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Mot invests in virtualization

Apr 21, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — views

Handset maker Motorola has taken an equity investment in VirtualLogix, a vendor of virtualization technology for handsets and telecom infrastructure equipment. The move could help Motorola push its Linux-based mobile phone OS into lower-cost handsets, while helping operators consolidate infrastructure and expand dynamic service offerings.

The deal was arranged through Motorola's strategic venture capital arm, Motorola Ventures. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Previous VirtualLogix investors include Atlas Ventures, Cisco Systems, DFJ Esprit, Index Ventures, Intel Capital, and Texas Instruments.

VirtualLogix's VLX technology has been described as a “real-time” version of familiar desktop virtualization technologies like VMware, Xen, and others. The company was founded in mid-2002 by former members of Chorus Systems, a company acquired by Sun in 1997 for its ChorusOS real-time embedded operating system for telecom. VirtualLogix's flagship VLX product comprises a small scheduler that, once configured, lets guest OSes access physical hardware subsystems directly, rather than through the emulated hardware devices used by many desktop and server virtualization technologies.

VirtualLogix last week demonstrated a PowerPC version of its VLX-NI (network infrastructure), the version of its real-time, embedded virtualization technology targeting carrier infrastructure. Initially supported chips include PowerQUICC processors from Motorola chip spinout Freescale, as well as IBM PowerPC 750 CPUs.

Purple Magic design
(Click for details)

VirtualLogix announced the “Mobile Handset” version of its flagship VLX virtualization stack in Sept. of 2006. VLX-MH was was subsequently used by Linux stack integrator Purple Labs in a hardware software reference design touted as the first 3G phone costing operators less than $100. The Purple Magic design used NXP's 7210 hardware platform, featuring a single processor core.

Today, with the exception of the Purple Magic (which appears not to be widely distributed so far) and the Toshiba W47T handset based on similar virtualization software from Open Kernel Labs, all “smart” phones that run a complex OS like Linux, Windows, or Symbian do so on a dual-processor or at least a dual-core architecture. One processor core runs the complex OS — think of it as the “control plane” — while another runs a real-time OS (VRTX, in the case of Motorola phones) that handles “data plane” processing such as the software-defined radio stack and voice signal transcoding.

Splitting control and data processing onto separate cores is a time-honored tradition in networking equipment of all kinds. However, in mobile devices, there's a cost in terms of power efficiency and physical footprint, because each core typically needs its own memory, storage, and other supporting circuitry. Thus, a single-core design, while saving on parts cost, could also improve battery life, security, investments in legacy software, license segregation, and quality-of-service in IP applications, according to VirtualLogix.

Reese Schroeder, Motorola Ventures managing director, stated, “Demand for simplified product designs that allow dynamic mobile experiences to run across multiple platforms will intensify. Our investment in VirtualLogix will help accelerate the delivery of their technology to next-generation communications devices and infrastructure equipment.”

Peter Richards, CEO of VirtualLogix, said, “As virtualization moves out from the datacenter and into everyday front-end connected devices, our connected world will require the delivery of efficient, secure and customizable user experiences.”

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