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Operating Systems Software Handhelds Linux Business Hardware

Wind River Completes Embedded Linux Metamorphosis 107

Posted by Hemos
from the going-to-the-tiny dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Embedded software powerhouse Wind River's metamorphosis into an embedded Linux vendor appears to be complete. The company will announce today that it is shipping a pre-release version of its first embedded Linux distribution, and that it has already delivered 1,000 "developer seats" for the Carrier Grade Linux 2.0 compliant software."
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Wind River Completes Embedded Linux Metamorphosis

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    too little
    too late
    • Re:4 words (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:09PM (#11668847) Homepage
      actually a little more than that needs to be said.

      if they have a solid RT linux product for their embedded offerings then they might be able to tie things up and run with it. If it's a general purpose embedded linux then they just wasted a HUGE amount of time.

      A slightly good linux person with 5 days of time and a copy of building embedded linux systems can throw down a good fast small embedded linux distro that will make ANYTHING that a commercial distro look silly and horribly overpriced.

      We looked at embedded linux distros 4 years ago here and settled on a roll your own.

      we have a better product that we KNOW works for us, is easily customized and is certianly much smaller than anything we could buy.

      • Re:4 words (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ajrs (186276)
        Yours for only 5 days of developer time! < fast talk > maintenance and support not included. some restrictions may apply. some assembly required. </fast talk>
        • maintenance and support not included - redhat does.
          some restrictions may apply - especially with restrictive commercial licenses.
          some assembly required - all embedded systems are like that. its the nature of the beast.
      • Re:4 words (Score:5, Informative)

        by den_erpel (140080) on Monday February 14, 2005 @03:27PM (#11671228) Homepage Journal
        Same here.

        I joined a team working on functionality running on an embedded Linux distribution about a year ago. After doing major cleanup in the sources, including an upgrade to the newest release of the embedded distribution; I started looking under the hood.

        Several portions of the distributions were replaced by busybox, uclibc and a gcc-3.4 based toolchain. In the process, we built our own Perl based build system (with CVS): we check in/out only the modified files (basically only platform files) and use the original tarballs (tar xkfj).

        As a result, we were able to decrease the embedded compressed filesystem to less than 33%, our code is much closer to the upstream developments (e.g. for network drivers, this can be an issue) and our system is modular and flexible. (btw, size does matter in production and for field upgrades): smaller, faster and cleaner...

        I am currently in the process of cleaning up the platform dependent files for release and inclusion into the upstream projects (hopefully they get accepted).

        We moved away and have not looked back and saved over 25,000 Euros per year (and rising) in the process. Yes, the embedded distributions are terribly expensive. If you have money to spare, consider hiring teams from the companies selling expertise and releasing the code like http://www.denx.de/ [www.denx.de], http://www.codepoet.org/ [codepoet.org], http://www.pengutronix.de/ [pengutronix.de], http://www.mind.be/ [www.mind.be], ...
    • http://www.fsmlabs.com/
      http://www.lynuxworks.com /

      http://dmoz.org/Computers/Software/Operating_Sys te ms/Realtime/Linux/
  • VxWorks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lxdbxr (655786) * on Monday February 14, 2005 @11:45AM (#11668620) Homepage
    I wouldn't say their "metamorphosis", if they ever purported to want or aim to do such a thing, is complete - I mean they are still selling VxWorks right? I believe the top four platforms on their Product Directory [windriver.com] are based on VxWorks, not Linux. I think they can fairly be described as an embedded software vendor that supplies Linux platforms, rather than an "embedded Linux vendor".
    • by Anonymous Coward
      NASA uses VXWorks, it is one of thir best customers. They are very conservative, wont switch to linux.
      • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:01PM (#11668777) Journal
        NASA uses VXWorks, it is one of thir best customers. They are very conservative, wont switch to linux.

        When you've spent billions hardening a technology to extremes of reliability, a single failure costs you hundreds of millions and maybe several lives, and the technology you've hardened is more than adequate for the next job, you'd be a fool to switch.

