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Lynx+Linux — a Dual OS Strategy

Nov 22, 1999 — by Rick Lehrbaum — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

San Jose, CA — Lynx Real-Time Systems, Inc., has announced an open-source product and support services initiative that is intended to extend the Lynx real-time operating system (RTOS) – and Lynx as a company — into the emerging embedded Linux market space. According to the company, the aggressive strategy, dubbed the “Lynx Linux Initiative” (L2I), has five key elements:

  • BlueCat Linux… — a version of Red Hat Linux optimized by Lynx for embedded applications and offered under the open source model; to be available Q1 '00.
  • A new version of LynxOS (the company's proprietary RTOS), Version 4.0, which will offer full binary compatibility with Linux application programs (no recompiling required); to be available June '00.
  • Support for development of Lynx based target applications hosted under Red Hat Linux; available immediately.
  • New technical support, consulting, and training services for Linux developers working in embedded applications; available immediately.
  • An initiative aimed at garnering support from more than 20 embedded software and hardware vendors.

Two-Pronged Thrust

Although the Lynx Linux Initiative clearly comes in response to the challenge posed by the rapidly growing interest in using Linux in embedded applications, Lynx CEO Bill Hogan emphasizes that his company's new Linux initiative in no way represents any retreat from its core product, LynxOS. Instead, Hogan positions LynxOS and BlueCat Linux as complementary — rather than competitive — products, which will result in a broader market for Lynx products.

Differentiating Lynx from Linux

According to Lynx Chairman Inder Singh, “LynxOS will continue as the RTOS of choice for systems requiring true 'hard' real time performance, including mission critical applications in telecom, military, and aerospace/avionics industries.” Yet even LynxOS will be impacted in a major way by the company's new Linux strategy. “By mid-2000,” Singh says, “Lynx will release LynxOS 4.0 — a multi-threaded, full-featured operating system capable of running standard binary Linux applications along side hard real-time, embedded applications.”

In short, LynxOS 4.0 is expected to add Linux binary application compatibility while retaining the real time performance and other characteristics of today's LynxOS. According to the company, this will include portability of Linux drivers, protocol stacks, and other software applications. In effect, Lynx is building a Linux binary API — or, more correctly, a Linux-compatible “Application Binary Interface” (ABI) — into LynxOS 4.0, allowing Linux application binaries to run on LynxOS target systems without modification or recompiling. In this scenario, open source (or a combination of open source and proprietary) applications would be running on a proprietary, but Linux-like, RTOS. “A further benefit offered by LynxOS 4.0,” said Singh, “will be its POSIX compatibility, which provides a high level of standardization including POSIX 'dot B' real time extensions.”

By contrast, Lynx seems to be positioning BlueCat Linux as a “best in class” embedded Linux. In this regard, the company says it plans to improve both the real-time responsiveness and scalability of Linux. The intent is to provide a fully open source OS — but with enhancements, extensions, bug fixes, etc., to make it better suited to embedded system applications. “Typical applications for BlueCat Linux,” according to Singh, “are network/internet appliances, telecommunications/telephony, and industrial data acquisition and control.”

Asked how BlueCat Linux will differ from other commercial embedded Linux offerings, Singh pointed out that “BlueCat Linux will be a product of — and backed by — Lynx, a leading RTOS company with strong credentials in hard real time, mission critical OS technology.” “In addition,” continued Singh “Lynx has a substantial customer base, a well developed infrastructure, excellent customer support, a global sales channel, and a proven focus on software quality control.”

According to Bill Hogan, president and CEO of Lynx, “the Lynx Linux Initiative provides a direct path for Linux developers to enter the embedded market. It also opens the path for the embedded market, including Lynx, to embrace the open-source model of the Linux world,” continued Hogan. “This is a perfectly logical step for Lynx, based on our 12-year history of supporting industry standards. We can now offer customers the flexibility of working with an open-source Linux operating system or a fully deterministic RTOS kernel.”

Lynx has thus embarked on a dual-pronged thrust that is intended to provide: (1) a better embedded Linux, for applications and engineers requiring the full Linux system features (or open source); and (2) a better LynxOS RTOS, that leverages the growing support and familiarity of Linux through its Linux compatible ABI. Emphasizing the complimentary character of these two Lynx offerings, Singh said he “expects many companies will make use of both LynxOS 4.0 and Lynx BlueCat Linux — sometimes in different parts of the same system at once.”

In many ways, the Lynx Linux strategy is reminiscent of Microsoft's recent embedded OS initiative: Windows CE, for low end small-footprint, fast-response, deeply embedded applications; and Windows NT Embedded, for high-end, high-performance, networked applications such as servers and telephony/telecommunications. Similar, but with a key difference: the Lynx strategy, if successful, will permit application binaries to run on either BlueCat Linux or LynxOS without modification. Don't try that with Win CE and Win NT-E!

Based on Red Hat Linux

BlueCat Linux will be based on Red Hat Version 6.1, containing the Linux 2.2.12-20 kernel, and will be shipped with a Lynx open development environment that allows the user to create variations of the embedded Linux operating system according to application requirements. The BlueCat Linux development environment will support cross development of Linux embedded applications using a PC running Red Hat Linux as the development host.

To assure production-worthy quality and reliability, Lynx will qualify BlueCat Linux using the same extensive automatic testing, quality assurance, and software refinement process established for their current LynxOS products. The company also says it will work hard to ensure that BlueCat Linux closely tracks future releases from Red Hat.

To further integrate its support for the two operating systems (LynxOS and BlueCat Linux), Lynx recently added support for Linux-hosted development of LynxOS based real-time applications. Developers can use debugging tools from Lynx while working on Linux-based workstations to cross compile for their chosen embedded microprocessor.

Recognizing the increased customer support requirements the dual-OS strategy represents, Lynx plans to enlarge its technical support, training, and consulting services capabilities. The company has announced that it is prepared to offer Linux consulting services immediately, and that it will begin offering specialized Linux training programs plus a long-term support program for embedded Linux beginning in January.

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