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Red Hat’s “un-Linux” OS (eCos) gains another convert

Aug 17, 2000 — by Rick Lehrbaum — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

In spite of Red Hat's perceived image as “the Linux company,” the company continues to promote eCos as a light weight and highly configurable alternative to Linux, for deeply embedded applications. Red Hat's ongoing eCos commitment surfaced yesterday in the form of a joint announcement between Red Hat and CrosStor Software. CrosStor, it seems, is porting its network-attached storage (NAS) software — which currently depends on Wind River's VxWorks as its underlying RTOS platform — to Red Hat's eCos.

According to CrosStor CTO Gordon Harris, CrosStor requires an embedded RTOS for a number of basic system functions, including a hardware abstraction layer (HAL), precision scheduling, and timers. Although the company is currently a licensee of Wind River's VxWorks RTOS, Harris says “eCos is very attractive.” The port of CrosStor to eCos is already in process and will be released before the end of this year.

Linux itself was not a viable alternative, Harris explained, “because [Linux] brings general purpose operating system baggage” that is not appropriate for the highly specialized file system and RAID technology requirements of CrosStor's network-attached storage application. “eCos is much more light weight,” said Harris. Using Linux with real-time extensions such as RTLinux was also not viable, according to Harris, because although “RTLinux is really good for data collection,” it does not offer the specific real-time services, such as scheduling and timers, that are required by CrosStor's application.

Despite the decision not to use Linux, CrosStor intends to tap into the growing popularity of Linux and open source among developers through its use of eCos and associated GNU tools. “[We are] embracing the open source movement, to provide our customers with an underlying runtime solution that takes advantage of eCos and its highly configurable architecture,” said Harris. “By working together strategically [with Red Hat], our customers can expect a rich and continually expanding set of open source run-time solutions and development tools, and the benefits of a platform that offers application compatibility with Linux.” Further information about CrosStor is available at

Red Hat inherited the eCos operating system earlier this year through its acquisition of tools supplier Cygnus Solutions. Red Hat positions eCos as satisfying the requirements of a wide variety of embedded applications through its high degree of configurability (with over 200 points of configuration) plus its POSIX-compatible interface (EL/IX). eCos, according to Red Hat, was designed to be portable to a wide range of target architectures and target platforms including 16, 32, and 64-bit architectures, MPUs, MCUs and DSPs. The eCos kernel, libraries and runtime components are layered on a Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL), which therefore will run on any target once the HAL and relevant device drivers have been ported to the target's processor architecture and board. According to Red Hat, “eCos currently supports seven different target architectures (ARM, Hitachi SH3, Intel x86, MIPS, Matsushita AM3x, PowerPC and SPARC) including many of the popular variants of these architectures and evaluation boards. Many new ports are in development and will be released as they become available.”

eCos source code is freely available at Additional eCos technical information is available at

Related stories:
An interview with Red Hat CTO, Michael Tiemann
Brother picks Red Hat's eCos OS for new laser printer
Red Hat releases eCos 1.3 open-source embedded OS
EL/IX draft spec v1.1
An interview with Red Hat CTO Michael Tiemann (Jan.'00)
Real Time Linux Gurus Take Linux to the Next Level
EL/IX: Unifying APIs for Linux and Post-PC Computing
Cygnus Moves to Pre-empt Embedded Linux Fragmentation

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