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Fourth-gen Wind River Linux adds multi-team tools

Oct 18, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 10 views

Wind River announced the fourth-generation of its commercial embedded Linux distribution, adding 95 packages. Based on Linux 2.6.34+ kernel, Wind River Linux 4 offers GCC 4.4, EGLIBC 2.11, and GDB 7 cross-compiling toolchains, and provides multiple virtualization options, PREEMPT RT real-time Linux, multi-team collaboration features, a new native x86 build environment, and support for the upcoming CGL 5.0, says the company.

Wind River Linux 4 offers a seamless migration path for teams currently developing products on Wind River Linux 3.0, says Wind River. This last formal release of the industry-leading commercial embedded Linux distribution and development platform arrived in March 2009, several months before Intel acquired the company for $884 billion.

Wind River Linux 3.0 moved to kernel 2.6.27 and the GCC 4.3 toolchain. It also speeded boot-time, added 250 applications, upgraded real-time and multi-core support, and added the Kernel-based Virtualization Machine (KVM) technology.

Wind River Linux architecture

Wind River Linux 4.0 is based on hundreds of "thoroughly tested" open source packages, and enables customers to trace the lineage of their product from its open source origins through any modifications from the addition of patches, packages, or proprietary code, says Wind River. As before, it provides preconfigured system profiles for specific industries and device types to accelerate development.

Key features and benefits of Wind River Linux 4 include the following:

  • Linux 2.6.34 support — Wind River is based on Linux 2.6.34, which was released in May. The kernel, which has since been moved up to kernel 2.6.35, added several new file-systems, as well a faster KVM virtualization driver.
  • Updated toolchains — Wind River Linux 4 offers upgraded cross-compiling toolchains, with GCC 4.4, EGLIBC 2.11, and GDB 7.
  • Multiple virtualization options — Wind River cites multiple options for virtualization strategies to leverage the power of multi-core hardware, from KVM paravirtualized device drivers in the kernel (x86 only) to its own Wind River Hypervisor. As the distribution supported both technologies in the past, the company has presumably enhanced support and integration for both.
  • Real-time Linux — Wind River Linux 4 is touted for supporting a fully preemptible kernel called PREEMPT RT. Once again, since Wind River has supported PREEMPT RT in the past, this would appear to be an updated implementation of the latest patch. PREEMPT RT is a near real-time patch for the Linux kernel that that has been steadily enhanced in recent years, providing guarantees for hard timing deadlines, as required by many mission-critical applications.
  • Multi-team collaboration tools — The new release offers user space, workflow, and tool enhancements to increase productivity and facilitate resource sharing across multiple teams, says Wind River. These are said to include: a new source management control solution; an improved mechanism for capturing, archiving, and sharing patches; analysis tools for memory, footprint, and power usage; and new tools to speed cross-compiling and debugging
  • x86 native build environment — Wind River says it is debuting a native build environment on x86-based machines, as well as offering "reduced customer development and diagnosis time on x86-based platforms."

CGL 5.0 and LSB 4.0 support

Wind River Linux 4 is "on track for compliancy" with the forthcoming Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 5.0 standard, which is due by the end of the year, possibly as early as next month.

In February 2008, Wind River announced it was the first commercial embedded Linux distribution vendor to meet the Linux Foundation's CGL 4.0 requirements, although NexusWare and MontaVista have subsequently been registered for the high-end networking and telecom spec. CGL 4.0 defined about 250 individual requirements divided into seven categories: availability, clustering, serviceability, performance, standards, hardware, and security.

Wind River Linux 4 is also said to support the forthcoming Linux Standard Base (LSB) 4.0 certification requirements. Also overseen by the Linux Foundation, LSB addresses application portability across compliant Linux distributions.

Continuing cross-platform, but with a fondness for x86?

As before, Wind River Linux 4 supports leading ARM, Intel, MIPS, and Power (PowerPC) architectures. Wind River so far appears to have held fairly true to its promise to remain platform agnostic despite its Intel ownership. The company has continued to announce collaborations with representatives of all major semiconductor platforms, including the owner of rival MontaVista Software, Cavium Networks. This cross-platform reach is continued in Wind River Linux 4 with board support packages (BSPs) promised for next generation multiprocessors from Cavium Networks, Freescale, Intel, NetLogic Microsystems, and Texas Instruments.

Wind River has, however, shown a willingness to debut some of its new technology first on Intel's x86 platforms, which it appears to do here again with a new native build platform available only for x86 customers. The company offers few details on the technology, although more is likely to be forthcoming in an "Introducing Wind River Linux 4" webinar being held at 11AM Pacific time today (see link at end of story.)

Other x86-only features (at least for now) include the KVM paravirtualized device drivers noted above, as well as a target-side application compiler. There have been some other signs of further drift toward favoring the x86 platform, as well. In February, Wind River announced a version 1.1 of Wind River Hypervisor that added support for Intel Nehalem and Core i5/i7 processors, without offering similar optimizations for other chip platforms.

Last month, Wind River announced a special series of Wind River Linux-ready development kits developed in partnership with eight different embedded board vendors, all based on x86 processors. Wind River is available in some 60 BSPs covering multiple chip platforms, says the company. However, we do not recall seeing such a large multi-vendor BSP effort from Wind River focused on a single platform.

LDAT and Layers

It is unclear whether the x86-only native build system noted above is related to an "open, intuitive build system" touted in a Wind River Linux 4 product overview. The build system helps customers manage, store, and share parts of the development system among projects and teams, says the company.

The build system is based a "layers" concept via the Wind River Linux Distribution Assembly Tool (LDAT). The LDAT is said to help developers review and reverse changes, and quickly address performance issues, bugs, or defects.

In addition, "Because a layer can be as small as a single package or as complex as a distribution, teams can use LDAT to expedite workflow and eliminate redundant effort," says the company. The LDAT tool is also said to delineate and separate open source and proprietary software, presumably for license compliance.

Other standard features carried over from Wind River Linux 3 include the integration of the latest version of the Eclilpse-based Wind River Workbench integrated development environment (IDE). Wind River Workbench provides much of the distribution's multi-core support, offering multi-core development tools, as well as support for asymmetric multiprocessing (AMP), and symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) technology, even in environments that require certification and real-time, says the company.

A related feature new to Wind River Linux 4 is a "Target Communication Framework" feature said to facilitate communication between multiple hosts and targets.

Wind River Linux 4 represents 95 new packages, as well as 125 packages that have been "up-reved" to the latest open source versions, and 142 improved packages, says Wind River. The distribution is claimed to have undergone more than 300,000 automated test runs before release.

VDC: Wind River owns almost half of embedded Linux distribution market

Wind River cites VDC's latest VDC 2010 Embedded Software Engineering Market Technologies report, suggesting that the company's lead over rival MontaVista has increased.

According to a Wind River supplied testimonial by Steve Balacco, practice director of the embedded software team at VDC, the study "estimates that Wind River achieved market share lead in 2009 for the Commercial Embedded Linux Distributions segment with greater than 49 percent of total market revenue, more than twenty one percentage points over the next closest competitor."

Further information

Wind River Linux 4 will be available worldwide later in October, says Wind River. More information about Wind River Linux may be found here.

Registration for the "Introducing Wind River Linux 4" webinar being held at 11AM Pacific time today may be found here.

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