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Enea, MontaVista link up on telecom Linux

Apr 3, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 6 views

Telecom software vendor Enea will resell MontaVista's embedded Linux distributions as part of an integrated software stack aimed at network and telcom equipment providers. “NASP” (network application services platform) pits Enea and partner MontaVista against rival Wind River, in the growth market for heterogeneous distributed systems combining Linux with RTOSes (real-time operating systems).

Mike Christofferson, Enea product manager, says that large, multiprocessor, multi-blade telecom systems increasingly use Linux in the control plane, along with RTOS instances on the data plane. “We see many types [of applications] like that today, such as base stations that have large DSP farms, typically with some homegrown RTOS on it. NASP gives customers the opportunity to get Linux and an RTOS from one source, with all the middleware support needed for such hybrid systems.”

He adds, “[NASP] has many pieces of technology in it, all of which are integrated. Some customers might buy all of it, others might buy some of it. The value is that we're bringing everything under one roof, with one offering. No other company that we know of provides such a complete platform offering.”

NASP architecture diagram
(Click to enlarge)

Two key components of NASP are Element, a suite of HA middleware that provides services for synchronizing interprocess communications, managing distributed applications, supervising system health, and upgrading system software; and Polyhedra, a flash-compatible, in-memory, real-time database.

Another important NASP component is Linx, an inter-process communications (IPC) stack said to enable applications running on separate processors, on separate systems, or even under different operating systems to communicate seamlessly, as if they were running on the same processor. Linx is based on IPC technology that has long been central to OSE, Enea's flagship telecom RTOS product, as well as OSEck, its RTOS for DSP processors.

Enea announced last week that it would release Linx for Linux under an open source license this June, while retaining a commercial license for the OSE/OSEck versions. Competitor Wind River, meanwhile, strongly supports TIPC, an alternative open source IPC technology described by Enea as more complex, less performant, and less scalable. NASP could theoretically support TIPC as well, Christofferson says, although “that's not where the engineering efforts are focused today.”

NASP also includes Eclipse-based development tools. Enea joined Eclipse earlier this month, while partner MontaVista's Linux distributions have long been supported by Eclipse tools, including MontaVista's own DevRocket SDK.

MontaVista Linux Option

In addition to Element, Polyhedra, Linx, and Enea's OSE and OSEck RTOSes, NASP includes the option of a MontaVista distribution. Christofferson explains, “Not all customers may select or want MontaVista, because they may have chosen another distributor, or have another distribution in place. We offer MontaVista as a preferred option, though, and guarantee that if they integrate either the Carrier Grade or Pro Editions, it'll be thoroughly tested with Linx and with Element.”

He adds, “We are able to announce NASP now because the two ingredients we needed to make this integrated concept work are ready. [One is] Linx IPC technology, and [the other is] having a qualified Linux provider [such as MontaVista] that would stand behind this integrated offering.”

Paxton Cooper, director of product marketing at MontaVista, adds, “This deal helps us extend our value proposition, too. We, too, see that companies are putting heterogeneous infrastructures in place. So, there's an opportunity in working with Enea to identify areas of optimization and potential performance enhancements.”

Additionally, Cooper points out, MontaVista will benefit from Enea marketing MontaVista Linux directly to Enea's customers. He notes, “We'll be working with Enea to tell the story around the broad hardware support our products have, and other key selling points.”

MontaVista's Linux distributions have long supported nearly every architecture, exclusive of SuperH. Wind River's Linux distributions, in comparison, are limited to x86 and PowerPC, with support for MIPS expected to arrive this summer.

Christofferson notes that, without mentioning MontaVista by name, Enea has already “leaked” its NASP roadmap plans to key customers. He said, “We're in discussions with certain key and trusted customers, but it's premature [to announce deals] until you have the announcement in hand. We have had a lot of interest in Element, and generated a lot of interest in Linx, and now NASP is the final piece in the puzzle to put everything together. To bring all of these products and technologies together in a strongly supported framework.”

The other end of the virtual wire

Enea has billed its NASP platform, announced today, as a “telecom-in-a-box” solution. However, the total telecom package clearly includes handsets, as well as infrastructure equipment, because carriers and mobile operators, more than anyone, are responsible for promoting handsets to customers.

