RFC-0207: Offline blob compression

RFC-0207: Offline blob compression
  • Software Delivery

Download compressed blobs.

Gerrit change
Date submitted (year-month-day)2022-11-02
Date reviewed (year-month-day)2023-02-01


In Fuchsia's current design, when packages are resolved, uncompressed blobs are fetched over the network, and then compressed on the device before writing to disk. This RFC proposes an alternative where compressed blob artifacts can be fetched directly. This will reduce bandwidth and eliminate computationally expensive on-device compression.


pkg-resolver fetches uncompressed blobs from a blob server, and writes the blob directly to Blobfs. Blobfs compresses data on-the-fly, which requires a significant amount of CPU and memory.

With offline compression, blobs will be pre-compressed before fetching, and delivered to Blobfs in a format suitable for writing directly to disk. This will reduce CPU, memory, and network usage during package resolution and system updates. As a result, updates will complete faster, the out-of-memory (OOM) rate will be lower, and there will be a reduction in server bandwidth costs.

Developer productivity will be improved as well, since large test binaries won't need to be compressed on device. Launching tests with large binary sizes should be much faster.





  • jsankey@google.com (SWD)

  • etryzelaar@google.com (SWD)

  • mlindsay@google.com (Local Storage)

  • csuter@google.com (Local Storage)

  • bcastell@google.com (Local Storage)

  • marvinpaul@google.com (Server Infrastructure)

  • aaronwood@google.com (Product Assembly)

  • amituttam@google.com (PM)

  • dschuyler@google.com (SDK Delivery)

  • atyfto@google.com (Infra)


Offline compression and delta updates were discussed in design discussion within the software delivery team. An early draft of the RFC was reviewed by relevant stakeholders.


There are two main strategies when it comes to improving OTA time and bandwidth:

  • Offline compression: Blobfs dynamically compresses blobs on disk. However, pkg-resolver is fetching uncompressed blobs over the wire. We can instead fetch pre-compressed blobs to save bandwidth, CPU, and memory usage.
  • Delta patches: Unchanged blobs do not need to be downloaded again. This is a form of delta compression, but only works when the blob content remains identical. If there are some small changes within a blob, the server can generate a delta patch between the old and new blob, and serve only the difference between the two.


Combining the above strategies, we have the following methods for delivering a blob from blob server to device, we'll go over each of them and then show experimental results.

Uncompressed Blobs


This is the current behavior. Blobs are downloaded directly in uncompressed form and compressed on-the-fly as Blobfs writes the blob to persistent storage.

Offline Compression


The package server supports downloading pre-compressed blob artifacts in a format suitable for ingestion by Blobfs. No on-device compression is required, and an online algorithm can be used to calculate the Merkle tree / root in a memory efficient manner using a streaming decompressor.

Delta Between Uncompressed Blobs


For each new blob, we find an old blob in the same package, and generate a patch between the two uncompressed blobs. Devices will need to download the patch, find the old blob, decompress it, apply the patch, and compress/verify the new blob contents.

This would require significant additional CPU and memory compared to other methods because of the extra decompression and compression step. This will also prevent the eventual removal of compression code from Blobfs.

Delta Between Compressed Blobs


Similar to above, except that we generate the patch between two offline compressed blobs. In this case, we don't need to decompress the old blob or compress the new blob on the device. One drawback of this approach is that the use of compression may result in large delta patches.

Delta Between Partially Decompressed Blobs

Similar to above, except that in the patching step, we apply a transformation before and after to reduce patch size.

This transformation will undo the tANS encoding in zstd, which makes the data byte aligned and more stable. As a result delta patching becomes more efficient, while still avoiding redoing the expensive match finding part of the compression algorithm when applying the patch on the device.

Experimental Data

Experiments show that any of these methods can save OTA size by more than half compared to the current method of using only uncompressed blobs. Delta between uncompressed blobs is about 30-50% smaller than offline compression, and the delta between compressed blobs is about 10-40% smaller than offline compression. We didn't experiment on delta between partial decompressed blobs at this time, but it is estimated that it will be somewhere between the two delta methods.


Based on the experimental data, we propose to implement offline compression as a first step. In the future, we may also explore delta patches between compressed or partially decompressed blobs method in addition to offline compression (falling back to offline compression if no previous blob was found).

