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QNX frees Neutrino microkernel source

Sep 12, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 13 views

QNX has finally succumbed to growing desire among developers for open, modifiable source code, and opened up the source code for its “Neutrino” RTOS (real-time operating system). Access to the code is free, although commercial deployments will require royalties, and commercial developers will continue to pay for Momentics development seats.

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QNX has previously offered similar free access programs for its older “QNX” RTOS. However, this appears to be a first for free access to Neutrino source code.

Neutrino is a POSIX-compliant microkernel-based RTOS (real-time operating system) popular in automotive telematics, medical devices, and other embedded systems. It was launched in 2001, primarily to add SMP (symmetrical multiprocessing) capabilities to its predecessor, “QNX.”

Like QNX, Neutrino has a modular architecture. The QNX Neutrino microkernel itself contains only a scheduler, interrupt handler, IPC, and timers. Everything else runs as a “server,” and thus can be enabled or not, depending on requirements. Thus, developers can customize the OS without actually having to modify the kernel. QNX runs on all the standard embedded architectures, as well as x86.

Neutrino is supported by Momentics, QNX's Eclipse-based toolset. QNX was a founding member of, and has invested heavily in tools. It recently added support for Linux development hosts to the Momentics tools.

Today's announcement of freely available Neutrino source code means that noncommercial developers will now have complete access to QNX tools and runtime products at no charge. This includes academic faculty members, and “qualified partners.”

The first source release includes:

  • QNX Neutrino microkernel
  • Base C library
  • Board support packages (BSPs) for popular embedded and computing hardware

Users will be able to “improve, modify, or extend” the code for their own purposes, and then “choose to offer back those changes or keep keep their modifications private and proprietary,” the company said in a statement. The approach aims to “support the customer's goal of profiting from software while fueling the passion for developing it.”

The change will also bring “transparency” to the Neutrino development process, QNX said. Software designers at QNX will publish development plans, builds, and bug fixes, and provide moderated support. They will collaborate with customers and the QNX community, using public forums, wikis, and source code repositories.

CEO Dan Dodge stated, “Both commercial and hobbyist developers will have unprecedented access to the 'crown jewels' of our software as the base for creating the next great computing innovation.”

“From VDC's perspective, as suppliers continue to adapt and embrace the underlying key benefits of the open-source model, we expect increasing innovation around hybrid business models that look to blend the best of both worlds — open and commercial — through different approaches,” embedded market analyst firm Venture Development Corp. (VDC) commented on its blog. “This is exactly what QNX Software is looking to capitalize on with their announcement as they look to open source, yet set itself apart from a total open-source model. The dynamics of such innovation is a means to drive technical cooperation through a community at large and at the same time increase name recognition and pull through for their commercially licensed product solutions — which is good for their customers and also good for QNX software!”

A new community development portal called “Foundry27” will serve as a hub to Neutrino development. There, developers will be able to register, choose between three available licenses, and get immediate access to source code. The site does not yet appear to be live, however.

This article was originally published on and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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