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Device Types

A device type in balena describes a SoC or group of SoCs that have the same boot configuration and are capable of booting the same Operating system. When a new device type is created, it is usually because the SoC or configuration is distinctly different from others that exist.

As an example the Raspberry Pi 1 model B+ and Raspberry Pi Zero W are part of the same device type since they are both armv6l architecture SoCs and the boot loader is capable of booting both boards. However, the Raspberry Pi 3 model B+ is by default a armv7l CPU and we therefore separate it into a new device type.

In balenaCloud the device type is also used to define what architecture the built containers for each app will be. So in the above example RPi ZERO deployments are built for the armv6l architecture where as RPi 3 applications will target the armv7l architecture and the Intel NUC device type will target x86_64 architecture.

Designations

When looking at all the supported device types in balenaCloud, you will notice that there are a number of different designations. Here we will discuss a few of these designations in more detail.

Official

All device types that are not designated with COMMUNITY or PRIVATE are considered officially supported boards.

Official device types are:

  • Run through a full suite of testing on real hardware each time an OS version is released for the device type.
  • We endevour to ensure that all the hardware peripherals on the device type are functional and accessible. This includes things like i2c, SPI, audio, etc.
  • Continually updated to new versions of the OS, usually within 2 or 3 minor versions of meta-balena master version.
  • Official devices are recommended for production deployments.

On some official device types you will see the (BETA) designation. This does not mean the OS itself is beta level software, but rather that this device type not yet used by enough people or has not been in production for a long enough time. In balenaCloud all official device types start out as BETA and when the team decides the device type has enough production usage, it is graduated out of BETA.

Private

Private device types have exactly the same guarentees and testing process as official device types but they are only visible to specific customers that have paid for this device support. If you are interested in finding out more about private device support email solutions@balena.io .

Community

Device types that are marked as COMMUNITY are device types that have been contributed by an external community member rather than the balena team. An example of a community device type is the Orange Pi Zero which was contributed into the https://github.com/balena-os/balena-allwinner repo.

The community devices types are:

  • Maintained by the community member and feature/support requests are handled in the forums or on the device-types github repository.
  • The balena team does not test and verify each release of the OS, instead we rely on the community members to conduct testing.
  • Updated to newer versions as the community drives it, we do not guarentee the device type will keep up with OS versions.
  • Community boards can be promoted to an official balena supported board if a customer is interested in sponsoring the device support. If you are interested in sponsoring a community board, email solutions@balena.io .

Discontinued

Discontinued device types are those that are no longer actively maintained by the balena team or anyone in the community and will stop showing in the dashboard as options for new applications and devices. Any already provisioned devices of this type will continue to function, but will no longer receive operating system updates.

A device type will be discontinued if:

  • The device manufacturer end support and sale of the device.
  • No devices of this type are provisioned on balenaCloud in the last 6 months.
  • If it is a community device type and it has not received maintence in the last 6 months.
  • If it is a private device type and the customer has stopped paying for the device to be supported.

Versioning

The version string for a particular device type is a combination of the meta-balena version and the device specific repo revisions.

  • The version of meta-balena is in the format of 3 numbers separated by a dot. The patch number can have a beta label. e.g. 1.2.3, 1.2.3-beta1, 2.0.0-beta1.
  • The version of the specific device type is constructed by appending to the meta-balena version a rev label. This will have the semantics of a board revision which adapts a specific meta-balena version for a targeted board. For example a meta-balena 1.2.3 can go through 3 board revisions at the end of which the final version will be 1.2.3+rev3 .
  • When updating meta-balena version in a specific device type repo, the revision will reset to 1. Ex: 1.2.3+rev4 will be updated to 1.2.4+rev1 .
  • Note that the final OS version is NOT based on the semver specification so parsing of such a version needs to be handled in a custom way. If you are interested in how to parse the version scheme, have a look at our balenaOS version parser balena-semver.