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Wind River’s Linux chief: I don’t wear an Intel badge.

Oct 16, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

Three months after Intel completed its acquisition of embedded OS and tools firm Wind River, we spoke with Wind River's Linux chief Vincent Rerolle about life as a subsidiary. Rerolle also describes how mobile Linux device stacks are accelerating a services focus for the company's embedded Linux business.

Vincent Rerolle (pictured below, right) was named senior VP and GM of the Linux product division on Feb. 6, 2008, as part of a reorganization that slotted organizational functions into four groups: VxWorks, Linux, Tools, and Device Management. He has since been named Chief Strategy Officer for the division.

Despite being acquired by Intel in July, Wind River continues to maintain its structure, management, and overall direction. In fact, in perusing their website, we found Intel's presence to be hardly noticeable.

What's more, Wind River has announced several support announcements with other semiconductor vendors. Last month, for example, Wind River announced a a partnership with NEC Electronics on a software development kit (SDK) for portable multimedia players and mobile televisions, based on Wind River Linux 3.0 and NEC's ARM11-based EMMA Mobile 1 system-on-chip (SoC).

Around the same time, the company announced a similar SDK with Cavium, aimed at home media gateways and network-attached storage devices using Cavium's ARM11-based Econa CNS3xxx SoC. Later that month, Wind River announced that its Wind River for MIPS implementation now complies with Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 4.0.

It will be interesting to see if this non-denominational approach will extend to other semi players, such as Freescale, but so far, the "business as usual" party line seems legit. Meanwhile, new potential twists may emerge in the mobile space with Intel's partnership with Nokia, and its plans for smartphone-targeted Moblin 2.1 for Handhelds project.

Wind River is still primarily devoted to its VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS) — only $76 million of last year's $350 million in revenues came from Linux. Yet its Linux business continues to grow faster than that of VxWorks, and Linux appears to be increasingly becoming the centerpiece of the company.

We spoke with Vincent Rerolle yesterday to get a feel for life after the acquisition, the role of mobile device stacks, and much more:

LinuxDevices: Since the July acquisition, Intel has appeared willing to let Wind River continue to make its own partnerships with other chip vendors. How has the acquisition affected Wind River's Linux business, and how do you convince your customers using non-Intel architectures that their platforms will continue to receive equal attention in a timely fashion?

Rerolle: Since the acquisition, we have been operating as an independent subsidiary and have maintained our overall direction. I don't wear an Intel badge when I go to work. We have been able to demonstrate to our customers that our execution has not deviated by one inch, and that the roadmap has not changed. We are not only continuing to work with other semis, for example with the MIPS deal, but are stepping it up to go deeper with the architectures. Our customers need someone who can bridge multiple architectures. So we have a strong incentive to work with them.

LinuxDevices: According to a recent study by VDC, Wind River has moved past MontaVista in embedded Linux revenue this year. How do you account for this success?

Rerolle: Wind River Linux has succeeded thanks to its strong support, predictable roadmap, thorough testing, and superior toolchain. We have catered to companies that need a dependable foundational layer, and at the same time we have played closely with the open source community.

LinuxDevices: What are some of the major trends you're seeing these days among your Linux customers?

Rerolle: Traditionally, device vendors have often had breakaway projects, where they would use whatever it would take to create a device even if it didn't match the tools and platforms they were using before. Companies still need to do that sometimes, but there is an increasing trend of companies wanting to standardize internally, so they can reuse software across multiple projects, so developers can share code, and can make changes in a consistent and clean fashion. They're looking for a way to balance breakthrough technology with the ability to reuse code across multiple variants.

We're working hard to make sure we are delivering best in class Linux while still paying attention to how Linux is being used for multiple projects and architectures. We're trying to enable a commonality of reuse over long product cycles, with different architectures. So, for example, we let customers do the build in a way that lets them clearly understand what is in the distribution, and how things are being added and removed.

LinuxDevices: How has the rise of mobile open source stacks like Android and Moblin affected your business?

Rerolle: Our approach is dual-sided. On one side we have our traditional customers in aerospace, networking, defense, and industry, who generally want a single environment across multiple projects. So we continuously and selectively backport new features that we see from semis, and then we release a single, stable platform every 14 to 18 months. This matches their own cadence and way of doing business.

At same time we see a growing trend in faster-paced industries like mobile phones, MIDs, and some other consumer electronics categories where products have a much shorter shelf life, and development teams need to move fast. Here, we are following a different model.

With these customers, we often use open source Linux stacks like Moblin, Android, LiMo, or the Genivi in-vehicle infotainment alliance. In many cases we are not even using our own Wind River Linux with these customers. We use whatever Linux is in the stack. Still, we are applying a lot of tools and techniques from Wind River Linux.

LinuxDevices: So in these cases is Wind River turning into more of a services business?

Rerolle: It really is becoming more of a service-based business. These customers require a lot of moving parts, and a lot of customization of the spec for different use cases. They need to integrate a lot of third-party software. They want to hire someone who can work in context of an open source project, who can help them glue in the rest of the components, like the middleware and other apps, in an open source fashion.

So we contribute the interface between the commercial customer and providers of open source stacks, and we productize elements of the open source stack. We do regression testing, back fix, and third party integration, and provide a reference platform, not necessarily a prototype, but a set of predefined, pretested elements.

LinuxDevices: There has been a lot of movement in using embedded Linux as a fast boot technology that runs alongside Windows, including MontaVista's Montebello technology which is behind Dell's Latitude ON. Is this an area where Wind River might get involved?

Rerolle: We do have technologies that could be applied to fast boot, but cannot talk about specifics now. We have customers who use our Wind River Hypervisor on multi-core processor systems to help them boot Linux in one compartment and another OS in another. It allows customers to have devices that have staggered use cases, as in a car, where things happen in a certain order when you turn the ignition.

LinuxDevices: Linus Torvalds has recently suggested that the Linux kernel has gotten too bloated and unwieldy. Do you see this as a problem for the embedded world? Is Linux trying to serve too many masters across the server, desktop, and embedded markets?

Rerolle: With PC-based use cases you don't know what's going to happen, so you need a very large Linux. Our approach is that we allow our embedded customers to optimize what they want to put in the device, and let them optimize the kernel, userspace, and file system to match use cases and power consumption profiles. So it's less of an issue for us. Linux is absolutely meeting our needs.

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