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Wind River updates embedded Linux suite

Jul 31, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Wind River has updated its commercial embedded Linux distribution, along with three vertical-market “Platforms” based on it. Many of the new features in Wind River Linux 1.3 target telecommunications, traditionally an area of Wind River strength. The company additionally updated its Eclipse-based development tools, and contributed some 300,000 lines of code to the open-source Eclipse project.

Glen Seiler, Linux Platform product manager, summarizes, “With this release, we're really poised to take control of the Carrier Grade Linux space, and make our entrance into the mobile Linux space as well.”

Wind River Linux 1.3

Wind River Linux 1.3 is based on a 2.6.14 kernel, and is Wind River's fourth 2.6-based Linux release, according to Seiler. “We're no longer an up-and-comer… we're taking a leadership role here,” asserted Seiler confidently, adding that the company now has over 300 customers using its Linux-based products.

According to Seiler, Wind River chose the 2.6.14 kernel in part due to real-time improvements, such as the ability to simultaneously use both the “preempt-rt” real-time patch and the “robust mutexes” patch. These patches deliver determinism and low interrupt latency especially relevant for consumer electronics, Seiler notes — more about that later.

Seiler adds, “But real-time is just one example. All in all, there's something like 80 patches added since 2.6.10, [on which our last release was based].”

Wind River “Platforms” — three ships sailing the same sea

Wind River's flagship embedded OS products are its “Platforms,” positioned as relatively complete off-the-shelf software stacks optimized for specific vertical-market applications. The company launched its Platforms strategy in November of 2002, around VxWorks, its proprietary real-time operating system (RTOS), but today says its Linux platforms are “engineered, integrated, tested, validated, and supported just as rigorously” as its VxWorks platforms.

Currently, Wind River's Linux-based platforms include:

  • General Purpose Platform (GPP) — targeting automotive, industrial automation, aerospace and defense, and other broad categories
  • Platform for Consumer Electronics (PCE) — primarily targeting mobile phones, along with other consumer devices
  • Platform for Network Equipment (PNE) — which is registered with the Carrier Grade Linux 3.2 specification, and primarily targets ATCA-class hardware

Despite their different target markets, all three Linux Platforms are based on the “exact-same source code,” Seiler says. He explains, “We take source code exactly as it's found in open source, put it on our source CD, along with whatever makefiles and scripts might come with that source code, and then we provide our own build environment.”

The build environment includes a variety of “templates,” which appear to define sets of kernel and application patches aimed at specific chips, specific development boards, and specific kinds of devices. Users can use supplied templates, or create their own, and can use the setup to “create anything from a small handset to a large core switch, using the same source,” Seiler said.

The build environment comes with the product. It can be used standalone — “We provide a commandline interface for everything,” Seiler said — or with Workbench, Wind River's Eclipse-based development tool, which as of today includes new graphical tools for Linux kernel configuration and package management, Seiler noted.

Compared to the pre-built distributions offered by other vendors, Wind River says its source-based build method lets customers create differentiated products “without losing sight of the clear path back to original source.”

At the same time, Wind River also offers about 50 pre-built “reference platforms,” it says.

Of the three Wind River Platforms, GPP appears to benefit mainly, or perhaps exclusively, from updates to its base Linux source code layer. The other two Platforms, PCE and PNE, both appear to depend on significant additional work at and above the kernel layer, and aimed primarily at Wind River's traditional telecom customer base.

PCE — new real-time capabilities for ARM

In order to help customers take advantage of the 2.6.14 kernel's allegedly improved real-time capabilities, Seiler says Wind River ported the “preempt-rt” patches to ARM, and to ARM-based SoCs such as Texas Instruments's i.MX and Marvell's (formerly Intel's) PXA270. “Real-time performance, and low interrupt latencies are key requirements for handset vendors, and ARM is the dominant architecture in the smartphone/mobile handset space,” Seiler said.

Also new for ARM is support for dynamic power management, a technique developed by MontaVista and IBM. DPM essentially allows user-space applications to participate in conservation techniques such as processor voltage and frequency scaling, peripheral gating, and so on.

Another new PCE feature is support for uClibc, the small-footprint C library that has long been a cornerstone of embedded Linux development. Seiler said, “Combine uClibc with some of the capabilities PCE had previously, such as the ability to use the Linux-Tiny patch and busybox filesystem, and you've got a very high-performance, very small-footprint Linux kernel and distribution.”

Yet another PCE advance comes in the ever-popular boot-time category. Seiler explains, “By removing some of the discovery processes built into Linux that aren't applicable to a consumer electronics device, and by optimizing the init scripts, we can go from power-on to prompt in about five seconds.”

So far, no mobile phones based on PCE appear to have reached market. However, Wind River has previously said to it expects to be able to talk about customer design wins by year's end.

PNE — first “true” CGL 3.2 distribution?

Although it can be used for enterprise routers and other traditional networking equipment, PNE, Wind River's Platform for networking equipment, primarily targets what Seiler calls the “COTS” (commercial off-the-shelf) market. He explains, “Equipment makers are creating these application-ready network equipment platforms, by taking a COTS-based ATCA board, using a COTS CGL product, and adding other technologies such as high-availability middleware that they've built in-house, or that they're using from companies like OpenClovis or GoAhead.”

Such application-ready networking equipment is typically used in WiMAX controllers and basestations, IMS servers, and 3G services such as VoIP, Seiler says.

According to Seiler, Wind River's PNE customers so far include many of the largest network equipment providers (NEPs), including Sun, Kontron, Radisys, Motorola, ECC, Artesyn, and Intel.

As part of its base Linux kernel upgrade, the newest release of PNE offers better real-time capabilities. Seiler explains, “We've ported the preempt-rt patches, robust mutexes support, and the new high-resolution timers patch that was created specifically for the 2.6.14 kernel to our x86 PNE product.”

PNE also supports more architectures now, Seiler says. “PNE supports everything from MIPS64 multi-core platforms from Broadcom, to high-end PowerPC platforms from Freescale, Intel's XScale and of course x86 and EMT, and even Sun's AMD Opteron — some of them are now supported.”

Seiler adds, “PNE now offers the broadest hardware support in a Carrier Grade Linux-registered product,” although competitor MontaVista also likes to tout its broad hardware support.

Finally, PNE now represents the industry's first “real” support for the Carrier Grade Linux 3.2 specification, according to Seiler. He said, “We are the first full commercial-grade Linux distributor to register. FSMLabs has submitted their real-time overlay product running on top of Red Hat, but in terms of a whole integrated Linux distribution from a single commercial vendor, we believe ours is the first real product in that class.”


Wind River Linux 1.3 editions of the Wind River General Purpose Platform, Platform for Consumer Devices, and Platform for Network Equipment are shipping today, the company said.

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