Intel Wants to Enable UEFI Updates Without Reboots

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Most people don’t necessarily like rebooting, but the speed and stability of modern systems make it a minimal chore these days. For enterprise customers with Service Level Agreements that mandate a guaranteed level of uptime, however, every reboot means a risk of not fulfilling the terms of the contract.

Intel has a plan to deal with this issue, dubbed Intel Seamless Update. That’s according to Phoronix, who spotted evidence that new patches in the Linux kernel are being added to enable such a feature. They detail how Intel is adding support around its Platform Firmware Runtime Update and Telemetry drivers. There’s also a recent Intel whitepaper that references an “Intel Seamless Update” technology.

The whitepaper states:

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).

While Intel’s document doesn’t specifically state this, there are multiple references to “runtime firmware changes.” Phoronix casts this as a UEFI update system, but I’m not certain the update if the is actually flashed to the UEFI firmware. Intel’s whitepaper doesn’t sketch out a specific “Write Update to Firmware” step the way Microsoft’s guidelines for distributing UEFI versions via Windows Update do:

Intel’s guidelines do refer to an MM Driver Update function, but they also state: “The code update infrastructure allows delivering runtime firmware changes that are targeted for hardware and firmware state modifications to allow security or performance enhancements.” This could be read to mean the UEFI improvements are being loaded at runtime via the MM rather than that the UEFI is actually being flashed without rebooting the OS.

We have a question in to Intel on this point and will update the story if we hear back.

Either way, though, this is a notable step forward for enterprise systems. The ability to apply a UEFI flash (or the equivalent of a UEFI flash) without rebooting is a nice feature. Intel’s Seamless Update doesn’t appear to require specialized hardware, just driver and OS support. If the feature is being baked into Linux, it may come to the Windows enterprise as well and then trickle down into consumer products at a later date. Microsoft has put significant work into reducing the number of reboots Windows customers need to make over the past two decades, and not needing to reboot to update system firmware would take another reason off the table.

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