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Canonical releases Ubuntu images optimized for Elkhart Lake and Tiger Lake IoT features

Nov 2, 2021 — by Eric Brown 1,411 views

[Updated: 6PM] — Canonical has released images of Ubuntu Desktop 20.04 and Ubuntu Core 20 that are optimized with the latest kernel patches for IoT features found on Intel’s Elkhart Lake and 11th Gen Tiger Lake Core CPUs such as TCC and TSN.

Intel-based devices running Ubuntu represent a major chunk of the Internet of Things market, but not all the IoT features found on Intel’s latest processors make it into the Linux kernel. To save embedded developers the trouble of patching and optimizing Ubuntu, Canonical has released a pair of Ubuntu images that are tailored for Intel’s 10nm Elkhart Lake (Atom x6000, Pentium, Celeron N/J) and more powerful 11th Gen Tiger Lake platforms. Optimized images are now available for download for Ubuntu Desktop 20.04 and the more embedded-focused Ubuntu Core 20.

In other news, Canonical recently announced that Ubuntu Server 21.10 now works on the new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W. Ubuntu Desktop 20.04 and Ubuntu Core 20 support will arrive later this month. In addition, Canonical yesterday announced support for Microsoft SQL Server with Ubuntu Pro on Microsoft Azure.


The images will be updated to “integrate the latest software features,” says Canonical. It is unclear if it the Tiger Lake support extends to the new, desktop-class, up to octa-core Tiger Lake-H processors, which include much of the technology of the mobile/IoT focused Tiger Lake-U, but lack some of the IoT and industrial features.

Optimized features in the new Ubuntu images for Intel IoT include real-time performance, manageability, security, and functional safety, “as well as allowing users to take advantage of their improved CPU and graphics performance,” says Canonical. The images combine the security and reliability features offered through a containerized Ubuntu Core (much of which is also available with Ubuntu Desktop) with optimized support for the hardware-based security measures integrated into the latest Intel silicon, says the company.

The Intel-optimized images are also used by participants of Canonical’s Ubuntu Certified Hardware program, such as DFI and Advantech.

The Linux 5.13 kernel released in June adds support for some the new IoT features found on Elkhart Lake and Tiger Lake-U Core CPUs. These include EDAC, USB, Timed GPIO, and Time Coordinated Computing (TCC) patches.

The new Ubuntu images include additional support for Intel’s TCC and new support for the related, industry-standard Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN). TCC and TSN synchronize data, communications, and executions across networks of IoT devices to improve worst-case execution-time. Both technologies are baked into the “GRE” Tiger Lake-U parts, as well as the RE and FE models of Elkhart Lake.

There is also new support for the Intel Management Engine. This is defined by Intel as an embedded microcontroller that runs a lightweight microkernel OS and enables low-power, out-of-band (OOB) management. It also offers features such as Licensing Service (CLS), anti-theft protection, and Protected Audio Video Path (PAVP) technologies.

Intel Management Engine sounds a lot like Elkhart Lake’s Intel Programmable Services Engine (Intel PSE), which is built around a Zephyr-driven Cortex-M7 companion core and provides both remote OOB and in-band (INB) device management for monitoring and remotely managing devices via OTA updates. Intel PSE also hosts new functions like remote, network proxy, embedded controller, and sensor hub functionality.


Some other patches specifically target “Aaeon’s EHL.” This may refer to the Elkhart Lake based PICO-EHL4 Pico-ITX SBC, which was teased a year ago when Elkhart Lake was announced, and which we now see is fully documented. We may be wrong, however, as the Ubuntu images include a bug fix that allows Ubuntu to use the Intel I225-IT 2.5GbE Ethernet controller, which joins other Intel 2.5GbE controllers such as the Intel i225-LM. The PICO-EHL4 (as in Elk Hart Lake) is listed with dual 1GbE ports based on Realtek’s RTL8111H.

[Update: After reading this story, an Aaeon rep confirmed that the patches are indeed for the PICO-EHL4 and informed us that a new UP-branded version of the SBC with I225-IT controllers is in the works.]

In any case, we will report on the PICO-EHL4 soon along with Aaeon’s Tiger Lake-U based, 3.5-inch GENE-TGU6, which was revealed in May and was formally announced today.

The new Ubuntu images add the following optimizations for Elkhart Lake and Tiger Lake:

  • MEI (Intel Management Engine Interface) (LP: 1929894)
  • [EHL] Intel ishtp VNIC driver (LP: 1943524)
  • [EHL] Quadrature Encoder Peripheral support (LP: 1929897)
  • Enable Time Coordinated Compute interface driver (LP: 1929903)
  • Integrated TSN controller (LP: 1943687)
  • EHL graphics support (LP: 1883616)

“In addition to solving the unique needs of our IoT customers on a free-to-use validated Linux, our collaboration with Canonical lets customers access enterprise support on a long-term supported release when they look to deploy their solutions,” stated John Healy, VP of IOTG Platform Management and Customer Engineering at Intel. “This addresses the traditional challenges of maintaining and supporting customized builds for validated Linux-based deployments.”

Further information

The Intel IoT optimized images for Ubuntu Desktop 20.04 and Ubuntu Core 20 are available for download here. More information may be found in Canonical’s announcement.

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