Rebootless kernel updates ahoy! Initial thoughts on Uptrack (Ksplice)

Posted By: cody

Last Updated: Friday February 19, 2010

In case you missed it we recently have added Uptrack to all of our machines to take advantage of being able to update the kernels on our machines without having to reboot. This has several implications, though the primary one being security. A large amount of hacks take place on a day-to-day basis and a large portion of them are due to out-of-date software. When there is a security issue in a web application the repercussions are plenty, though when there is a security issue in the kernel the repercussions are simply scary.

Needless to say Uptrack allows us to keep our kernels patched with the newest kernel patches to maintain a solid, stable and secure environment.

So how does it work? Well in laymans terms when new patches come out they automagically make it into a “rebootless update” and then apply it (according to them a large majority of the updates can be created without any programmer intervention). This allows you to apply updates on-the-fly without the need of rebooting. There is of course a more technical explanation, but I’ll stick with automagically for now.

One of the cooler features of Uptrack is it allows you to auto-update your kernels - this essentially leaves any need for human intervention. Now we’re not too keen on that since having our machines become self-aware is scary (arghh) so we opt for another cool feature. They offer a little web application that’s very simple yet effective. It simply lists all of the machines with Uptrack installed and their current kernel version. It let’s you know if any kernels our out of date or if any had issues installing. You can even view the update history of a machine to see which patch has been applied and what it fixed.

One of the things that we were concerned about was what if we ever decide to move away from using Uptrack? Does Uptrack gracefully “detach” from the machine with any issues? The answer is simple yes. When you remove Uptrack it reverts back to the original kernel when installed (yes, this means you would need to upgrade to a new kernel per usual). Cool beans.

We’ll post any updates regarding our experience with Uptrack here, though I doubt there will be many. We’re happy knowing there will be less maintenance windows needed and we can rest assured our kernels are up-to-date.


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