        You switch when the job can't be done without a switch, or when the benefits (including risk reductions) outweigh the costs and risks.

        It's when you're starting from scratch that older and newer technologies are on a nearly level playing field. When an old tech is in place and performing well the new one needs to have a BIG advantage to displace it.
        • When you've spent billions hardening a technology to extremes of reliability, a single failure costs you hundreds of millions and maybe several lives, and the technology you've hardened is more than adequate for the next job, you'd be a fool to switch.

          And they aint no fools, cuz they did not switch and of course they never had any failures. Fear of change is FATAL.

          -Em
        • a single failure costs you hundreds of millions and maybe several lives
          Case in point, last I heard they're not even on VxWorks on the shuttle. I think they're still on IBM 360's, at least for the major systems.
      • HELLO. Where do you think that a lot of linux technology came from. Ever work in the network driver sections of the kernel?
        Ever hear of Beuwolf?
        Back when I worked on the MGS client side, we did the work on Linux (but it had to port to Solaris for the final product).

        NASA uses whatever works well. Linux works great.

        • Still they(NASA) shipped off a couple of rovers to Mars. Running vxWorks.
        • Nasa may very well find a compelling reason to switch to Linux at some point. Before that, NASA will need to complete a comprehensive validation of the port and the Linux platform. It doesn't matter if the drivers, apps and packages were already certified on another platform - the port needs to be tested to ensure that no bugs have been introduced.

          As the parent indicated - when there are millions of dollars worth of mission and possibly lives at stake, you don't change unless you really have to.
      • by bani (467531) on Monday February 14, 2005 @02:07PM (#11670289)
        NASA uses Linux for a lot of things, just not space probes (yet). You can see Linux quite heavily used on the desktop machines in mission control at JPL for various space probes.

        Linux does fly on space shuttle missions though, various experiments have been run by linux embedded systems.
      • by GileadGreene (539584) on Monday February 14, 2005 @03:42PM (#11671414) Homepage
        Uh, yeah, you might want to take a look at NASA's FlightLinux [nasa.gov] project before you make statements like that.

        Besides, this story is about WindRiver adding Linux to its lineup, not replacing VxWorks.

    • Re:VxWorks (Score:3, Insightful)

      by saider (177166)
      They still run VxWorks and then run something else on top. In this case, Linux. But VxWorks is still handling the hardware, etc. This is also how RTLinux works as well.
    • Re:VxWorks (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:04PM (#11668813) Journal
      I think they can fairly be described as an embedded software vendor that supplies Linux platforms, rather than an "embedded Linux vendor".

      Right on.

      They haven't switched. (At least they haven't if the management is on the ball.) They've just added a new product line. Maybe it will pick up. Meanwhile the old standby is still there. Take your pick. Whichever way the market goes they're in the game.

      Now they're a two-trick pony.
    • It is not really metamorphesis. They have not stopped VxWorks. They just offer Embedded Linux too.
  • Smart Move (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blueZhift (652272) on Monday February 14, 2005 @11:47AM (#11668647) Homepage Journal
    I think Wind River is making a smart move. They could have easily dug their heels in and raged against the Linux tide. Instead they're going with the flow and building to take advantage of new opportunities and serving their customers' needs. Good show!

    • Re:Smart Move (Score:3, Informative)

      by bhima (46039)
      They DID dig their heels in and raged against the Linux tide. I remember some of their public statements being fairly barbed too! I have to admit I had just switched from VxWorks to NetBSD so maybe I was paying attention a little more closely
      • Re:Smart Move (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:49PM (#11670058)
        That was the old regime. I worked at Wind River in 2002, when they were in dire straits, and met the then-CEO, Tom St. Denis, who was firmly anti-Linux--to the point that, if someone in a meeting mentioned Linux, he would just ignore you, as if you hadn't spoken. (Wasn't just me--other people told me the same thing happened to them.) A while after that, St Denis got fired (okay, "left the company to pursue other opportunities") and the new CEO (Ken Klein) is very pro-Linux. I was at a meeting in December where he spoke enthusiastically about open source, and reminded us that the company wants to maintain a "good neighbor policy" (i.e., let developers devote company time to open source projects.) I think this attitude is the single biggest difference between the struggling Wind River of 2002 and the stable Wind River of 2005.
    • Re:Smart Move (Score:3, Informative)

      by bani (467531)
      They could have easily dug their heels in and raged against the Linux tide.

      this is in fact what they did do [linuxdevices.com]. they used to be one of the most vocal anti-linux vendors around, next to microsoft.
    • > They could have easily dug their heels in and raged against the Linux tide.

