The OpenWRT and LEDE open router projects have merged, with promises of a major software upgrade in the coming months.
Embedded computing platforms are responsible for many of the of the lower-level mechanics that drive the IoT. Now, two open source base layer infrastructure projects have now merged.
As the two leading open router initiatives in existence, the OpenWRT and LEDE (standing for Linux Embedded Development Environment) projects often had a fractious relationship but have now tied the knot merged to become a single entity.
Aiming to become more than the sum of their constituent parts, the projects aim to now come forward with a major software release at some future point in 2018.
As many readers will know, a router is a piece of hardware that sits at a significant and identifiable ‘gateway’ on a network. The router runs a codebase of embedded software (sometimes called firmware), the job of which is to direct ‘packets’ of data down a particular path, depending on which route is the most efficiently optimized, fastest, most secure – or a combination of all of those factors.
Read more: Opinion: Why blockchain matters for the IoT
Why jailbreak a router?
So why would anyone need to tamper with a router? The answer is because developers and computer scientists often want to overwrite a manufacturer’s firmware to test new operational use cases scenarios, to get around major security flaws or to simply play with experimental prototyping ideas.
Until now, OpenWRT was really the only serious choice for techies wanting to work in this space. An offshoot ‘fork’ of OpenWRT, LEDE was only forged in March 2016 by a collective of software engineers who felt disenchanted by the direction OpenWRT was taking.
According to Openwrt.org, “LEDE’s spinoff and subsequent re-merge into OpenWrt will not alter the overall technical direction taken by the unified project. We will continue to work on improving stability and release maintenance while aiming for frequent minor releases to address critical bugs and security issues like we did with LEDE 17.01 and its four point releases until now.”
A new union
As the LEDE team now pledges to join forces with OpenWRT, this formation of this union is (arguably) interesting. LEDE and indeed OpenWRT have always sought to provide things (like extensibility, performance scaling and community support and research options) that vendor/manufacturers don’t – or if they do, to provide them in greater quantities with more accessibility — and, crucially, to provide them as Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) offerings.
There you have it then in terms of insight into who’s hacking (in the positive sense) to make your IoT network better and provide more widely tested security features than some manufacturers will typically offer.