Interestingly, while Wind River — Enea's main competitor in the telecom infractructure market — is extremely strong on the infrastructure side, both Enea and MontaVista are stronger at the other end of the virtual wire, on the handset side.

While phones based on Wind River Linux are expected to reach market this year, MontaVista has sold several generations of its Linux-based handset OS to customers that have shipped phones based on it for more than two years. These customers include Motorola, the world's second-largest handset vendor, as well as Panasonic, NEC, and possibly others.

Enea is a powerhouse on the handset side in its own right: the company claims its software has shipped in a staggering 40-60 percent of all 3G mobile phones.

Enea is conspicuously not a member of MontaVista's Mobilinux ecosystem, however, suggesting the companies have yet to come to amenable terms on the handset side.

Telecom RTOS rivalries, alliances

This alliance with MontaVista for embedded Linux support is not Enea's first. Two years ago, the company announced a partnership with Metrowerks that resulted in a complete development environment and OS package for telecom equipment designers wishing to combine Linux with Enea's proprietary RTOSes. However, since that time, Metrowerks has become absorbed into Freescale Semiconductor, and is now primarily focused on supporting Freescale's processors, rather than on the broader Linux tools and OS market — leaving Enea in need of a Linux OS ally.

Therefore, an Enea/MontaVista partnership comes as no surprise to long-time embedded industry watchers. In fact, rumors recently surfaced that the two companies are considering a merger. This would make sense, given the complementary nature of their technologies and the similarity of both companies' market focus.

Christofferson dismisses that possibility, however, saying, “As far as I know, the only discussions between the two companies at this time relate to product partnerships.”

Both companies have long been rivals of Wind River, the telecom RTOS marketshare leader, and after Microsoft, the overall embedded market's revenue leader. And, Wind River appears to be in a growth cycle, posting its first profitable year in a long while in 2005, after executing on an aggressive Linux OS and tools product roadmap.

Converging on Linux

As Linux began earning its place in telecom, driven by MontaVista and other members of the OSDL's Carrier Grade Linux working group, Wind River was the first big, proprietary telecom RTOS vendor to take notice. It announced plans to step up to Linux in late 2003. Enea followed four months later, touting the interoperability of its OSE and OSEck RTOSes with Linux.

Wind River subsequently went on to create its own Carrier Grade Linux distribution, “Platform for Network Equipment (PNE), Linux Edition.” Enea, in contrast, appears to be going the partnership route, by becoming a MontaVista VAR (value-added reseller). Clearly, neither vendor wants to leave Linux money on the table, nor send customers to competitors for part of the total package.

MontaVista was founded in 1999 as the first company to focus on embedded Linux as its primary business, targeting a broad swath of markets and applications. But it has drawn closer and closer to the telecommunications industry through the years. Nearly all its news during the last year has involved either its Mobilinux distribution and partner ecosystem for mobile phones, or its Carrier Grade Edition (“CGE”) distro for networking equipment.

MontaVista has long touted its leadership in Carrier Grade Linux. It shipped the first Carrier Grade Linux product, in April, 2002, followed by three subsequent generations that were chosen by such customers as Motorola, Iskratel and NEC, Sun, Artesyn, Radisys, Kontron, Diversified Technology, Continuous Computing, Alcatel, Agilent UK, Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and others.

Enea employs about 500 people, or roughly half of Wind River's 1,100. MontaVista probably employs nearly 200, although rumored RIFs and employee departures and reassignments resulting from project re-prioritizations have recently affected the company's executive staff, including CEO Jim Ready, and to a lesser extent its engineering rank and file.

MontaVista recently moved its headquarters from Sunnyvale to a larger, but less expensive space in San Jose, according to Cooper. Enea is based in Stockholm, Sweden, and is currently in the process of relocating its US office from Tempe, Ariz., to San Jose — “Not far from MontaVista,” Christofferson quips.


NASP will ship this summer, with prices starting at $20,000 per developer seat for a one-year subscription that does not include Element. MontaVista Linux will be available through Enea, but only to customers of Enea's other products.

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