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Wind River partners with Red Hat on embedded Linux distro/support

Feb 23, 2004 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 3 views

Updated 2:50PM — Calling embedded Linux and VxWorks “the standards in device software development,” Wind River today announced a dual operating system strategy that adds a newly developed embedded Linux distribution — “Red Hat Embedded Linux” — alongside its proprietary VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS). Additionally, the company says it will soon release a new Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE) that targets development of embedded systems and devices running both Linux and VxWorks; that it will soon offer support for both OSes within its set of application- and market-specific embedded software “platforms”; and that it has added a new option of per-developer-seat licensing as an alternative to the traditional royalty-based licensing model for its VxWorks RTOS.

Not “either/or,” but “both”

Marketing director Kathleen Shanahan claims that as a result of its latest strategic moves, “Wind River will be the only company to provide a platform environment based on the two most widely used OSes in the industry.” However, Wind River is not the first RTOS vendor to add embedded Linux to its OS mix. LynuxWorks (formerly Lynx) markets BlueCat Linux alongside its proprietary LynxOS RTOS, for example.

Wind River vice president of products Dave Fraser characterizes VxWorks and Linux as “intersecting circles of a Venn diagram” in Wind River's OS strategy, and notes that the company now sees the two OSes as complementary rather than competitive. “We want to make each environment true to the original design, but easy for engineers to build complex applications with.”

“A lot of our customers, especially the large conglomerates and multi-nationals, want to use both, and will mix and match,” explains Fraser. “Telecoms will be using VxWorks for the next 20 years, but Linux is incredibly strong on management cards. The two operating systems must be able to coexist, side by side.”

Platform strategy

Wind River rolled out a “platforms” strategy in November 2002, consisting of groupings of operating system, development tools, industry-specific middleware, and services and support. Market-specific platforms initially defined included: Consumer Devices, Industrial Devices, Network Equipment, Server Appliances, and DO-178B (for safety and mission-critical aerospace and defense systems).

The company recently released version two of its VxWorks-based platforms. According to Fraser, Wind River's “value proposition is providing a capable foundation that is refreshed on at least an annual basis.”

As part of this latest set of moves toward a “full embrace” of Linux, Fraser says Wind River is in the process of adding Linux to its platform mix. New Linux-based platforms, like existing VxWorks-based platforms, will include a tightly integrated set of operating systems, development tools, and industry-specific middleware with services and support, he says. “We will make platforms based around Linux in exactly the same way [as VxWorks platforms],” notes Fraser.

Specific release dates for Linux-based platforms have not been announced.

Red Hat inside

In today's set of announcements, Wind River and Red Hat say they are collaborating to jointly develop “Red Hat Embedded Linux,” an embedded Linux distribution “engineered down” from Red Hat's “Enterprise” Linux distribution. Red Hat Embedded Linux will serve as the foundation of Wind River's Linux based platforms, and will be integrated with Wind River's development tools, middleware, and services.

Initially, Red Hat Embedded Linux will initially target x86 and the PowerPC architectures (both IBM and Motorola), according to Genard, and will favor stability over leading-edge technology. “We will be careful to be sure we bring value around standardization,” notes Genard.

Genard continues, “We take a top-down approach. When we have the confidence that a technology is really mainstream, and not a fork, we can bring it to our customers. Otherwise, we will rely on our tools to enable customers to develop what they need.”

The new Red Hat Embedded Linux distribution will be jointly developed by a team of engineers from both companies that will work out of Red Hat's engineering facilities in Westford, Mass. The distribution will use Wind River's distribution channel, primarily. In addition to the general market of embedded systems and devices, the new embedded Linux distribution will be aimed at carrier grade network equipment such as high-end routers and switches, according to a statement released today by Wind River. Red Hat is known to be developing support for the Open Source Development Labs's Carrier Grade Linux specification, and both companies are members of the organization.

“Wind River and Red Hat are creating an end-to-end software infrastructure, based on open source and commercial technology for carrier grade network equipment such as high end routers and switches,” commented Ken Klein, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Wind River. “This partnership opens up new markets for Wind River, and by working with Red Hat, we can enable the same kind of standardization for the device software market that Red Hat has successfully established for enterprise Linux. It was important for us to enter into a relationship with Red Hat because of their global dominance in the Linux market.”

Prior to today's announcement of the Wind River / Red Hat collaboration around Red Hat Embedded Linux, Wind River had previously said it intended to support multiple Linux distributions as part of its embedded Linux strategy, possibly including those of its competitors. As of today, Genard says Wind River still plans to support multiple Linux — and Embedded Linux — distributions, including downloaded sources, despite the new addition of Red Hat Embedded Linux to the mix.

Eclipse-based IDE

Wind River first signaled last December that it would move away from its proprietary Tornado development environment in favor of Eclipse. The company has now revealed plans to support future versions of its VxWorks operating system — as well as Linux and “additional embedded operating systems” — with its Eclipse-based Wind Power 2.0 IDE, expected to ship in this spring.

