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Alcatel telecom transitions soft-switches to Linux

Jan 30, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Virtualization software specialist Jaluna has announced its first major design win in the network equipment provider (NEP) market. The company says Alcatel deployed an x86 version of OSWare in a line of Linux- and legacy OS-based soft-switches that began shipping two months ago.

The announcement follows news last month that Dutch consumer electronics giant Philips licensed OSWare for a single-chipset mobile phone reference design expected this year.

Alcatel reports that “several operators” have already deployed the new soft-switch products, which run Linux together with legacy OSes on commodity processor blades powered by a single Pentium M processor running OSWare.

Jaluna's EVP of corporate development, Michel Gien, told LinuxDevices that Alcatel chose to license OSWare in order to extend the life of its mature telecom applications and OSes. “A lot of software they have uses their old, stable, validated operating system on new, commodity-based Intel and AMD hardware,” he explained. “The new hardware processors have a high level of performance that legacy software can't take advantage of. Virtualization lets them run several OS instances on one board, to better optimize performance on the new hardware.”

According to Gien, NEPs such as Alcatel tend to implement new applications under Linux, but don't necessarily want to port legacy applications such as complex cluster management and failover systems to the new operating system right away. At the same time, legacy OSes sometimes have trouble running on newer CPUs without major adaptations. “Growing CPU speeds can introduce synchronization problems [such as race conditions] in legacy software, that didn't show up when processors were slower. This can be solved by running multiple OSes on a single processor,” he said.

“OSWare lets NEPs use Linux just for new applications, without having to port all the complicated control stuff over to Linux,” continued Gien.

Gien hopes OSWare will also help Alcatel and other customers transition to multi-threaded, multi-core processors, which he expects to become the norm. He said, “It's not even definite that [AMD and Intel] will continue offering mono-core processors in the future,” he added.

Another processor trend Jaluna hopes to leverage in the NEP market is the addition of hardware virtualization features — Intel's Vanderpool technology, for example. “Processors are coming out now with new instructions that allow support for multiple OS instances, and switching from one to the other,” Gien explained. “These hardware features need software support. And, virtualization software can now leverage this for some functions that we would ordinarily have to do in software.”

Gien notes that developers of server applications could use a product such as VMWare to exploit hardware virtualization capabilities in newer processors. However, he thinks Jaluna provides a better choice for embedded applications. “These hardware instructions [for virtualization] are pretty complex, and were really designed to support server systems. We can optimize [the feature] for real-time,” he said.

Gien notes that Alcatel licensed OSWare as a fully commercialized, off-the-shelf product, consistent with its strategy of using commodity components. Alcatel took “a few months” to port legacy software components to OSWare, with some support from Jaluna, according to Gien. “We supported them in adapting their software to OSware. Because of the way we architected it, customers can reuse device drivers, and use the same peripherals.”

“OSWare is not just technology, not just a proof-of-concept. It's a fully commercialized product that is making its way into products that are shipping today,” Gien said.

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