This route prevents us from utilizing deltas between uncompressed blobs in the future, which uses the least amount of bandwidth out of all the options, but the amount of extra CPU and memory utilization on the device may outweigh the potential bandwidth cost.

The design of delta updates will be introduced in a future RFC which shall include the required changes to the update package format.


Delivery Blob

A delivery blob is a blob in a format suitable for efficient delivery and writing from the server to a device. Delivery blobs will include a header with metadata and a payload containing the blob data itself.


The delivery blob format shall include the following fields byte aligned and in little-endian:

  • Magic Number: b"\xfc\x1a\xb1\x0b" 4-byte identifier (stands for fuchsia blob) for confidence check, will not change
  • Type (Format): Indicates the format of the blob payload (e.g. uncompressed, zstd-chunked), 4-byte enum
  • Header Length: Size of the header including magic and storage-specific metadata, 4-byte
  • Metadata: Storage-specific metadata required to write the delivery blob to device storage via Blobfs
  • Payload: Blob data in the format specified by Type

The Payload and Metadata fields will evolve over time and should be considered implementation details and only be interacted with using tools and libraries provided by the storage team. For a given Type identifier, changes to the associated Metadata and Payload formats must be done in a backwards compatible manner.

Generating Delivery Blobs


The Fuchsia product build process creates artifacts including uncompressed blobs and metadata specifying the supported delivery blob Type the product expects to receive. The production blob server shall use a tool provided by the storage team in SDK to compress each blob and generate a delivery blob with the specified Type (--type). This allows the server to generate and serve multiple formats of a given blob, both to support the format transition, as well as handle potential differences in blob types used across different products.

The server will always use the tool from the latest published SDK, so support for older formats must be kept until stepping stones have been put in place for all channels on all products. This ensures that pushing any new releases will not need to generate blobs in the old format.

For the same data, Type and tool version, the tool must produce deterministic output, however newer versions of the tool is allowed to produce output not bit-for-bit identical to the previous version. This can be caused, for example, by updating the underlying compression library to a newer version. For a given Type, the tool must guarantee the generated delivery blob is backward compatible with existing fuchsia releases that are expecting this Type of blob.

If a delivery blob of the same hash and Type already exists, the server should use that instead of generating a new delivery blob with the latest tool. This makes sure that an existing well tested OTA path will not be affected by future unrelated build releases.

Developer Workflow

Currently the build compresses all blobs when generating the Blobfs image. Instead, compression will be moved out of image generation, and will be performed separately on each blob using a dedicated tool. The output of the tool will be the blob in the specified delivery blob format, which can be used directly by the blob server on the host to save build time.

Generating the final Blobfs image shall have the option to use delivery blobs directly as input (in addition to uncompressed blobs).

Infrastructure Workflow

The builders will upload delivery blobs generated during the product build & assembly in addition to uncompressed blobs to the shared GCS bucket for blobs. These delivery blobs will be used by test runners and some developer workflow where downloading packages from infra is required.

Because the GCS bucket is shared among all builds, infra should verify that the hash of the decompressed delivery blob matches before uploading. It MUST not be possible to bypass this verification within a fuchsia.git change, to prevent any malicious change from running pre-submit uploading these blobs without verification.

Blob Server Protocol

Current State

Currently the only metadata we need to download a blob is the hash, we can use the hash to find the uncompressed blob URL on the blob server, for example https://blob.server.example/781205489a95d5915de51cf80861b7d773c879b87c4e0280b36ea42be8e98365

The size of the blob is currently required by Blobfs to begin the write process, and can be obtained from the Content-Length HTTP header.

Offline Compression

For offline compression, the hash of a given blob is still the same (i.e. it matches the Merkle root of the uncompressed blob). Thus, pkg-resolver can use the hash to find the delivery blob on the blob server by URL, include the blob format/type. For example, the URL for a blob of type 1 would be https://blob.server.example/1/781205489a95d5915de51cf80861b7d773c879b87c4e0280b36ea42be8e98365

The size of the delivery blob can be obtained from the Content-Length HTTP header. The delivery blob format contains the length of the header, allowing efficient extraction of just the payload if required.

If the blob does not exist in the requested type, the server will return 404. In this case, we shall fall back to downloading and writing the blob uncompressed using the existing write path. This fallback will be disabled in production, and can be removed after offline compression has been fully rolled out.

