Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wind River Acquires FSMLabs Technology

On February 20th Wind River announced that it would be acquiring the Intellectual Property of FSM Labs.

VDC views the acquisition as very complementary to Wind River System’s (WRS) strategy in offering their customers choice and flexibility in the way they look to work and the commercial solutions they look to acquire and integrate. For applications with real-time requirements, WRS will be able to offer their customers, once available, a choice in real-time solutions, either VxWorks- or RTLinux-based through a common Eclipse-based development environment, Workbench.

VDC expects that the move will create new market opportunities for WRS with device manufacturers that have real-time and Linux requirements with the company’s Linux Edition Platforms for Consumer Devices and Network Equipment, as well as within, aerospace and defense, industrial control, and automotive applications.

FSMLabs has continued to have success in supplying its customers with its patented real-time micro-kernel solution that runs Linux and BSD applications. For FSMLabs, sales of RTLinux solutions represent a significant portion of revenue in military/aerospace, simulation, robotics, telecom infrastructure, and other application segments. While the majority of its revenues have been in the Americas region, the company has seen additional growth in the Asia Pacific market.

Driven by the interest of embedded developers to use Linux in embedded systems, the question of whether and how Linux can be adapted to satisfy the requirements of real-time application demands continues to gain increased attention. Approaches include:

Use of Linux in Real-Time Applications – Because the Linux kernel lacks proven mechanisms for effectively and quickly preempting lower-priority threads and ensuring that high-priority processes are completed within a defined time period, the Linux operating system has not been readily adopted within hard real-time environments and systems that require guaranteed performance within strict time constraints. However, this has not stopped developers from looking for ways to use the Linux operating system as part of their real-time applications. A number of commercial vendors, standards bodies, and developers continue to investigate ways to improve Linux technology for use in real-time applications.

Using dual operating system architecture – Embedded systems may be configured to run multiple operating systems (one running Linux, the other a hard real-time OS) on different processors or within a partitioned environment on a single processor. Linux may be run using a “virtualization” approach or setup so that a real-time micro-kernel manages both real-time processes and a Linux environment. FSMLabs RTLinuxPro, VirtualLogix VLX, and the open source RTAI project, are example variants of the dual operating system approach.
The various strategies each have their benefits and drawbacks, and their use is highly dependent upon how “real time” an application’s requirements really are. Ultimately, the continued availability of cheaper, more powerful processors may allow Linux to continue to penetrate segments of the market where the lack of real-time capability was previously perceived as a barrier.

Real-time means predictable application or system control and can include a range from no real time to soft and hard real-time. Many embedded applications have some degree of real-time performance in order to meet requirements. While real-time requirements vary from application to application, VDC expects that real-time Linux solutions will offer additional market opportunities as the adoption of Linux increasingly spans vertical markets.