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Wind River shifts tools strategies, rev’s Eclipse

Jul 31, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Wind River has shifted its tools strategy toward closer integration with its OS products. Additionally, it has brought out a new version of its Eclipse-based Workbench toolsuite, and made a “strategic” 300,000-line code donation to Eclipse, much of it aimed at making the framework more extensible for commercial add-on providers.

No more “Mr. Any Linux”

Previously, Wind River aimed to sell tools that could be used with “any Linux,” a strategy similar to that pioneered by (and still followed by) TimeSys. Steven Heintz, product manager of Wind River's tools division, says that has changed. “This is a refinement in our strategy, based on some of the experiences we've had over the last year and a half.”

Commercial vs. non-commercial embedded distro usage
(Click to enlarge)

Interestingly, Wind River's strategy shift runs counter to findings from LinuxDevices reader surveys, which have repeatedly suggested that the vast majority of embedded Linux developers obtain their embedded Linux kernels and related open-source software components from a variety of sources around the Internet, rather than from commercial sources, and generally prefer to avoid OS vendor lock-in. This suggests an ongoing opportunity for distribution-agnostic development tools. Additionally, some 55 percent of embedded developers surveyed say they expect to use free development tools obtained from open-source projects, rather than commercially provided tools.

Despite the apparent distribution-agnostic opportunity, however, Wind River appears to be ceding that portion of the tools market to other vendors, in favor of a more tightly coupled tools/OS strategy.

Heintz explains, “The business of providing a one-size-fits-all commercial Linux development kit we think [is] limited to just providing the simple tasks that any developer performs, and that's editing code, compiling code, and simple break-point based debugging. We think that as devices are getting exponentially more complex, it's very hard to start at that stage, and bring a device to market [for example] that has email in a mobile phone, or GSM in automotive telematics. You need to start from higher levels of abstraction. You need to use these tools that rely on more unique stuff being in that underlying operating system.”

“What you're going to see from us, as far as a tools strategy going forward, is more of our engineering effort spent on tools that dig deeper into the runtime — to enable visual configuration of the kernel and filesystem, visual analysis of running systems, and the ability to support deployed devices at customer sites [story], for example. It's hard to apply those to someone else's Linux, and expect that they are going to work correctly,” he continued.

Heintz emphasizes, “[Our tools will increasingly] rely on tight linkage to the underlying OS, enabling things that are unique to our Linux, and are part of the unique differentiators of our OS offerings.”

In other words, Wind River plans to sell a variety of highly specialized development tools, all based on Eclipse, but tailored to specific device development projects. Heintz explains, “It's tools as part of our 'device software optimization' [DSO] story. From us, from some of the other ISVs and partners in the tools community, and from some of the other RTOS or Linux providers, what you'll see is commercial, higher-level design, debug, and test tools that are unique to [for example] mobile phones, network routers, airplane software [and other specific product categories].”

Heintz concludes, “As we identify the biggest opportunities for specific kinds of devices, we're going to be working on the operating system, the middleware technology, and these vertical-specific plugins to meet those needs, based on the common Eclipse framework. And, you'll also see them come out from a number of ISVs in the community. So another part of our message is how standardizing on a common framework for developer tools benefits the industry.”

300,000-line code donation

Along with its new, more “strategic” tools strategy, Wind River has decided to contribute a significant body of code from its commercial IDE to the Eclipse project. Heintz says this decision was “fast-tracked” in order to “help accelerate Eclipse as a 'one-size-fits-all' tool,” and to make the framework even more extensible.

Heintz explains, “A perfect example is the CDT (C/C++ development tool) editor technology [that we contributed]. It will allow a more pluggable parser framework, so a developer can use the free open source parser technology, or plug-in and use a commercial parser. And that's a perfect example of what Wind River's going to continue to provide.”

Heintz adds, “Same goes for our debug framework, and debug engines. We provide a commercial debug engine that's very unique to our Linux product. It has the user-mode agent technology that allows you to have a user-mode application in your device, and that exposes what's necessary to debug and analyze at runtime the performance of other user applications or the kernel. So it's an easy, lightweight way to diagnose or instrument your Linux device.”

As for compilers, Heintz says Wind River already supports a choice of GCC or its proprietary 'Wind River' compiler. Additionally, the company is working with semiconductor vendors to support the integration of their proprietary compilers into Eclipse, Heintz said.

In addition to making Eclipse more extensible, Wind River's contributions are aimed at ensuring that the platform continues to serve the broad needs of 'one-size-fits-all' users, Heintz says. “We have eight developers in our tools/engineering team dedicated full-time just to open source contributions. We're taking that open source technology, and using it in our commercial products. However, their primary goal is to move along CDT and [DSDP sub-projects such as] Target Management, Terminal Views, things like that.”

Heintz adds, “We also contribute to the Eclipse Foundation about a quarter of a million dollars every year. We're hoping other companies continue to take our lead. There are 30 companies in DSDP, all basing their commercial products on Eclipse.”

Despite huge community investments in Eclipse, incidentally, the open source IDE rated last in a recent developer survey.

As one of the founders, and the current leader of the top-level Device Software Development Project (DSDP) at Eclipse, Wind River expects to make additional code contributions in the future, Heintz said. “We believe there is a line of what is open source, and standard in the industry for the framework. And, there's a line of where we intend on providing our commercial value and differentiation. And, we believe that line is going to be continually moving. We're going to assess what we have as IP in our commercial portfolio every year, [and] we'll be moving some of the things from our commercial product to the open source world where it makes sense, and focusing our engineering efforts on these higher levels of abstraction: visual tools, things that accelerate these complex tasks.”

Flying high

In other news, Wind River announced a few specific implementation goals of Boeing, one of its more highly publicized recent customer wins. Boeing plans to use Wind River Linux in an aerial surveillance system, according to Wind River.


Wind River Workbench 2.5 is available now.

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