      I thought they were famous for *not* adopting Linux, and only now considered it due to customer pressure ?
  • by kbahey (102895) on Monday February 14, 2005 @11:55AM (#11668715) Homepage

    Considering that it is the same company that did the Mars Rover software [windriver.com], this is a big thing.

    For a company with such a high profile product to adopt Linux is only a good thing.

    • by dmh20002 (637819) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:03PM (#11668791)
      Wind River DID NOT do the Mars Rover software. JPL did. JPL only used Vxworks as the OS. Any mature real time OS would have worked. JPL did the hard part.

      • "Wind River DID NOT do the Mars Rover software. JPL did. JPL only used Vxworks as the OS. Any mature real time OS would have worked."

        Yea but the big deal here is that VxWorks is a mature real time os that does work well enough for NASA to use for the Mars Rovers.

        Kind like saying any real time os that is good enough to use for the mars rover is good enough to use for the mars rover.
        • Yea but the big deal here is that VxWorks is a mature real time os that does work well enough for NASA to use for the Mars Rovers.

          Considering my own experience with VxWorks I would gues, that it took JPL *a lot* of effort to harden their particular OS instance so it could be used for Mars Rover.
        • How soon folks forget. Nasa came damn close to LOSING a mars rover because of a problem with the underlying VxWorks. Doesn't anybody remember the day the rover went quiet, eventually determined to be a problem with the flash file system. Seems they overflowed a directory, and it didn't handle that cleanly...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @11:56AM (#11668722)
    • The Market thinks they are turning it around.

      With a trailing P/E of 276, the market must think WindRiver has a philosopher's stone up its sleeve! Even darling GOOG is only half that pricey.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the next few months, if we win the contract, I'll be responsible for tweaking an embedded telcom system. While I have no problems with that, I'd like to make sure that I use the right tools for the job.

    At what point would Wind River's tools become helpful beyond the normal tweaking and tuning? (Ex: changing buffer or table sizes, removing parts of the kernel that aren't necessary, ...)

    I realize that much of this would be project-specifc, though any general tips would be helpful.
    • The place where WindRiver tools really shine is bringing up an OS on a custom board from scratch. The JTAG ICE based debuggers that WR sells are good for debugging ISRs, bootloaders, etc. I have written device drivers without source-level ICE debugging :{ a good ICE debugger can save you months and months and months of efforts when it comes to doing that type of low-level development. The task level debuggers are better for application development, profiling, etc. The Tornado front end to gdb was better t
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:00PM (#11668764)
    ...but is Linux really the platform for hard real-time embedded control? I like Linux as much as the next /.er, but it's not the ultimate solution for everything. VxWorks does something very different to most Linux boxes. Let's keep some variety in the world, so we can choose the tool for the job.
    • by Erwos (553607) on Monday February 14, 2005 @12:42PM (#11669202)
      No, it's not. I used to think Linux would be all that and a bag of chips for embedded systems, but working with it dissuaded me of that fantasy.

      It doesn't have a nanosecond clock, and there aren't any patches available for the 2.6 kernel.

      There's no real-time support without patching the living hell out of your kernel, and then possibly running a mini-kernel underneath.

      And, while not strictly relevant, it also doesn't have PPS API support built-in, which means you're also in for a wonderful round of patching to get something even remotely workable for synchronized systems. There's still no hardpps() support, so even that's just a maybe.

      If you want something suitable for critical, real-time embedded systems, you'd have to patch the kernel so much that it'd barely look like Linux at the end.

