Evolution of OS Updates on Apple devices (15.3+)

Despite being a critical task in Endpoint Management, OS Update management is unfortunately quite a chaotic journey.

The days of merged-1.sucatalog.gz and /usr/sbin/softwareupdate.

Initially, macOS softwareupdate command could be used to manually control Software Updates. Update metadata would be made available as “sucatalog” file, one for each macOS version. This mechanism gave FileWave the ability craft our own sucatalog, allowing updates to be entirely hosted and controlled by your FileWave system.

MDM OS Update

On the mobile side, Apple introduced OS update via the MDM protocol. A couple of commands have been added to the protocol : AvailableOSUpdate command would query the device about the updates currently requested by a device, and ScheduleOSUpdate can be used to trigger the update process ; eventually, OSUpdateStatus can report information about the current upgrade progress. This mechanism has been made available on macOS as well, and made mandatory with macOS Big Sur.

The MDM version of OS Update management was supposed to simplify greatly the process, but has some downsides:

GDMF to the rescue

Apple introduced a new Software Update catalog, named GDMF (Global Device Management Framework); it exposes the list of currently available updates and the devices supporting them, which simplifies the process and provides FileWave all required information. Unfortunately, using GDMF update identifier is reported to be very unreliable when used with MDM ScheduleOSUpdate ommands.

And now, Declarative Device Management (DDM)

The new device management protocol, DDM, has now been extended to manage OS updates. It simplifies the process (there is no product identifier, just the version), and Apple assures it’s much more reliable than MDM (from our testing, it is). The only drawback of DDM OS update mechanism is that it requires iOS 17 and macOS 14. For devices not yet on macOS 14, you may refer to using Nudge or Superman.

To summarize

In FileWave 15.3.0 we have;

FileWave 15.3.0 brings the first implementation of Apple’s new device management mechanism, Declarative Device Management (DDM). FileWave 15.3.0 will make use of the new Status Report for applications, providing quick and accurate Fileset Status updates for apps installed via MDM (App Store apps) on compatible iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS devices.

FileWave 15.3.0 therefore contains the foundations on top of which support for more DDM features are being built and will be provided in coming releases, such as Software Update management or Application installation via DDM.

As a conclusion, in FileWave 15.4.0, we will;

We strongly believe that controlling OS updates is a critical task and we are excited to see how Apple DDM support can solve many of the issues which have been reported over the years.


Revision #12
Created 4 March 2024 22:14:11 by Josh Levitsky
Updated 17 June 2024 20:01:00 by Andrew Kloosterhuis