Identifying device types

Identifying device types

When adding devices, there is a decision to be made about what qualifies as a device type and what does not. A different type of device can mean different things, including:

  1. different hardware
  2. different access methods (typically, bootloaders)

However, a slight or incremental change to hardware does not necessarily mean that the updated device is a different device type, even if that change adds a fix which makes significant functionality available. e.g. if USB hotplug becomes available on revision C, that does not necessarily affect whether revision C is a different device type to revision A and B.

Typically, the distinction between two device types comes down to whether the two devices can be driven in the same way at bootloader level, from initial power on.

Another example is a DTB. If a dtb is available for the device and is a different binary to the dtb for the second device, consideration should be given as to whether this merits the devices being two different device types, unless all devices of the proposed type can boot all dtbs available for that type.

Administrators are free to make their own choices about what qualifies as a device type, some factors include:

Interchangeable jobs
The device type has a single health check and this remains a requirement because it helps to illustrate where a device may need to be a different type.
Interchangeable bootloaders
Some devices can update the bootloader and change between different bootloader types within a single job, even so, this may have significant costs in terms of job runtime (especially the amount of time required before the actual test can start after waiting for the bootloader to be updated) and in terms of the expected lifetime of the device (some bootloaders live on media which can only be written a limited number of times).
Earlier bootloaders
Some devices may have a first or second stage bootloader which can then switch the location of the bootloader used during the test. This is often described as a chained bootloader and the decision comes down to whether the earlier bootloader can be interrupted (possibly via GPIO lines) and whether updating the next bootloader in the chain can be done without issues of reducing the lifetime of the media for that bootloader.
Once implemented, it can be problematic to change the decision made when the device is introduced. Separate device types can complicate queries and result reporting - combining two devices which eventually end up being different device types causes issues with a loss of history when the split is finally made.
Different labs may make different decisions - if you are looking to work with an existing lab, follow their device type layout and ask about how a new device should be classified before committing to a decision in your own lab.
Test requirements
Talk to the test writers and establish whether an apparent hardware difference is sufficient that the device needs to be a different type. Consider whether the test writer requirements are going to change over time - just because there is no current desire to test the experimental bootloader available on one device, does not mean that this will remain unused in a year.
If two devices are the same device type, each device needs to be able to run any test job submitted for that device type. There is scope for enhancing the scheduler to know about differences between devices but this is best done using a device tag. This also applies to health check jobs - it is recommended to always test all of the supported boot methods of a device type during a health check - if that would mean slowly writing a new bootloader, testing, then slowly writing a second bootloader, it may be preferable to have two device types.
LAVA support
There are some considerations which are constrained by LAVA support - for example the current dispatcher has a kvm device type but the refactoring has made this unnecessary as the only difference between kvm and qemu device types were command line options. So the new dispatcher uses qemu for both and the architecture is specified in the device dictionary. qemu01 could be x86_64 and qemu02 could be mips. It is suggested that such devices either include such details in the name or in the description of the device itself (which is editable by all owners of the device). If the only factor requiring two device types is LAVA support, please consider filing a bug so that this can be investigated.


It is not a good idea to split device types arbitrarily - sooner or later there will be a requirement to look at the results of jobs across both types and having an unnecessary device type is confusing for test writers. Use a device tag for small differences between devices of the same device type.

See also Device type metadata.


  • The panda and panda-es device types are separate in the Cambridge LAVA lab as, when originally introduced, there was an expectation that the hardware differences between the devices would be relevant to how the jobs were constructed. As it turned out, no such difference was actually exploited by the test writers.
  • The mustang device can support UBoot and UEFI bootloaders but not on the same machine. The bootloader can be changed but this is a custom process which may or may not be manageable during a test job. Whereas the refactoring could distinguish between the two boot methods,
  • UEFI menu and UEFI shell are usually the same device type as the initial state of the one bootloader can determine how the subsequent operations proceed.
  • panda devices can support operating systems like Debian as well as supporting Android deployments using a single bootloader - UBoot.