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Omaha Client Library

Updated: 2020-09

This is a platform- and product-agnostic implementation of the client end of the Omaha Protocol protocol for signaling that updates are available to a device or application.


Design Goals

  • Features: All protocol features needed by a device that wishes to use the Omaha protocol for update management.
  • Correct Operation at Scale: When used at scale, there are behaviors that must be implemented to ensure that global synchronization does not occur, and if some outside action causes a large number of clients to synchronize, they need to quickly de-synchronize.
  • Testability: Full-coverage of both normal and abnormal use-cases via unit-tests.
  • Modularity: Clear separation of modules for testability and portability via Rust Traits.
  • Sepration of concerns: The state machine for the protocol, and the policy that governs it, are wholly separate for testabilty.

High Level Design

This is a general overview of the major conceptual components of the library:

High Level Diagram

The omaha client library provides for these main pieces:

  • An App struct which is used to define the thing that needs update checks.
  • The State Machine for the protocol.

and the definitions (via Traits) for an implementor using the library to provide the following:

  • The Policy for the StateMachine to use when it needs to make decisions.
  • The PolicyEngine which gathers the system data that the Policy needs to make decisions for the StateMachine.
  • The Installer for performing installations / updates.
  • The Observer for providing library users with state and progress.

This split allows the implementor of a binary or update-check service to focus on the platform- and product-specific aspects of the Policy, Installer, etc.

The relationships between the StateMachine and the other components is as follows:

State Machine and Policy:

The StateMachine asks the Policy various questions, such as “is it time to check for an update?” or “can an update be installed right now?”.

The Policy implementation itself is stateless, self-less, and idempotent. It MUST NOT track any state of its own, and repeated questions with the same arguments MUST have the same answer.

Policy Engine and the Policy itself

The Policy answers questions, but to do so, it often needs data from the system (e.g. the current time). The Policy can't gather any data itself. All the information that it uses to base its decisions on comes to it from the PolicyEngine, which is the intermediary between the StateMachine and the Policy.

The PolicyEngine takes the arguments passed to it from the StateMachine, adds the data that it needs to gather (called PolicyData), or the state that it's been tracking, and calls upon the Policy to make a decision which is returned to the StateMachine.

While the Policy is stateless, the PolicyEngine almost certainly is not, but only acts to gather and hold state that it can pass to the Policy via PolicyData.

State Machine and Installer:

The StateMachine instructs the Installer to perform an update and the Installer provides progress and status notifications back to the StateMachine as the update is downloaded and applied. When complete, the StateMachine may signal the Installer to reboot.

State Machine and Installer (InstallationPlan) The StateMachine takes the Omaha response, and after parsing/validating it from a protocol point of view, hands it off to the Installer to create an InstallPlan for performing the update that was contained in the response.


The StateMachine has two parts:

  1. An outer loop which initiates regular checks for updates.
  2. An inner process flow which performs the requisite requests to Omaha to propertly check for, and provide feedback on, an update.

The process flow is:

Process Flow

Tasks that are fully synchronous (and internal to the StateMachine) are in blue, with the tasks that require asynchronous operation in red. Error-path transitions are in red, success-path transitions are in green, and the transitions that are taken for both error and success cases are in black.

There are a number of “don’t care” tasks, specifically around the reporting of events and errors to Omaha. These are “best effort” actions that are taken, and a response waited for, but if no response comes, or it’s malformed, the StateMachine doesn’t take different action from the success case, does not retry, and continues on to the next task.

The error cases on the left involve the emitting of local status messages, and an ending of the protocol, without needing to signal Omaha of that fact. These are cases where an update check cannot be performed at this time, or the update check itself fails (at the transport layer), or the response says there is no update to be performed.

The error cases on the right involve a need to be reported to Omaha. They are, in order: a malformed response from Omaha, a response and InstallPlan that cannot be performed based on the current PolicyData or a Policy decision, or an error during the performing of an update.