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Open source virtualization technology sees commercial use

Nov 28, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

An Australian government-sponsored research agency has developed an open source embedded microkernel and real-time OS that it says can provide a virtual machine environment for Linux. The NICTA (National Information/Communication Technology, Australia) L4 microkernel and Iguana OS will be adopted by Qualcomm for some mobile phone chipsets, making them the first NICTA technology to achieve… commercial adoption.

According to NICTA, Qualcomm will collaborate to develop L4 and Iguana for some of its Mobile Station Modem (MSM) chipsets.

Qualcomm announced in May that its MSM6550 chipset would run Linux alongside the BREW operating environment under virtual platform technology. Company officials declined at the time to disclose what brand of Linux would be used, or what brand of virtual platform technology.

Linux-friendly virtual platform technology targeting mobile phones is commercially available from several sources, including Jaluna, Trango, and possibly others.

ERTOS — NICTA's embedded and real-time division

L4/Iguana is part of a general embedded OS framework developed by NICTA's ERTOS (embedded and real-time OS) Research Program. ERTOS is focused on creating “a software framework for secure embedded systems, untrusted device drivers, and a formally verified operating system kernel,” it says.

ERTOS's project leader, professor Gernot Heiser, said, “We are focusing on using microkernel technology to support the application of software engineering techniques and formal methods to embedded software.”

According to Heiser, the L4/Iguana OS uses “hardware protection mechanisms to encapsulate complex software into protected components, shielding the rest of the system from failures. This minimizes the amount of code that can circumvent security measures; protects critical real-time components from non-real-time and legacy components; and protects device manufacturer's IP rights.”

NICTA's CEO, Dr. David Skellern, said, “We hope to further develop our relationship with Qualcomm through demonstrating the innovative research being conducted in Australia. This collaboration illustrates how NICTA is facilitating access to international markets for locally developed research.”

The L4/Iguana technology is being developed for ARM, MIPS, and x86. ERTOS aims to make the ARM version the “fastest operating system with memory protection, and the first that provides a virtual-machine environment for running Linux,” it says.

The L4/Iguana OS is based on previous work conducted by NICTA/ERTOS in partnership with the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The software is released under the BSD and the BSD-like Australian OZPLB (Australian Public License B) open source licenses. Details on downloads and licensing are available here.

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