The work involves first of all the Linux world and the enterprise world, but it is not excluded that in the future it will also extend to systems with Windows and to “traditional” computers. We’re talking about “Intel Seamless Update“, functionality on which the US company is working and which the specialized site Phoronix talks about.
The novelty, which is making its way to the sound of patching in the Linux kernel, would aim to allow users to run system firmware updates (BIOS or, in the modern sense, UEFI) directly while running, no need to reboot.
According to Phoronix, Intel Seamless Update targets those customers who have very stringent agreements on downtime (the site talks about service level agreement, SLA). As known, a system firmware update usually requires at least one reboot and brings a “downtime” of several minutes. With the new feature, this problem should go away.
“Given the timing of these kernel patches and the focus on SLA policies, Intel may prepare for the implementation of Seamless Update with Xeon Scalable Sapphire Rapids servers next year“, ipotizza Phoronix.
In addition to patches for the Linux kernel, Intel Seamless Update Technology is mentioned in a whitepaper. “Certain compute systems require high service level agreements (SLAs) where fewer system reboot firmware updates are required for deploying firmware changes to address bug fixes, security updates, and to debug and root cause issues. Intel’s solution is called Intel Seamless Update. The management mode (MM), UEFI runtime services and ACPI services handle most of the system runtime functions. Intel processor architecture supports MM through System Management Mode (SMM). Changing the MM code execution during runtime is called MM Runtime Update (MRU)“.
As Extremetech points out, while in the document we talk about “runtime firmware changes” in several passages, an aspect that led Phoronix to conclude that it is the UEFI update, not entirely clear actually how everything works and if a flash firmware painlessly. Extremetech also sketches the idea that firmware improvements are loaded at runtime via the MM function rather than a real UEFI flash without rebooting the operating system.
Techniques and modalities aside, Intel Seamless Update seems to be a good feature to address an age-old problem of the enterprise world and, at the same time, a possible further simplification of the PC ecosystem in a future still not better specified.