RealTime IT News

MontaVista Kicks Off Real Time Linux Campaign

MontaVista Linux is launching a crusade to bring all commercial Real-Time Linux Projects under one roof.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm, known for its embedded OS distribution, is expected to announce its "Open Source Real-Time Linux Project" this Tuesday with a host of support and partner companies.

MontaVista said it has contributed a reference implementation based on the company's recent work in the area of real-time Linux determinism.

The announcement comes amid a widespread effort among top-tier companies such as IBM , HP , Red Hat and Novell's SUSE to modify the Linux kernel for real time operations, either by partnering with smaller distribution houses or working on their own versions.

MontaVista said its vision is threefold:
- Let application or system designers impose reliable priority response on Interrupt handling.
- Use priority inheritance mutexes to manage access to data protected by critical sections in the kernel.
- Allow provision priority management throughout all kernel subsystems.

"We are working with the community and soliciting feedback at this time," Jacob Lehrbaum, MontaVista's product manager for mobile and wireless platforms, told internetnews.com. "We have seen in our own participation that others are also interested in bringing all of these working groups together. We don't want to have multiple disparate efforts trying to build the same widget. We want to pool resources."

Lehrbaum said his group is expecting immediate feedback on its work before the end of the year. After that, it expects the formal availability of MontaVista's Real Time OS in about 12 months.

MontaVista has a vested interest in backing this initiative; the company has seen success in its embedded partnerships and is working with equipment providers like Agilent, NEC, Alcatel, Nokia, Samsung, and Ericsson. Lehrbaum even said one unnamed phone manufacturer would soon announce a single chip design based on MontaVista software.

The call for Real Time Linux is also growing, according to MontaVista, because in standard Linux, applications lock down the entire kernel when accessing shared system resources.

MontaVista said its program would help applications lock "critical regions" within the kernel. If the real-time application needs access to a locked critical section, the application occupying the region is priority-upgraded to expedite unlocking of the contended region. This is done through a technique MontaVista calls Priority Inheriting Mutexes.

One analyst said MontaVista is taking a risk, despite its promise of a single vision for Real Time Linux.

"Linux is gaining a presence in the mobile phone market and hard real-time capabilities in the Linux kernel can close the gap with proprietary real-time kernel and expands the opportunity for Linux for mobile devices and within communication networks," said Stacey Quandt, a senior business analyst with IT research firm Robert Frances Group, told internetnews.com "A real-time implementation that is supported by multiple Linux distribution providers has a better chance of being fully integrated into the [latest] 2.6 mainline kernel. The risk to MontaVista is that it will need to be the best implementation to get the blessing of Linus Torvalds and Andrew Morton [who oversee the Linux kernel]."

MontaVista is now inviting all interested organizations and individuals to freely participate and contribute to the program. To date, organizations such as the Universitat der Bundeswehr Munchen (Federal Armed Forces University in Munich) have been early contributors to the. The company has not provided details about who else besides Kernel.org it is working with in the initiative.