Pantavisor Linux Brings Container Portability and Agility to Embedded Systems on IoT

The Pantacor team is excited to announce the release of Pantabox and Inspired by other open source projects like Busybox, Pantabox is a self-contained frontend for managing Pantavisor Linux directly on IoT devices. In addition to this, we launched a new home and community for Pantavisor Linux –  our open source framework for containerized embedded Linux development. In this post, we discuss the evolution of Pantavisor Linux and where it’s heading. Then we’ll show you Pantabox as the optimal developer experience for your embedded Linux IoT container projects.  

What is Pantavisor Linux?

You might have noticed that we enhanced the name of our open source project Pantavisor with the addition of Linux.  What does that mean exactly?  Because Pantavisor is an entire system and framework for building and managing embedded Linux systems, we thought the addition of Linux to the name gives much more insight into what Pantavisor does and is capable of. We do want to be clear however that Pantavisor Linux is not another commercial distro that can lock you in. In fact, Pantavisor is pretty much the opposite of that.

Pantavisor Linux is the easiest way to build an embedded Linux project with lightweight Linux Containers (LXC).  It allows you to put your Linux distribution or custom-made firmware userland into a container. This gives your entire system the benefits of portable containerized lifecycle management without needing to replace your distribution.  

Portability for your entire system -containerized building blocks

Pantavisor Linux containerizes your firmware, the OS, the networking and even the Board Support Package (BSP) making them modular and portable building blocks that can be shared and managed atomically over the air. With everything containerized on the device, it’s simple to mix and match these components to build new distros and also maintain any customizations you may have that are specific to your use case without having to replace your distro.

These are the reusable building blocks that Pantavisor Linux modularizes and turns into containers:

  • Board Support Packages (BSPs): kernel, modules, and firmware. 
  • System Middleware Containers: you can choose to package your monolithic distro middleware in one or build your middleware in more fine-grained units. 
  • Apps: Linux containers.
  • Configuration: system level configurations

Pantavisor Linux – distro choice without lock-in

This type of containerized portable architecture eliminates the need for specific domain knowledge that some Linux distributions require. In fact, we like to say that Pantavisor is the Linux System that frees you from being bound to a specific distribution and their toolset. Through the use of containers, developers gain the flexibility to choose distros that offer the best packages and features. 

With Pantavisor Linux teams get an effective and portable way to model and deliver system upgrades as atomically transactional units. This is easily accomplished since the package exchange format matches the Pantavisor state format. The Pantavisor System Engine also by default comes packaged as a tiny no-OS that creates a modularized system experience out of BSPs and containers.

Pantabox – a DX and toolbox for managing Pantavisor Linux

Official Pantavisor images include Pantabox, a frontend that offers an intuitive developer experience wrapped around all of the essential utilities developers need in order to maintain, evolve and publish a Pantavisor Linux system on embedded Linux devices.

Everything on the device is containerized with Pantavisor and its management toolbox, Pantabox is no exception and it also runs in a container on top of Pantavisor Linux. With Pantabox you have the full set of pvr cli commands available for managing device atomic revisions as well as other operations for your embedded Linux projects. 

Work locally and push to a remote hub when you’re ready

Pantabox reduces the back and forth and the time it takes to test and debug software updates by controlling software transactional updates locally on the device as well as in the cloud to a device Hub like Pantacor Hub. In the Pantabox lexicon, these are referred to as Local mode and Remote mode.  

Typical developer workflow

A developer may need to work locally on the device to update, edit and test changes to an app configuration. While working, they can add, commit and track several revisions using the pvr command line tools onto the device locally.  When ready to publish the new device profile, and its revisions, the developer switches to remote mode and publishes the new device profile to Pantacor’s SaaS, Pantacor Hub or to any other on-premise or alternative hosting service.  

Convert any Docker Container

In addition to containerized firmware lifecycle management and customization, you may want to run any Docker container on any of your IoT devices. Pantavisor Linux doesn’t run Docker containers natively, but it does use Docker images as a great source of root file systems for containers that are run by the Pantavisor with LXC.  

Get started with this tutorial or take a deeper dive into managing Pantavisor Linux with Pantabox.

Final Thoughts

We’re really excited for you to try Pantabox and Pantavisor Linux and we’d love to hear your thoughts. Try one of the guides or join us in the Pantavisor community forum