Probing if a blob type is available has the advantage over other options that it doesn't require format changes. The main downside of probing, however, is the chance we could double the HTTP requests when installing a package. We can avoid that by guaranteeing that the blob is always available and disable the fallback in production.


Current State

The current flow for writing blobs is as follows:

  1. Open a file handle to /blob/781... in Create mode.
  2. Truncate the file to the exact length of the uncompressed blob.
  3. Write the uncompressed blob payload.

Offline Compression

The packaging system will write blobs to Blobfs by communicating the delivery blob format type when writing the blob. While the protocol between them is internal, we suggest the current system could be extended to implement them by:

  1. To write a delivery blob, pkg-cache will open up /blob/v1-781... for writing, and write the delivery blob as-is. Truncation is no longer necessary as the delivery blob header includes all information required by Blobfs to write the blob.

  2. If the package resolver falls back to downloading the original uncompressed format, pkg-cache will instead open /blob/781... and follow the existing write path.

Regardless of how the blob was written to the device, reading it back from Blobfs will remain the same, using the Merkle root as the path (e.g. /blob/781...).

Once the transition to offline compression is complete, blobfs and pkg-cache could remove support for writing the old uncompressed blob format and remove the v1- prefix.

In order to reduce memory during writing, Blobfs shall stream the blob data to storage, and utilize a streaming decompressor for Merkle tree generation. As blobs should be considered untrusted inputs to the system, all decompression must be done in a sandboxed component. See Security Considerations for more details.

After offline compression has rolled out, we may improve the performance of the write path further by making use of zx stream support.

Size Checking

After this RFC the compressed size of a given blob in blobfs has the potential to vary more significantly because different software releases may use different compression algorithms for the same blob. If a blob was cached in blobfs using an earlier compression algorithm the size on disk may be different to a newer compression of the same blob on the server. Products should consider this point when determining the size of a release and setting a threshold on the maximum release size for space-constrained devices.


The following steps are required to support offline compression:

  • Blobfs updates the experimental implementation of offline compression to include format type in the path, and enable it by default.

  • pkg-cache supports writing delivery blobs to Blobfs.

  • pkg-resolver supports downloading delivery blobs of a specified type.

  • Blob server generates delivery blobs in various types, and serves them.

  • Build system publishes delivery blobs to the devhost TUF repo.

  • ffx repository supports serving delivery blobs directly.


Offline compression will significantly reduce bandwidth, CPU, and memory usage when downloading a blob.

Clean build time could be slower depending on how many universe packages are included in the build. This is because these packages aren't currently compressed during a build, and are instead compressed on each device when resolving the package.

Incremental build time may be much faster because rebuilding blobfs image may not need to recompress all base blobs anymore.


Now that we have a delivery blob format in multiple places, a host tool to interact with it will be helpful for debugging.

We will have a host tool in ffx that can:

  • convert between delivery blob and uncompressed blob.
  • show delivery blob format information: version, uncompressed size, on device space size, compression ratio, number of chunks, chunk size, etc.

Backwards Compatibility

Migrating from uncompressed to offline compression and from one delivery blob format type to another is very similar, this section covers both.

A delivery blob of a given format type must be backwards compatible with any existing device that accepts/supports the type. Any breaking changes to a given blob format must use a different type identifier.

Production and developer workflow will use different strategies to transition, because the trade offs are different. In production, one server serves all devices in the field, whereas for developers, there is usually only one device.


During the transition period, the server must generate multiple types of the blobs for the same build. This is required to update any device that might get an update to that build, until a stepping stone is put in place.

This approach allows us to begin rolling out new types sooner, and a stepping stone is only needed to end the transition. It also removes the need to have client side fallback logic in production.

Developer Workflow

The development host shall only publish one blob format at a time. As such, the host side server is not guaranteed to have older blob formats for backward compatibility.

To allow fx ota to continue to work, we will rely on device side fallback. During a transition period, devices running newer builds will first try to get the newer blob type. If the package server on the host does not have this blob format, then the device shall request an older type blob as a fallback. When most devices get updated, we can switch host side to generate the new type, and remove on-device support for this fallback method.

Security Considerations

Offline compression extends the attack surface on the decompressor, which must now parse data coming over the network, in addition to data stored on disk. Outside of using TLS, the blobs downloaded in delivery format do not include signing, and can only be verified by feeding untrusted data into the decompressor.

