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Embedded Linux market research compares MontaVista, Wind River

Dec 14, 2007 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 13 views

MontaVista is touting its starring role in a recent Embedded Market Forecasters (EMF) study. MontaVista says EMF found that compared to Wind River users, MontaVista users produced more lines of code with fewer developers, and more often achieved their pre-development performance and… feature expectations.

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Dr. Jerry Krasner (pictured at left), author of the report, supports MontaVista's interpretation of the data, commenting, “This is not a surprise, as Wind River's Linux version is new, as are the tools, and this would indicate a typical response to a newer technology.”

However, Krasner added that in his view, the survey results reflected fairly well on both Wind River and MontaVista. He said simply, “I believe that our data supports using either.”

Furthermore, in a separate interview with LinuxDevices days prior to MontaVista's announcement, Krasner credited Wind River's 2003 strategic shift toward Linux for helping to change perceptions about Linux within the larger embedded development community. He said, “Suddenly Wind River's in there — that was a big boon. In 2003, we forecast that the growth of embedded Linux would come from competitors like Wind River. A lot of systems use multiple OSes.”

MontaVista vs. Wind River

In a press statement yesterday, MontaVista highlighted several key findings in EMF's 20-page report, entitled, “Embedded Linux Total Cost of Development Analyzed.” For example, 80.7 percent of embedded Linux projects developed with MontaVista Linux delivered products “that meet or nearly meet pre-design expectations for product performance,” compared to 58.9 percent for Wind River Linux, and 70.0 percent for average Linux projects, including in-house.

Another example: 84.6 percent of MontaVista projects resulted in products that delivered “all or nearly all of expected system functionality,” compared with 58.8 percent for Wind River, and a 71.3 percent Linux average.

In other good news for MontaVista, the EMF report found that developers using MontaVista's Linux OS and tools produced 97,000 lines of code, compared to only 52,000 lines of code for Wind River Linux customers. Furthermore, this disparity was despite fewer developers on average involved in MontaVista projects — 13.7 compared to 29.8 for Wind River Linux.

The industry average Linux project used 47.5 developers, the survey found, to produce about 252,000 lines of code.

Krasner did not reveal specifically how many Wind River and MontaVista developers were interviewed for this segment of the survey, but assured LinuxDevices that the results hold statistical merit. “At worst, the data would be statistically significant to 95 percent plus or minus 10 percent, but as I recall, it was much better than that,” he said.

Buy vs. DIY

The new report also tossed more fuel on the fire of the embedded Linux community's ongoing commercial-vs-DIY debate. It claims that 15.9 percent fewer “in-house” Linux development projects met the “pre-design expectation levels” compared to projects using a commercial embedded Linux or certified RTOS.

MontaVista promoted the survey results as evidence that commercial embedded Linux distributions such as MontaVista Linux are not only worthy contenders with commercial RTOSes, but in the words of the report itself, “more cost effective than in-house Linux development.”

It's a theme MontaVista knows well; the company's recent Vision Summit conference featured Linux 2.6 kernel maintainer Andrew Morton siding with commercial Linux providers in telling attendees that Linux is not ready for deployment in commercial products. Instead, developers have long relied on commercial distributors like Red Hat, Novell, and MontaVista to test and refine the kernel for commercial use, Morton suggested.

Stated Larry Macfarlane, MontaVista's recently-hired CMO, “This new research validates that investing in a commercial Linux platform, such as MontaVista Linux, improves time-to-market and reduces embedded development costs, which our customers say are key reasons they select MontaVista.”

More about the study

EMF's report is based on the last two years worth of results from its annual survey of about 650 embedded Linux developers. Thus, about 1,300 developers' responses were considered.

Questions included current and anticipated tool usage, design starts, completions and cancellations, host development and target platforms, and microprocessors. The analysis was also based on time from design start to shipment, percent of designs completed behind schedule, number of months delayed, design complexity, and comparisons to pre-design expectations.

As reported on December 5 by LinuxDevices, the headline news from EMF's report — “Embedded Linux Total Cost of Development Analyzed” — was that projects using embedded Linux have achieved design parity with commercial RTOSes for most projects, offering the same level of design outcomes. The report claimed that this perception from developers was even maintained with mission-critical applications that required conformance with POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface) or certification for MILS (Multiple Independent Levels of Security) or EAL (Evaluation Assurance Level).

The real surprise was that the independently funded report differed sharply from EMF's assessment in its controversial Microsoft-funded report in 2003, which claimed that embedded Windows OSes offered much faster and cheaper development environments than embedded Linux. While to LinuxDevices editors, the new research report appears to be more comprehensive, Krasner continues to stand by his 2003 report, which debuted the concept of “total cost of development” as a metric for the evaluation of embedded OS and toolsuites.

Report availability

The full report, called “Embedded Linux Total Cost of Development Analyzed” is available (at a price) here. The survey was funded from EMF revenues “at the request of many of our subscribers,” Krasner said.

–By Eric Brown. Henry Kingman also contributed to this report.

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