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Updates strategy

To minimize service disruption, Zincati allows administrators to control when machines are allowed to reboot and finalize auto-updates.

Several updates strategies are supported, which can be configured at runtime via configuration snippets as shown below. If not otherwise configured, the default updates strategy resolves to immediate.

Immediate strategy

The simplest updates strategy consists of minimal logic to immediately finalize an update as soon as it is staged locally.

For configuration purposes, such strategy is labeled immediate and takes no additional configuration parameters.

This strategy can be enabled via a configuration snippet like the following:

[updates]
strategy = "immediate"

The immediate strategy is an aggressive finalization method which is biased towards finalizing updates as soon as possible, and it is only aware of node-local state.

Such an approach is only recommended for environments where temporary service interruption are not problematic, or there is no need for more complex reboot scheduling.

Lock-based strategy

In case of a fleet of machines grouped into a cluster, it is often required to orchestrate reboots so that hosted services are not disrupted when single nodes are rebooting to finalize updates. In this case it is helpful to have an external orchestrator managing reboots cluster-wide, and having each machine trying to lock (and unlock) a reboot slot with the centralized lock-manager.

Several distributed databases and lock-managers exist for such purpose, each one with a specific remote API for clients and a variety of transport mechanisms. Zincati does not mandate any specific lock-manager or database, but instead it uses a simple HTTP-based protocol modeling a distributed counting semaphore with recursive locking, called FleetLock,

In short, it consists of two operations:

  • lock: before rebooting, a reboot slot must be locked (and confirmed) by the lock-manager.
  • unlock: after rebooting, any reboot slot owned by the node must be unlocked (and confirmed) by the lock-manager before proceeding further.

This protocol is not coupled to any specific backend, and can be implemented on top of any suitable infrastructure:

For configuration purposes, such strategy is labeled fleet_lock and takes the following configuration parameters:

  • base_url (string, mandatory, non-empty): the base URL for the FleetLock service.

This strategy can be enabled via a configuration snippet like the following:

[updates]
strategy = "fleet_lock"

[updates.fleet_lock]
base_url = "http://example.com/fleet_lock/"

The fleet_lock strategy is a conservative method which is biased towards avoiding service disruptions, but it requires an external component which is aware of cluster-wide state.

Such an approach is only recommended where nodes are already grouped into an orchestrated cluster, which can thus provide better overall scheduling decisions.

Periodic strategy

The periodic strategy allows Zincati to only reboot for updates during certain timeframes, also known as “maintenance windows” or “reboot windows”. Outside of those maintenance windows, reboots are not automatically performed and auto-updates are staged and held until the next available window.

Reboot windows recur on a weekly basis, and can be defined in any arbitrary order and length. Their individual length must be greater than zero. By default, all maintenance windows are defined in UTC dates and times. This is meant to avoid timezone-related skews in a fleet of machines, as well as possible side-effects of Daylight Savings Time (DST) policies.

Periodic reboot windows can be configured and enabled in the following way:

[updates]
strategy = "periodic"

[[updates.periodic.window]]
days = [ "Sat", "Sun" ]
start_time = "23:30"
length_minutes = 60

[[updates.periodic.window]]
days = [ "Wed" ]
start_time = "01:00"
length_minutes = 30

The above configuration would result in three maintenance windows during which Zincati is allowed to reboot the machine for updates:

  • 60 minutes starting at 23:30 UTC on Saturday night, and ending at 00:30 UTC on Sunday morning
  • 60 minutes starting at 23:30 UTC on Sunday night, and ending at 00:30 UTC on Monday morning
  • 30 minutes starting at 01:00 UTC on Wednesday morning, and ending at 01:30 UTC on Wednesday morning

Reboot windows can be separately configured in multiple snippets, as long as each updates.periodic.window entry contains all the required properties:

  • days: an array of weekdays (C locale), either in full or abbreviated (first three letters) form
  • start_time: window starting time, in hh:mm ISO 8601 format
  • length_minutes: non-zero window duration, in minutes

For convenience, multiple entries can be defined with overlapping times, and each window definition is allowed to cross day and week boundaries (wrapping to the next day).

Time zone configuration

To configure a non-UTC time zone for all the reboot windows, specify the time_zone field in a updates.periodic entry. The specified time zone must be either "localtime" or a time zone name from the IANA Time Zone Database (you can find an unofficial list of time zone names here).

If using "localtime", the system’s local time zone configuration file, /etc/localtime, is used. As such, /etc/localtime must either be a symlink to a valid tzfile entry in your system’s local time zone database (under /usr/share/zoneinfo/), or not exist, in which case UTC is used.

Note that you can only specify a single time zone for all reboot windows.

A time zone can be specified in the following way:

[updates]
strategy = "periodic"

[updates.periodic]
time_zone = "America/Panama"

[[updates.periodic.window]]
days = [ "Sat", "Sun" ]
start_time = "23:30"
length_minutes = 60

[[updates.periodic.window]]
days = [ "Mon" ]
start_time = "00:00"
length_minutes = 60

Since Panama does not have Daylight Savings Time and follows Eastern Standard Time (which has a fixed offset of UTC -5) all year, the above configuration would result in two maintenance windows during which Zincati is allowed to reboot the machine for updates:

  • 60 minutes starting at 23:30 EST on Saturday night, and ending at 00:30 EST on Sunday morning
  • 90 minutes starting at 23:30 EST on Sunday night, and ending at 01:00 EST on Monday morning

Time zone caveats

⚠️ Reboot window lengths may vary. ⚠️

Because reboot window clock times are always obeyed, reboot windows may be lengthened or shortened due to shifts in clock time. For example, with the US/Eastern time zone which shifts between Eastern Standard Time and Eastern Daylight Time, on “fall back” day, a specified reboot window may be lengthened by up to one hour; on “spring forward” day, a specified reboot window may be shortened by up to one hour, or skipped entirely.

Example of varying length reboot windows using the US/Eastern time zone:

[updates]
strategy = "periodic"

[updates.periodic]
time_zone = "US/Eastern"

[[updates.periodic.window]]
days = [ "Sun" ]
start_time = "01:30"
length_minutes = 60

The above configuration will result in reboots being allowed at 1:30 AM to 2:30 AM on every Sunday. This includes days when a Daylight Savings Shift occurs.

On the US/Eastern time zone’s “fall back” day, where clocks are shifted back by one hour on a Sunday in Fall just before 3:00 AM, the thirty minutes between 2:00 AM and 2:30 AM will occur twice. As such, the reboot window will be lengthened by thirty minutes each year on “fall back” day.

On “spring forward” day, where clocks are shifted forward by one hour on a Sunday in Spring just before 2:00 AM, the thirty minutes between 2:00 AM and 2:30 AM will not occur. As such, the reboot window will be shortened by thirty minutes each year on “spring forward” day. Effectively, the reboot window on “spring forward” day will only be between 1:30 AM and 2:00 AM.

⚠️ Incorrect reboot times due to stale time zone database. ⚠️

Time zone data is read from the system’s time zone database at /usr/share/zoneinfo. This directory and its contents are part of the tzdata RPM package; in the latest release of Fedora CoreOS, tzdata should be kept fairly up-to-date with the latest official release from the IANA. However, if your system does not have the latest IANA time zone database, or there is a sudden policy change in the jurisdiction associated with your configured time zone, then reboots may happen at unexpected and incorrect times.