As a result, we must use a sandboxed decompressor for offline compression as defense-in-depth. If an attacker finds a vulnerability in the decompressor, the system cannot be compromised without chaining another attack to escape the sandbox. Any decompressed data will be verified using the merkle root hash, this prevents compromised decompressor from producing malicious output.

Parsing the metadata in delivery format will be done using security approved parsing library.

Another possible attack is malicious blob being uploaded to infrastructure GCS bucket, which is covered in Infrastructure Workflow section.

Privacy Considerations

The only extra information that the device sends to the server is the delivery blob format type.


This feature will be covered by pkg-resolver integration tests, E2E OTA tests and manual OTA tests by the test team.


fuchsia.dev documentation on OTA updates will be updated to clarify that a delivery blob is downloaded during package resolution and the merkle root hash of the blob is still the uncompressed data.

Drawbacks, Alternatives, and Unknowns


Offline compression moves the compression from device side to server side, so package resolve will be faster, but build could be slower, and uploading a build to server could use more resources and take longer.


Delta Between Uncompressed Blobs

It could also significantly reduce OTA size, but will use even more CPU and memory on the device.

Content Address With Compressed Hash

In addition to uncompressed hash, we can also include the compressed hash when referring to a blob in packages, for blobs that don't change, we will still need to fetch them again if the compressed hash change.


  • Devices running the same build will have exactly the same blobs, no matter which upgrade path they took.
  • Blobfs does not need to support very old blob format.
  • Space usage calculate is more accurate.


  • Require significant changes to package format, blocked by meta/content format change.
  • Require change to pinned package URL format to include compressed hash.
  • Blobfs has to do more work to track the uncompressed and compressed hashes.
  • Devices would use more bandwidth downloading the same blob if the compression changes.
  • An update that changes blob format will need to update every blob, putting the device very close to storage limit.

Verifying Delivery Blob Hash during Package Resolution

Similar to "Content Address with Compressed Hash", we could gain some of the same security benefits by verifying the delivery blob hash when the Package Resolver downloads a blob. The delivery blobs stored in the blob store could be changed to include the hash at the beginning:

  • Delivery Blob Merkle: The merkle computed over the remaining bytes in the delivery blob.

Then, the package format, TUF metadata, Omaha responses, and pinned package urls could be changed to include both the merkles of the uncompressed blob and the delivery blob.

When downloading a blob:

  • Package Resolver begins to download the first 32 bytes, and extract out the delivery blob merkle from the delivery blob.
  • Package Resolver opens /blobs/, truncates it to the length of the delivery blob minus 32 bytes.
  • Package Resolver begins to stream each chunk after the first 32 bytes to blobfs while computing the actual merkle of the delivery blob.
  • Upon receiving the last chunk, before writing it to blobfs, validate the delivery blob has the correct merkle. If so, write the last chunk to blobfs, otherwise close the file early.
  • Blobfs, upon receiving file closed, uncompresses the delivery blob in a sandbox, and validates that it's merkle matches the uncompressed blob merkle.


  • Since the delivery blob hash is stored in signed metadata, devices would reject a malicious blob with a decompressor attack written by an attacker with write access to a blob store.


  • The package format would need to be changed, either with a new meta/contents format, or a new file in meta/fuchsia.pkg.
  • Would not protect against a local attacker with the ability to overwrite a local blob with a decompressor attack directly into blobfs.
  • Does not guarantee that all devices would have exactly the same blobs, since we would not overwrite any blobs that exist locally.
  • Requires changes to the pinned package URL format to include compressed hash.

Signing Delivery Blob

The signature of the compressed data could be included in the metadata to be verified before passing the payload to decompressor. This would address security concern of decompressing untrusted data.

However in order to make this streamable, we will have to include the complete merkle tree of the compressed data in delivery blob, and verify hash of each block. We would also need to consider key management, key rotation, etc.

This introduces a lot of complexity to the streaming flow and delivery blob generation process, and it's unclear how this could work with third party blob servers.

We think using security approved parsing library and decompression sandbox is enough to mitigate this risk.

Prior Art and References

Chrome OS

The crostini image is squashfs using gzip compression, puffin is used to generate an efficient delta patch between two compressed images by decoding the huffman coding of deflate stream into a custom format.


Non A/B updates in Android uses imgdiff to patch APKs, it's running bsdiff on uncompressed files in APKs, when Android moved to A/B updates, imgdiff is replaced by puffin.