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Embedded Linux distro claims one-second boot-up

Jul 14, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

At the Virtual Freescale Technology Forum this week, MontaVista will demonstrate “ultra-fast” boot times on MontaVista Linux for embedded industrial applications. The demo will feature a dashboard application loading fully operational in one second from cold boot on a PowerPC-based Freescale MPC5121e system-on-chip, claims MontaVista.

Built on MontaVista Professional Edition Linux, and tuned for the Freescale MPC5121e, the demonstrated fast-boot technology "leverages certain techniques and optimization technologies," says MontaVista. The one-second boot-up was "achieved through a combination of careful tuning of the entire software stack and a highly optimized kernel," says the company. The sample application used in the demo was said to have demanded visual feedback of critical real-time data in one second or less from cold power-on.

Fast boot time is an increasingly important feature in mobile consumer electronics, and was one of the few detailed attributes touted by Google for its upcoming Google Chrome OS announced last week. Yesterday, Phoenix Technologies announced that it was working with Intel to further speed Moblin boot times with its HyperSpace fast-boot technology.

Fast boot-up is also important in industrial automation, automotive, aerospace, and military applications, says MontaVista. In these environments, variables such as power fluctuation, network failure, device availability, and memory management "must be responded to with no loss of performance and functionality," says the company.

Building on Latitude ON

MontaVista's fast-boot solution appears to be related to the MontaVista technology used in Dell's Latitude ON fast-boot feature for its Windows-based Latitude laptops. When MontaVista CEO Rusty Harris revealed that Latitude ON was derived from MontaVista last October, he explained that MontaVista not only ported Linux to the low-voltage subprocessor used in the laptops, but also integrated the middleware and application stack, part of a new focus for the company to work further up the stack. At the time, Harris said the technology was based on its Moblinux 5.0 mobile device version of MontaVista Linux, and that Latitude ON was built on a Texas Instruments (TI) processor.

In February, MontaVista announced a "Montabello" version of MontaVista Linux aimed at mobile Internet devices (MIDs) that included similar fast-boot technology. Derived from work done on Mobilinux, Montabello's fast-boot tech was said to be capable of "displaying a splash screen in under two seconds and booting to init in about five seconds," according to Dan Cauchy, MontaVista, senior director of market development.

Freescale's MPC5121e


Yazaki cluster
(Click for details)

Introduced in 2007, Freescale's MPC5121e has so far been primarily aimed at automotive telematics applications. For example, the SoC was used in the latest Yazaki North America instrument cluster display (pictured), which is based on an undisclosed flavor of embedded Linux.

The MPC5121e integrates a 400MHz PowerPC, 2D/3D graphics core, and programmable media-processing core optimized for real-time audio functions. In October, 2007, Freescale and MontaVista rival Wind River announced a jointly developed hardware/software Linux development kit for the SoC, principally targeting automotive applications.

With Wind River being acquired by Intel this summer, it will be interesting to see if Wind River will be able to continue its close relationship with Freescale. Both Wind River and Intel claim that the company will move forward with business as usual and support multiple processor platforms.

A virtual Freescale conference

The MontaVista demo will be presented over the next three days during the Virtual Freescale Technology Forum (FTF), an online supplement to Freescale's existing global FTF program. The Forum has drawn more than 28,000 attendees at FTF events since it debuted in 2005, says the company. This year's event boasts a number of embedded presentations targeted at Linux developers working with Freescale processors.

Stated Jim Ready, MontaVista CTO, who founded the company ten years ago yesterday, "The achievement of one second boot from cold power to operational status is a breakthrough in embedded Linux performance. It's always been thought that embedded Linux could never perform at this level of speed and efficiency."

Stated Bruno Baylac, global director of industrial marketing at Freescale Semiconductor, "The increase in control processing requirements, more sophisticated data communications and algorithmic processing requires greater interaction between processors and operating systems. MontaVista's achievement of one second Linux boot time on Freescale processors based on Power Architecture technology is a significant achievement."

Availability

MontaVista demonstrate its fast boot technology over the next three days at the Virtual Freescale Technology Forum, July 14-16. Today's event is scheduled for 2:30PM ET. Attendance is free with registration. More information, including registration and a detailed agenda, may be found here.


 
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