      -Erwos

      • People rag on M$FT architectures to no end, but WinCE does surprisingly well in real world tests, and Linux does surprisingly poorly:

        RunTime: Context switching, Part 1 [ibm.com]
        High-performance programming techniques on Linux and Windows

        RunTime: Context switching, Part 2 [ibm.com]
        High-performance programming techniques on Linux and Windows

        COMPARISON BETWEEN QNX RTOS V6.1, VXWORKS AE 1.1 AND WINDOWS CE .NET [qnx.com]
        PDF DOCUMENT

        • by Anonymous Coward
          It should be pointed out that Wind River doesn't even sell Vxworks AE any more, and hasn't for about 2-3 years.. it was a branch that 'died on the vine' so to speak. AE added lots of features that probably slowed it down a lot. I suspect the results would be quite different if VxWorks 5.5 were used in the comparisons...
        • However moderated you insightful, didn't do their homework. Scheduler performance between redhat 7.3 and windows 2000 is hardly relevant these days. Especially since on Linux the threading library and kernel scheduler has rewritten ( the latter several times..).
        • I don't know what you are talking about.

          The first two articles compared RH7.3 with W2K Advanced Server and Windows XP, no WinCE was involved. The third article does not compare Linux with anything else.

          I must say RH7.3 does admirably well, seeing that it was compared with Microsoft's high-end products, and it's not an optimised kernel like W2K AS.
      • I talked to the developers of the Linux PPS kernel patches as to whether they were porting to 2.6. The answer they gave was "something is in progress, just hang on".

        2.4 did have PPS support, through the patches, which was cool. 2.6 will apparently be getting PPS support in the not-too-distant future, but I wasn't able to get a timeline for any patches.

        I agree that PPS is essential. All we have to do is find out exactly who is working on it, and apply enough pressure to get it done (but not so much that

        • Ulrich Windl already released a version of his PPSKit for 2.6, but has refused to add hardpps() until someone else gets a real nanosecond clock into the kernel.

          -Erwos
      • I've developed several real-time aquisition
        and control systems using RT-Linux on x86
        hardware (using Slackware x.x), and it rocks.
        10 KHz rates for a/d and d/a control with ~10
        microsecond latency, under *any* kind of load
        (disk, network, video, ...).

        Granted, you have to know how to apply a patch
        to the kernel, (and write a driver for your
        application), but in the end, it will work 24/7,
        and all the other linux/gnu/... stuff on top
        will not know/see the difference in the kernel.

        So, if it smells like a linux, look
    • It depends on your requirements. We're using RTAI [rtai.org] for a few applications and it gives us some 10 or 20 microsecond maximum interrupt jitter on a 100MHz PowerPC. For a lot of applications, this is OK. Why stick to a commercial RTOS if Linux solves the problem as well (at least if your RT requirements are not as tight).
    • by sysadmn (29788)
      This is Slashdot, don't let the fact that you didn't read the article slow you down. The article, in fact, said

      Wind River has said that it expects PNE Linux Edition to popular with makers of telecommunications equipment who use Linux on the control plane along with VxWorks on the data plane, and that the platform would include middleware allowing Linux and VxWorks processes to communicate with each other.

      . So VxWorks does what it's good at - hard realtime, and Linux does what it's good at - general purpo

    • by iabervon (1971)
      Standard Linux doesn't do hard real-time, but it is good for parts of the system which don't require hard real-time. If you write a hard real-time system suitably, also, you can use large and valuable portions of Linux with it. The point is really that you can get a programmer familiar with Linux to do all the relatively easy parts of the embedded system, instead of taking up your real-time specialist's time or needing to train someone on special-purpose APIs.

      There's also a substantial market for non-real-
  • Used by Hauppage [hauppage.com] for all you media mvp users. The Wind River side of things is reliable, the windows service side of things is not so good.
  • Didn't Spirit and Opportunity run a Wind River RTOS? So now that a NASA supplier offers Linux, is there some possibility that the next generation of Mars rovers will run Linux?

    • NASA uses very old, stable versions. Partly because the design-to-landing cycle can take a decade or so.

