <- "SOTA Client": Polls for update
"SOTA Server" -> "SOTA Client": Distributes new .swu
rnote over "SOTA Client"
 Update installation

Working update installation scenario

"Rootfs 'A'"  -> "SOTA Client": Runs
"SOTA Server" -> "SOTA Client": Distributes .swu
"SOTA Client" -> "Rootfs 'B'" : Flash updates
"SOTA Client" -> "Bootloader" : Reboot instruction
"Bootloader"  -> "Rootfs 'B'" : Boots
"Rootfs 'B'"  -> "SOTA Client": Runs
"SOTA Client" -> "SOTA Server": Notifies of success

Non-working update installation scenario

"Rootfs 'A'"  -> "SOTA Client": Runs
"SOTA Server" -> "SOTA Client": Distributes .swu
"SOTA Client" -> "Rootfs 'B'" : Flash updates
"SOTA Client" -> "Bootloader" : Reboot instruction
"Bootloader"  -> "Rootfs 'B'" : Boots
"Rootfs 'B'"  ->x]: Fails
"Bootloader"  -> "Rootfs 'A'" : Boots
"Rootfs 'A'"  -> "SOTA Client": Runs
"SOTA Client" -> "SOTA Server": Notifies of failure

Deployment view

The deployment context of the SOTA Solution is documented in the System scope and context part of this document.

Cross-cutting concepts

Update artifacts

Update artifacts generated by the build server, stored by the SOTA Server and fetched and applied by the SOTA Client are bundled in a format named .swu. It is essentially a CPIO archive containing various files and scripts and most importantly a top-level "sw-description" file describing the content of the bundle. This sw-description must be written by hand by PELUX developers in a XML or libconfig format.

More details on this format can be found in the sw-description documentation

Design decisions

Integrated Web Server

The chosen SOTA Client, SWUpdate, offers various configurable features. One of those feature is called "Mongoose daemon mode", it hosts a web app on the SWUpdate-running machine so that users can connect with a web browser and upload update artifacts to their PELUX machine.

Having a web server running on an automotive application has been considered as an unnecessary risk and it has therefore been disabled by default.

Yocto Integration

The chosen SOTA Client, SWUpdate, can be easily integrated to a Yocto build system using an official layer named meta-swupdate providing the necessary recipes to build SWUpdate and .swu artifacts.

The developers of SWUpdate also provide a meta-swupdate-boards layer with example recipes on how to integrate SWUpdate to a couple of platforms. Most of the code in this layer is irrelevant to us since it refers to a demo "core-image-full-cmdline" image and to platforms such as the wandboard or beaglebone which aren't supported by PELUX.

meta-swupdate has been integrated to the default PELUX manifests, to avoid code duplication. However, it has been decided that the meta-swupdate-boards contained too much superfluous code and the few relevant parts of that layer have been directly integrated in meta-pelux.

Partition layout

As stated in the Approach to Software Update Management, in order to achieve some of its requirements, a SOTA client potentially needs to impact the partitioning of a system. For instance, different schemes are possible: A+B, normal+recovery or in-place upgrades.

The chosen solution, SWUpdate, is a generic framework that can be used to implement all of those update strategies. It has been decided that using an A/B partitioning should be the way to go and this is the partitions scheme that is used in the provided reference sw-description files.

For convenience, a freshly built PELUX image consists of a single rootfs that can be flashed on a SD Card. When an update is applied, its artifact comes with a re-partitioning script that checks whether a "Rootfs B" is available. On the first application, such a partition is not available, so the script will re-partition the card to create a second partition and will flash the new rootfs on this new partition.

After this, new updates will only need to be applied on the Rootfs that is not currently in use.

Bootloader requirements

For atomic partition switching in an A+B context, the SOTA Client needs to tell the bootloader which partition should be booted. SWUpdate has support for a couple of bootloaders at a fairly low-level. It allows artifacts, when they are being applied, to set boot environment variables.

For instance, GRUB and U-Boot are supported and sw-description files can set a rootfs partition variable to a specific number that reflects the partition which should be booted. It is then possible to include a custom script in the U-Boot or GRUB boot process that reads this environment variable and boots the kernel with a corresponding "root=/dev/..." command line.

If a new bootloader is to be used with PELUX, it can be supported in SWUpdate by following the example of the "none" bootloader plugin which requires four functions: env_set, env_unset, env_get and apply_list. Hardware-specific artifacts can then use that plugin to set a variable and the bootloader can use that variable to select a suitable kernel command line.

Quality requirements

The quality requirements are documented in the Integration and goals part of this document.

Risks and technical debts

The SOTA System is a critical component in an automotive system and presents a lot of risks. The architecture presented in this document mitigates those risks by taking into account early in the design process the need for atomic updates and artifacts signature.

Technical debts are minimized with the chosen architecture because SWUpdate and Hawkbit are widely used in the industry and supported by stable companies and foundations such as Bosch, Eclipse or DENX. We can expect those components to be supported on the long term. Those components have also been chosen for their flexibility that should effectively adapt to new use cases.


See the Glossary page for explanations of important terms.