Mender Enables Full OTA Updates for the NVIDIA Jetson Edge AI Platform

4th Aug 2021

We are excited to announce our collaboration with NVIDIA to support the ever increasing demand for over-the-air (OTA) software updates for the NVIDIA Jetson embedded computing platform for AI at the edge, including Jetson Xavier NX, Jetson AGX Xavier series, and Jetson TX2 series modules.

With over half a million developers worldwide, NVIDIA® JetsonTM is one of the most popular embedded computing platforms that brings AI performance to the Edge in a power-efficient and compact form factor. Pre-trained AI models, developer SDKs and support for cloud-native technologies across the full Jetson lineup allow manufacturers of intelligent machines and AI developers to build and deploy high-quality, software-defined features on embedded and edge devices targeting robotics, AIoT, smart cities, healthcare, industrial applications, and more. Cloud-native support helps manufacturers and developers implement frequent improvements, improve accuracy, and use the latest features with Jetson-based edge AI devices.

Coupled with the NVIDIA JetPackTM SDK, the Jetson system-on-modules (SOM) enable developers and device manufacturers to build innovative products across multiple Internet-of-Things (IoT) market verticals.

Through the partnership, Mender has implemented in a unique way an integration with the NVIDIA JetPack 4.6 production release that works for all Jetson SOMs with support for the official L4T (Ubuntu-based) operating system, running JetPack 4.6 or later. As it is built on top of the latest JetPack SDK release, there is no need to have separate integrations when building and deploying applications on different Jetson SOMs. This has the benefit of enormously cutting down the bringup time of an OTA solution to do all types of OTA updates. It has low maintenance costs since it does not involve modifying the boot process and rather relying on officially supported tools by NVIDIA which should not “break” with new L4T releases or board changes.

For the end users, Mender integration makes it easy for NVIDIA Jetson developers to update all of the device software. That means from low level system updates such as bootloader, kernel and root filesystem to higher up in the software application stack that deals with user experience with containers, packages, files and directories. System updates provide a brick-safe way to patch the latest security patches (firmware and software), limit application sprawl and ensure all software is consistent across devices. Application updates provide small, fast, and targeted updates allowing for greater flexibility in software update types and much less data transfer per update than system update resulting in lower network data costs.

In the JetPack 4.6 release on August 4th 2021, NVIDIA introduced support for locally triggered A/B image updates on the Jetson platform. Mender has collaborated with NVIDIA to develop an integration on top of this new feature, to easily enable remote OTA updates with Mender. Below is the high-level user flow, which “clones” the running image of a golden device and deploys it in a robust manner to the entire fleet:

  • Download L4T image from NVIDIA
  • Use NVIDIA tools to flash A/B setup with L4T image
  • Install Mender as deb package, plus integration layer
  • Run Mender snapshot to create Artifact
  • Deploy Artifact snapshot to fleet

A full tutorial on the Mender reference integration with the JetPack 4.6 based on NVIDIA documentation is found on Mender Hub. Jetson TX1 and Nano are not compatible with this integration because they do not support A/B system image partitioning. However, with use of Mender Update Modules, application level updates with containers, packages, files and directories are possible with Jetson TX1 and Nano.

For more information on supported boards with L4T (Ubuntu), NVIDIA’s official OS distribution, visit this page. Mender supports integration with Yocto via meta-mender layers and the Mender community contributes to different NVIDIA Jetson platforms.