RTOS vendors tune comms software for reliability - Embedded.com

RTOS vendors tune comms software for reliability


BOSTON – Enhanced versions of software tuned to meet the reliability demands of communications systems will be unveiled by real-time operating system (RTOS) vendors at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) this week.

QNX Systems Software, OSE Systems and OnCore Systems will introduce more high-availability enhancements to their message-based, microkernel RTOSes at the Boston conference. Green Hill Software Inc. (Santa Barbara, Calif.) will launch a new version of its multibased integrated development environment that is more tightly coupled to its Integrity and Thread-X RTOSes. And Lynuxworks Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) will unveil a more integrated development package for its proprietary LynxOS, open-source-based BlueHat RTOSes.

The introductions follow by two weeks the rollout by Wind River Systems Inc. (Alameda, Calif.) of the High Availability Extensions to the year-old Advanced Edition of its older VxWorks RTOS.

If there is any commonality across all of the various RTOS vendors – Wind River included – it is their rush to provide a range of high-availability features, said Tom Williams, industry analyst and author of the “Embedded Systems Developer Survey,” a report just published by Evans Data Corp. (Santa Cruz, Calif.). “Regardless of the communications segment that might be targeted, that is one common feature all of them will have gone to great lengths to add to or strengthen,” he said.

Also being added or enhanced are memory segmentation and protection; multiprocessing support; and sophisticated, fast and reliable interprocess communications and messaging capabilities.

In addition to its network-aware RTOS, the new Networking Infrastructure Platform from QNX Systems Software Ltd. (Kanata, Ontario), available for Solaris, Windows or on a self-hosted development environment, has a package of development aids that includes embedding kits, development tools, a customizable, high-availability tool kit, a system analysis tool kit, and networking and management protocol stacks. It also supports a host of productivity tools and protocols from leading third-party vendors.

The kernel itself, previously only available for X86 processors, is now available for virtually all Motorola PowerPC architectures and networking systems based on it, including Motorola's C-Port. The company is now completing a port to the StrongArm and X-scale processors used in Intel's IXP network processor family.

“In this new version of the RTOS, we have added a high-availability tool kit to the basic capabilities of the OS with respect to fine-grained memory protection, automatic recovery from software failure and support for messaging and SMP,” said Sebastian Marinea, Netcom architecture and development manager at QNX.

OSE Systems Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) will announce similar enhancements to its already network-optimized, message-based microkernel RTOS at ESC. It will also add the Motorola-Agere Starcore digital signal processing architecture to the repertoire DSP and RISC processors its OSE RTOS supports.

Best of both worlds

In addition to specific enhancements to their tools, Lynuxworks and OnCore are promoting their ability to allow developers to develop code that can run in multiple CPU systems typical of many network-processor-based routers and systems.

OnCore Systems Corp. (Half Moon Bay, Calif.) president and chief executive Chip Downing said his company aims to wed the advantages of standard Linux and proprietary RTOSes. “We have found that a number of network processor companies like the control that an open-source version of Linux gives them over the code,” he said, “but like the support that a proprietary RTOS gives them. This approach allows them to be much more flexible, shifting to a real-time mode under OnCore for specific functions, running code specific to it or to one of several other commercial RTOSes for which they have already developed code, or using an open-source Linux OS, which they have adapted to their needs.”

According to Jerry Krasner, executive director of the CMP Electronics Market Forecasters Group, the RTOS solution most companies in these segments finally go for will not necessarily be the best solution technically.

“What it may come down to is economics and time-to-market issues,” he said, “with developers going with the architectural solution that is good enough for most applications but which provides the RTOS tools and development environments that allow the development of code quickly and efficiently across the broadest number of CPU solutions. . . . If that is the case, it will be companies like Wind River with its Tornado development environment that may be the ultimate winner.”

Wind River will be at the ESC with its long-awaited High Availability extensions to the new Advanced Edition version of its VxWorks RTOS, which is almost 15 years old. The extensions are further enhancements to the revamped VxWorks, which a year ago was introduced with major additions and modifications to support multiprocessing, IPC messaging and the more sophisticated memory protection mechanisms that networking and datacom require.

RTOS vendors will be hard-pressed to introduce solutions that will satisfy all of the requirements of the fragmented communications market, said industry analyst Williams. “Obviously, one size fits all will not work in this space,” he said.

In terms of total RTOS shipments in 2000 worth $401.7 million, Wind River, with its VxWorksAE, pSOS and BSD Linux offerings, dominated, with almost 45 percent, according to the 2001 Embedded Development Tool and RTOSes study by CMP Media's Electronics Market Forecasters Group.

According to the study, in current applications in datacom and networking, almost 67 percent were using in-house-developed kernels, RT Unix/Linux RTOSes or commercial RTOSes specific to their requirements, compared with 47 percent for the more general-purpose RTOS solutions from Wind River Systems.

In new designs, the percentage increased to almost 77 percent vs. 58 percent for the Wind River solutions. In telecom, 51 percent of system designers were using VxWorks and pSOS in one or more present designs and 63 percent in future designs. By comparison, alternative, more net-optimized RTOS solutions were being used in 63 percent of current designs, increasing to almost 72 percent for future designs.

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