      The replacement of magnetic tapes drives with flash memory exposed a flaw in a newer part of the operating system that sidelined the rovers for two weeks in early 2004. Fortunately they were able to upload a patch.
    • Linux isn't suitable for hard-real time control. I could see Linux eventually having a place in robotic systems above the level of actually controlling motors and actuators, but you are still going to need a RTOS running on a dedicated processor to actually control the robot's movements.
  • Carrier Grade Linux (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "The CGL is described as a public reference blueprint for Linux distributions, major end users, and Linux kernel developers to build Linux kernel features and associated libraries that are required by telecommunication carriers in their next-generation network infrastructure."

    More on Carrier Grade Linux Spec. [eweek.com]

  • Subtle ad? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    An anonymous reader writes "Embedded software powerhouse Wind River..."

    $20 says the "anonymous reader" is a Wind River employee or shareholder.

    Of course, I'm sure that someone will suggest that this anonymous posting is from a Wind River competitor...

    • Wind River is an embedded software powerhouse. I don't know if the anonymous poster works for them or not, but what he (or she) said is genuinely true.

      And, no, I don't work for Wind River. But I did work as a programmer on a product that used vxWorks as the OS for about 3 years. Really nice RTOS.

  • by richard_willey (79077) <richard_willey AT hotmail DOT com> on Monday February 14, 2005 @01:39PM (#11669927)
    Couple points here that I think need to be made:

    1. Historically, Wind River's success in the embedded market was based on the strength of its tool chain rather than the strength of its embedded OS. I suspect that the company's decision to broad the number of OS's that it is supporting is a reflection that the management team has figured this out.

    2. As networking becoming more and more important, the requirement for a hard real-time operating systems decreases. You can't get deterministic performance out of a TCP/IP, which means that you can't get it out of a networked application. As a result, a number of designs are going in a different direction, combining a hard real-time hardware component coupled with an embedded Linux control/management plane...
    • "2. As networking becoming more and more important, the requirement for a hard real-time operating systems decreases. You can't get deterministic performance out of a TCP/IP, which means that you can't get it out of a networked application. As a result, a number of designs are going in a different direction, combining a hard real-time hardware component coupled with an embedded Linux control/management plane..." Yeah that was the theory, unfortunately it hasn't been working out so well. The quality of hard
  • ...suing the shit out of Green Hills Software http://www.ghs.com/news/20050118_WRS.html in express violation of a business contract to make this new product even remotely viable in the marketplace. Kudos to you...mini-SCO!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Does this mean that we will soon have Linux systems running on other planets and moons? Didn't Wind River supply the OS for the Mars rovers? It would be cool if we could say that "Linux powers 34% of servers on Earth, and most computers elsewhere."
  • From TFA: "...really leverage our Workbench development suite and all of the capabilities that we've guilt into that."

    Some vendors use FUD, others use good ol' guilt...

  • For a little while there, I kept wondering, "Why do they keep mentioning this WinDriver [windriver.com] site and what do they care about VxWorks or Linux?"

    Duh...

  • I am learning C and wanting to seriously get into embedded systems (I searched Oreilly [atomz.com] but its sparse), can someone knowledgeable point me into a series of books, and websites, give me some great advise to begin down the path of apprenticeship and onto expertise? Much obliged if you would; and if you would moderate this post up just till it starts getting replies.
    • First of all get a degree in Computer Science Engineering, Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering from an Engineering College. A Computer Science/IT degree from a non-egineering school isn't going to cut it. You need to build some hardware along the way. While your in school get internships at telecos, robotic, heavy equipment manufacturers, consumer electronics, defense/avionics companies, etc - which ever you think you might prefer.
  • When they acquired BSDi [internetnews.com] in April 2001, it was even billed by some as "answering the Linux challenge" [linuxdevices.com].

    Today one can not find BSDi among WindRiver's products [windriver.com] (it used to be there just recently, according to Google, though), and customers in need of support for their earlier bought licenses are requested to contact [wrcommerce.com] BSDMall [bsdmall.com] instead.

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