Software could simplify development of embedded 'super systems' - Embedded.com

Software could simplify development of embedded ‘super systems’

PARK RIDGE, Ill. — A new simulation software package could change conventional development processes for embedded “super systems” used in aerospace, industrial, medical and telecommunications applications.

By taking simulation beyond the chip and board level, the new software could eliminate numerous hardware steps, according to the developer. As a result, it could compress the build-test-debug cycle into a single desktop process, thereby cutting months from product development cycles.

“The key is that we are able to 'virtualize' complex systems,” noted Ross Wheeler, founder and CEO of DoubleWide Software (Santa Clara, Calif.), maker of the new product. “We're able to take multiple embedded systems, virtualize them and integrate them into a single test environment.”

Known as DoubleWide Studio, the software reportedly can run the “virtualized” multiple embedded systems concurrently on a single workstation operating on Windows, Linux or Solaris. DoubleWide executives said the software can create and test the complex topologies of interconnected devices while simulating a variety of connectivity conditions.

As a result, it could speed the development and testing tasks associated with production of complex hardware systems, such as telecommunication switches, storage servers and medical imaging devices, which typically use several interconnected embedded systems.

“In the past, we did our development by selecting hardware that was close to the target hardware that we wanted to build, and then we developed our software on top of that,” said Ron Lau, software engineering manager for Foundry Networks, Inc. (San Jose, Calif.), which recently served as DoubleWide's first customer by using the software to create of its BigIron MG8 high-performance switch. “But the simulation model brings us very close to the real hardware.”

Engineers at FoundryNetworks said they shaved six months and several million dollars from the development process for the new switch, which is reportedly being used in Sandia National Laboratories' new 40-teraflop Red Storm supercomputer. Foundry engineers said the new software was an aid in the development of the chassis-based switch, which can incorporate up to eight line cards, two management cards and two switch fabric cards.

Analysts said the virtualization process could change the tried-and-true methods employed in development of such complex embedded systems. “There's tremendous value in this,” said Jim Duggan, vice president and research team leader for application development at Gartner, Inc. (Raleigh, N.C.). “It gives companies the ability to shift beyond the old practice, where everything was built in small blocks, to a process where they can virtualize a lot of the engineering. Using this, they can get a better idea of the overall system behavior before they start cutting tin.”

Duggan said the technology could have a profound impact, but only if experienced developers are willing to move beyond traditional practices. “The building of embedded software hasn't changed a lot in the last 20 years,” Duggan said. “For many, it remains a form of wizardry. For this to take off, developers will have to move beyond that.”

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