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Behind the scenes: forthcoming of BOA2

Posted by Felix Kronlage on Saturday, November 20, 2010

One of our forthcoming projects is the product update of the bytemine openbsd appliance 2. This blog post will be the start of a series of articles about the technological features and changes coming with boa 2.

The software stack of the bytemine openbsd appliance in its first version is based on OpenBSD 4.5. The latest version of the stack is 1.5.14 and we’re in the works of preparing 1.6. For the next 1 1/2 years we will continue to support the boa 1 software stack with security, bug-fix as well as feature updates.

However OpenBSD 4.8, released on November 1st 2010, brings many, many new features to OpenBSD, especially to, but certainly not limited to the network stack. The changes between OpenBSD 4.5 to OpenBSD 4.8 are too many to list them here in detail. The corresponding webpages over at openbsd.org give a good overview:

Besides baseing the bytemine openbsd appliance 2 software-stack on top of OpenBSD 4.8, we have many new features in the works to make this a nice network appliance.

Before I want to dive into more details, the most important one: When will the boa 2 be available? We’re currently targeting at December 2010. Even without any new features updating everything to OpenBSD 4.8 involves a lot of testing, even though we took good care not to hook into any to specific parts of the operating system.

At OpenRheinRuhr 2010 we presented boa2 for the first time. Which means: we have an image that contains most of the new features, with some bits still missing and other bits not being tested very well.

One of the great additions (that will also show up in the 1.6 version of the boa stack) is sismart. Our hardware appliances in the bytemine openbsd appliance product line are equiped with compact flash cards from SiliconSystems. These are industrial grade compact flash cards that offer a special, proprietary interface to access the wear-down data. With sismart we’re able to read out this data and make assumptions about when best to replace the compact flash. In an upcoming blog post we will present details on this.

From the beginning a special rescue system belonged to our appliance. On systems equipped with an lcd (like the 4v15 as well as 4m16), the rescue system can be booted from the front panel, offering interactivity. Of course the rescue system also works on the serial interface, helping you to recover your appliance. For boa 2 this rescue system has been greatly enhanced. It now offers things, such as:

  • backup your compact flash to an external usb drive
  • restore your cf from an external usb drive
  • configure the network of the rescue system through the front panel (since we carry an ssh-server in the rescue
    system which is quite convenient)
  • display system informations

Parts of this work will show up in other parts of our software stack. The initial configuration of the appliance can be done via the lcd, allowing you to use ssh for further setup, as such you will not need a serial connection (which is a requirement for boa 1).

A lot of our functional additions will show up in boa 1 as well, so existing customers can look forward to lots of new features as well.