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The Linux Real-Time Characterization Project

Feb 29, 2000 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

SUNNYVALE, Calif. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — MontaVista Software Inc., developer of the Hard Hat Linux operating system for embedded computers, today unveiled the company's Linux Real-Time Characterization Project.

The project provides embedded developers and the open source community with measurement data and tools for describing the real-time responsiveness of off-the-shelf Linux systems. The project demonstrates the broad applicability of the standard Linux operating system kernel, and assists embedded systems designers in establishing the performance parameters of Linux system software running on actual application hardware.

MontaVista anticipates several phases to their efforts, the first being comprehensive measurement and characterization, carried out on multiple hardware platforms by MontaVista engineering staff. Subsequent phases will include enhancements to the standard Linux kernel for improved determinism and thread scheduling capability, with guaranteed sub-millisecond response times, and the development of a plug-in alternate scheduler. The result of all measurement and development work is being made available to the open source community, and all enhancements and new components developed by MontaVista will be contributed to the Linux community for possible inclusion in future Linux kernel revisions.

“The first step to using Linux in a real-time embedded application is to know if the Linux kernel running on your hardware can meet your hard response deadlines,” explains Kevin Morgan, MontaVista vice president of engineering. “Standard Linux performs very well, even under load, for a range of real-time tasks. The work that MontaVista is performing will gauge and extend that performance in context for developers, and bring standard Linux into new application domains, including real-time process control, signal processing, and many aerospace and defense applications.”

“It our intent to demonstrate that standard, off-the-shelf Linux can take the place of traditional embedded real-time operating system (RTOS) software in mission-critical applications,” adds Jim Ready, embedded industry pioneer and MontaVista President & CEO. “We are confident that MontaVista can deliver real-time performance from an open source, 100% Linux kernel, without recourse to proprietary components and
the accompanying onus of run-time royalties.”

Technical Details

Determinism is the ability to guarantee the responsiveness of a real-time system to external events, usually in terms of “worst-case” timings. Real-time systems are variously termed “hard” and “soft.” Hard real-time behavior is fully deterministic, with guaranteed worst-case response, independent of system load. Soft real-time applications or systems offer response in a time-sensitive context, but without guarantees.

No particular time resolution is implied by hard or soft real-time requirements, but most so-called real-time systems operate on time-scales in the sub-millisecond or even microsecond range. Applications with hard real-time deadlines include signal processing and industrial control, while there exists a very broad range of applications with soft real-time requirements, including data communications and most Internet-related embedded systems.


Open source tools, Linux kernel patches, documentation, and initial results of the MontaVista Standard Linux Real-time Characterization Project are available today on the MontaVista Web site at Test results are for boards from Motorola Computer Group and Ziatech Corporation with Intel Pentium processors. Enhancements to the Linux kernel, additional test platforms, and other components will be added during the next 90 days. Availability of an alternate, fixed priority Linux scheduler from MontaVista is slated for Q200.

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