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Cavium completes MontaVista acquisition

Dec 18, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 9 views

Semiconductor firm Cavium Networks announced the completion of its acquisition of embedded Linux software firm MontaVista Software, and named former MontaVista EVP Art Landro as the new MontaVista president. Meanwhile, LinuxDevices talked with MontaVista marketing VP Dan Cauchy about where he sees the embedded Linux industry going in 2010.

Cavium Networks announced an agreement to acquire embedded Linux pioneer MontaVista on Nov. 10. The $50 million deal is comprised of approximately $16 million in cash and $34 million in Cavium Networks common stock, says Cavium, a U.S.-based semiconductor firm that focuses on high-end carrier-grade networking processors.

The acquisition followed Intel's $884 million acquisition of MontaVista's chief rival in commercial embedded Linux operating systems (OSes) and tools, publicly held Wind River. The latter was recently projected by VDC Research to have moved past market leader MontaVista in revenues.

MontaVista will run as a separate operating unit, retain its own brand name, and support multiple architectures, says Cavium. According to a statement by Cavium, "MontaVista's customers and partners will see no change in customer facing field operations and the web-based support and product download sites will be maintained." The statement further indicated one of its key interests in MontaVista, thusly, "Software is becoming an increasingly important part of the total multi-core processor solution and this acquisition will complement Cavium Network's broad portfolio of multi-core processors to deliver more highly compelling, integrated and differentiated embedded solutions to the market."

Landro named MontaVista president

Key news of the day is the ascension of Art Landro (pictured at right), previously Executive Vice President (EVP) of MontaVista's Worldwide Field Operations, to the new post of President of MontaVista Software. Landro is in essence replacing former CEO Rusty Harris (pictured below, left), who appears to have left the organization. Landro's old job, meanwhile, is assumed by Joe Gomula, who was named VP, Worldwide Field Operations.

Landro was named MontaVista's EVP in February 2008, assuming Harris' old position a week after Harris was named CEO, replacing Thomas Kelly.  Prior to joining MontaVista in 2007 as VP, international field operations, Landro had been VP of ESG global accounts for EMC Corporation since 2006. Landro joined the company as part of EMC's acquisition of Documentum, where he was VP of Asia-Pacific operations from 2000 to 2005. Harris (pictured at left) was EVP for worldwide field operations at Documentum from 1999 to 2002.

In the '90s, Landro lived in Hong Kong and Singapore, serving as VP, Asia-Pacific for Cadence Design Systems and before that, as a regional director for General DataComm. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel and earned a BS degree from the University of Connecticut. He did post-graduate work at the university's MBA program as well as the USAF's Air Command and Staff College.

MontaVista looks forward to 2010

Aside from Harris' departure and the new positions for Landro and Gomula, the management team appears to be intact, with embedded Linux progenitor Jim Ready maintaining his CTO position and Dan Cauchy staying on as VP of marketing and business development. We spoke with Cauchy earlier this week about where he saw MontaVista and the embedded Linux industry heading in 2010.

Cauchy (pictured at right) first reviewed MontaVista's highlights of 2009, in which the privately held company released a radically revamped MontaVista Linux 6 (MVL6) commercial Linux distribution in September and followed up with a new MontaVista CGE 5.1 release of its Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 4.0 compliant version for networking customers, MontaVista Linux Carrier Grade Edition (CGE). The latter, which is particularly central to Cavium's plans for its CGL-focused Octeon plus and Octeon II multi-core processors, adds support for 4G wireless networks including LTE and WiMAX, and also integrates OpenSAF High Availability (HA) capabilities and virtual routing and forwarding.

The new MVL6, which is offered in Market Specific Distributions (MSDs) targeting different processor platforms, is central to MontaVista's new effort to "align the supply chain for embedded Linux," said Cauchy.

Also key to this strategy is the software's new bitbake-based build engine, the MontaVista Integration Platform, which "changed the game in how developers manage not only the software we give them but open source software they acquire," said Cauchy. "The next phase will be getting the key technology from the semiconductor companies in a format that is more compatible with MontaVista, so we can align the whole supply chain. We want to make it easy for a customer to start with a free semiconductor development platform, and then be able to easily transition to MontaVista."