Pre-release version of Wind Power 2.0 IDE
(Click for larger view)

According to Fraser, Wind Power 2.0 will enable Wind River to bring many of its fairly mature tools for embedded development to a range of operating systems in addition to Wind River's Red Hat based embedded Linux distributions. Support for on-chip debuggers will enable the IDE to be used in a pre-OS environment. And, it will support “homegrown,” in-house operating systems in addition to VxWorks and a range of Linux variants. “We want to bring our tools to a company's existing operating systems,” Fraser said.

Initially, Wind Power 2.0 will work with 2.4.20 or 2.4.22 based distributions, according to Genard, who adds, “We are currently working to determine what level of patching will be supported.”

Wind River is not the first embedded tools vendor to target developers using “any Linux.” Metrowerks has long touted its tools and services support for multiple variations of Linux. TimeSys, meanwhile, launched a broad tools strategy in support of “any Linux” in November, 2003. And, multi-Linux support makes sense in light of market research from and EDC showing that embedded developers are most concerned about — and dissatisfied with — tools.

Along with the move to Eclipse and Linux, Wind River expects to release some of its development tools under the GPL. Fraser notes, “The Wind debugger is a unique piece of code that's been incredibly strong for us as an enabler of debugging and application profiling. But, if we let it go, and it's adopted by a lot of developers, that benefits everyone.”

VxWorks 6.0

Fraser calls the new version of Wind River's proprietary VxWorks RTOS “the largest release we've ever done.” About $50 million was invested to revise the operating system, with the goal of adding features that will, among other things, help the venerable RTOS interoperate better with Linux.

Genard divides the new features in VxWorks into four major categories:

  • MMU support with memory protection levels, including an infrastructure for error detection and reporting.
  • A message passing infrastructure through IPC (Inter-Process Communication), which enables Linux and VxWorks tasks to communicate with each other.
  • A Unix-like process model based on real-time process naming, allowing Linux applications to run within a specific user space on top of VxWorks.
  • An open infrastructure at the OS level, allowing customers to design their own VxWorks features and extensions. “If a customer wants to design his own scheduler, it's no longer a black box,” Ginard says.

New royalty-free licensing model

Wind River first introduced its Enterprise License Model (ELM) in November of 2002, concurrent with the launch of its “Platforms” initiative. Wind River has now announced ELM 2.0, which introduces the option of per-developer-seat licensing, in addition to the traditional royalty-based VxWorks licensing model. “Just like product lines, business models have roadmaps, too,” notes Fraser.'s 2003 Embedded Linux Market Survey clearly demonstrated that embedded developers prefer per-project expenses to royalty-based licensing. Some 54 percent of respondents said they would consider paying for Linux development/support services, while 64 percent said they would not consider paying per-unit royalties for embedded Linux software.

Wind River's new licensing option is an annual subscription charge based on the number of developer sets. “It gives the customer a choice on how to treat the license — as an R&D expense or a cost of goods consideration,” notes Fraser. “It allows customers who didn't want to pay royalties to still use Wind River OSes.”

Analyst Paul Zorfass believes Wind River's new licensing model will help it make sales. “A runtime license is part of the bill of materials, part of the manufacturing budget. At the same time, the toolset is part of the engineering budget. So, [royalty-based licensing] is a more complex sell, a more time-consuming sell. Wind River has tried to align itself better with pieces of the customer organization.”

Analyst reactions

Analyst Daya Nadamuni of Gartner/DataQuest, thinks Wind River is making all the right moves. “Wind River has done the best they can, under the circumstances, to embrace the open source movement. They do have very good tools, and companies providing good tools are in a position to survive. They also have a very good services organization, “Dr. Design,” acquired with the purchase of ISI. I like the fact that they have understood the importance and significance of the open source movement. All this taken together makes for a fairly positive outlook for Wind River.”

Jerry Krasner, of Embedded Market Forecasters, said: “I believe it to be not only strategic for Wind River to address the needs of embedded Linux OEMs (as they also launch the new and improved VxWorks 6.0), but it is to the benefit of the embedded Linux community that they have undertaken such initiatives. EMF's studies on the 'Total Cost of Development' showed that 40% of OEMs developing with Linux didn't use either the tools or the services provided by embedded Linux vendors [see story –ed.]. Wind River's strategic decision to address Linux in addition to their core markets not only brings a measure of credibility to potential Linux developers, but provides tools that were heretofore not available for Linux development.”

Paul Zorfass of First Technology believes Wind River's deep embedded experience will translate nicely into the embedded Linux market. “Wind River probably has the best understanding of the problems of embedded developers of any company. That comes out of having acquired ISI, and got Dr. Design out of that, combined with their own integration business. They understand the issues very well. As the question around the so-called 'religious wars' goes away — and this is the first step to that going away — what will become more apparent to Wind's customers will be its depth of understanding about what software developers face in building embedded solutions.That's going to be their value proposition.”


Wind River's Wind Power 2.0 IDE for Linux is expected to ship in May of 2004. Development previews of Wind Power 2.0 for VxWorks are available now to early access customers.

A release date for general availability of VxWorks 6.0 has not yet been set, however, “Existing customers will receive VxWorks 6.0 and Wind Power 2.0 as part of their subscriptions,” notes Genard.

As for Linux-based “Platforms” from Wind River, no target release dates have been set. “At the platform level, Linux is a direction,” admits Genard.

And what about “Wind Embedded Linux”? Time will tell.

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