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TREBLE: Fast Software Updates by Creating an Equilibrium in an Active Software Ecosystem of Globally Distributed Stakeholders

Iliyan Batanov Malchev
Andrew Hsieh
Dave Burke
ACM Transactions on Embedded Computing Systems, vol. 18(5s) (2019), 23 pages
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This paper presents our experience with Treble, a two-year initiative to build the modular base in Android, a Java-based mobile platform running on the Linux kernel. Our TREBLE architecture splits the hardware independent core framework written in Java from the hardware dependent vendor implementations (e.g., user space device drivers, vendor native libraries, and kernel written in C/C++). Cross-layer communications between them are done via versioned, stable inter-process communication interfaces whose backward compatibility is tested by using two API compliance suites. Based on this architecture, we repackage the key Android software components that suffered from crucial post-launch security bugs as separate images. That not only enables separate ownerships but also independent updates of each image by interested ecosystem entities. We discuss our experience of delivering TREBLE architectural changes to silicon vendors and device makers using a yearly release model. Our experiments and industry rollouts support our hypothesis that giving more freedom to all ecosystem entities and creating an equilibrium are a transformation necessary to further scale the world largest open ecosystem with over two billion active devices.