Called the Intel Seamless Update, this feature allows updating the system firmware, like the UEFI, in run-time, meaning inside of the operating system as a regular program, instead of requiring a reboot. This specific feature targets Intel’s clients with high service level agreements (SLAs) around downtime, where customers expect their system to be available all the time. A typical UEFI update takes several minutes and impacts the customer’s infrastructure, causing expensive downtime.
Updating system firmware, such as your motherboard UEFI/BIOS, often requires a reboot procedure to complete the installation process. However, mission-critical systems are expected to experience almost zero downtime (it isn’t possible to have 100% uptime), and Intel has been working on a solution for that for quite some time now.
The Intel Seamless Update feature for the Linux kernel will have a Platform Firmware Runtime Update ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) driver that will manage all of the happenings on the OS side of things. By doing so, Intel wants the PFRU to fetch and record all of the firmware logs in the OS and have it patch the firmware on the go as the system is running.
All of this work is being done to serve one purpose: enable customers to do more with as few interruptions as possible. Firmware updates are often very risky as they take down the entire system during the procedure, so performing them in run time is a very interesting approach. We expect to see this Seamless Update feature become mainline once the Intel Sapphire Rapids Xeon processors hit the market, and it could be used as one of the advertising features for the processor.