Wind River acquires 'hard' real-time Linux - Embedded.com

Wind River acquires ‘hard’ real-time Linux

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — By acquiring the intellectual property of Finite State Machine Labs Inc. (FSMLabs), Wind River Systems Inc. this week (Feb. 20) is claiming to offer the industry's only commercially-supported “hard” real-time Linux technology. FSMLabs developed RTLinux, which combines the real-time RTCore executive with a standard Linux kernel.

Wind River already offers a soft real-time Linux solution in addition to VxWorks, its hard real-time operating system (RTOS). “This acquisition positions Wind River uniquely to offer a wide range of real-time solutions to our customers, from VxWorks to soft real time with Linux to hard real time with Linux,” said Glenn Seiler, director of Linux Platforms at Wind River.

Wind River is not acquiring FSMLabs, but is acquiring all intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, patents, and embedded customers from the company for RTLinux and associated products. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Seiler said that five engineers from FSMLabs are joining Wind River, and that Wind River will license RTLinux technology back to FSMLabs, which will pursue opportunities in the enterprise market.

The asset purchase “really opens up new markets for us,” Seiler said. One such market is aerospace and defense, which, Seiler said, is starting to move to Linux. Hard real-time Linux may also help Wind River tap into the automotive market, he said. In telecom, Seiler said, hard real-time Linux will help Wind River address applications with very high packet traffic, where extremely fast context switching times are needed.

RTLinux, Seiler emphasized, is mature technology. “It's been in the market for five years and customers are using it today,” he said. “It's something Wind River can take and integrate into our product line very quickly, and offer customers a solution that's tested and scalable across multiple architectures.”

Seiler noted that most Linux solutions today for embedded applications use “pre-emption” technology, which involves patches to the Linux kernel. “It's really not 100 percent deterministic, because it depends on where you are in the Linux kernel as to how soon it can be pre-empted and respond to an application,” he said. “You can't provide 100 percent hard real time.”

Hard real time, said Seiler, means that the application responds to an interrupt 100 percent of the time within a specified time period, usually a few microseconds. RTLinux provides that, he said, by using a non-Linux real-time executive that manages all hardware interrupts on the system. It can service interrupts that need real-time response, and pass others back to the standard Linux kernel after real-time requests have been handled.

Seiler noted that Wind River will continue to sell its soft real-time Linux solutions, based on pre-emption technology, because that's good enough for many applications. Further, Wind River will continue to sell its VxWorks RTOS. With VxWorks, the entire operating system and all its tasks were designed from the ground up to be real time. The VxWorks footprint can be as small as 64 Kbytes memory, far less than a Linux solution, Seiler noted.

Seiler said that Wind River plans to make the RTLinux technology available as an option to its Linux platform in the second half of this year. For now, Wind River will continue to sell RTLinux and its associated tools on a standalone basis, and will provide service and support to the FSMLabs embedded customer base.

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