Central to that goal, he added, is to get the semis to adopt bitbake for their build engines, and ideally, MontaVista Linux itself. "We're moving toward a more consolidated Linux supply chain, offering developers fewer choices to get code," said Cauchy. "Why not consolidate on a few well-known, high quality sources, and make sure there's an easier path from free to commercial solutions?"

Cauchy stressed, as did Wind River's Vincent Rerolle after Intel's Wind River acquisition, that despite being acquired by a major semiconductor vendor, the organization will continue to offer full support for processor platforms.

Linux "critical" to semis

As evidenced by the acquisitions by Intel and Cavium this year, Linux is becoming "more critical" for semiconductor vendors, and this trend will only accelerate in 2010, said Cauchy. "We're seeing Linux gaining market share over RTOSes [real time operating systems] at a greater rate than ever," he said. In part this is due to increasing support among Linux distributions such as MontaVista for multi-core development tools, he added.

We asked Cauchy about the trend toward multi-OS embedded implementations, which is key to the strategy of Wind River, whose business is still dominated by VxWorks, and Mentor Graphics, which recently acquired Embedded Alley to offer Linux and Android development services in combination with its Nucleus RTOS. Not surprisingly, Cauchy believed this to be a fading market.

"Multi-OS solutions do have some merits in some verticals such as mil/aero where you need this real hard-time requirement, running an RTOS in one virtualized compartment and running Linux in another, but the real-time capabilities of Linux are growing, so in most applications, the benefit of using an RTOS is less clear," said Cauchy. "In telecom, for example, a multi-OS solution is increasingly unnecessary."

He added, "Vendors are realizing that with Linux alone, they can enable provide latency of no greater than ten or twenty microseconds, which is more than sufficient for almost all telecom applications. The virtualization use case in telecom is more about legacy, slapping a hypervisor on to run old applications in a virtual machine and run the new stuff in Linux."

New directions: LTE and automotive

With the CGE 5.1 release, MontaVista is trying to make the distro the go-to solution for developing carrier-grade solutions for long term evolution (LTE). The release also supports the similar WiMAX, but according to Cauchy, who is also Chairman of the Linux Foundation CGL Workgroup, "A lot of companies are leapfrogging WiMAX and going to LTE, which is really a superior technology."

MontaVista's other key spin-off from the core MontaVista Linux distro is Montebello, which as had been previously tipped by Harris, but only formally announced earlier this month, forms the basis for the Dell Latitude ON fast-boot technology.

"We're trying to get Montebello to boot in a second, to enable quick access to a touchscreen interface," he said. "We are repositioning it for various MID (mobile Internet device) opportunities and are also using the technology in the automotive infotainment market."

Cauchy noted MontaVista's involvement in the Genivi Alliance, which is aiming to establish open source standards on In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems. "The Genivi Alliance makes it clear that Linux is set to take over in automotive," he said. "There's a lot of interest in it. We just had our first face-to-face meeting, and attendance was twice what was expected." According to Cauchy, MontaVista will announce some automotive wins in the coming months with Tier One automotive suppliers.

Android and ARM lead the way on mobile devices

Meanwhile, MontaVista, like all the other major Linux tools providers, is rapidly ramping up its Android support. Cauchy believes Android "will expand in vertical markets beyond cellphones," but noted that "making Android run on a new hardware platform is nontrivial. Moving it to a new platform with video accelerators, sound, and other components and then integrating it all and making it work requires many man-years of effort, and that's one area where we can help out. Some of our bigger customers want to build a centralized Android solution and then use it across multiple products."

Cauchy also predicted that MIDs and other similar mobile devices would be dominated by ARM chips. "People want long battery life, and ARM processors are much more successful in that market than the Intel Atom, which is good, but is a power-hungry chip," he said. "The Cortex-A9 multi-core chips will be extremely competitive."

In addition, Cauchy noted that "there's a lot more that can be done on power optimization on the software side," not only on mobile devices, but on embedded equipment in general. At a recent SCOPE Alliance meeting on carrier-grade standards, he added, the carriers were "very concerned" about power requirements. "U.S. carriers alone spent $2 billion on power last year, but we should be able lower that by 20 and 30 percent."

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