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Wind River Having a Real Time With Linux

Wind River is taking a page from its competitor's playbook.

The company is incorporating real-time patches into its latest Wind River Linux releases a la MontaVista Linux.

Today, Wind River is releasing its fourth Linux release since 2004, with new 1.3 versions of the Wind River General Purpose Platform, Platform for Consumer Devices and Platform for Network Equipment.

And it's not only taking from the open source community. It's also giving back in the form of a 300,000 line code donation to the Eclipse Foundation.

Apparently Wind River's Linux efforts are quite literally "taking off" as well, thanks to a deal with Boeing.

It's all part of the continued growth of Linux adoption and development by Wind River, which only began shipping Linux solutions in 2004 as a complement to its proprietary VxWorks-embedded operating system.

"We're no longer playing catch up," Glenn Seiler, product line manager, Linux Platforms, told internetnews.com. "We're establishing a leadership position.".

Seiler claims Wind River is the first embedded OS vendor to use the 2.6.14 kernel.

Wind River's Platform for Network Equipment, Linux Edition 1.3, is also one of the first to be Carrier Grade Linux 3.2-registered.

With its new releases, Wind River is however playing a bit of catch up with its main competitor in the embedded Linux space, MontaVista Linux.

Since October of 2004, MontaVista had been developing and promoting real-time enhancements for Linux.

By August 2005, MontaVista was claiming "breakthroughs" for real-time Linux. At the time, John Fanelli, vice president of product planning and management for Wind River, told internetnews.com that he wouldn't characterize "real-time Linux from MontaVista" as a competitive threat."

Times do change. And open source does seem to make for some strange bedfellows.

Wind River's 1.3 Linux releases include a preempt real-time patch, which provides for a much higher degree of granularity in kernel preemption and better interrupt response times.

"It is essentially the same work that MontaVista started a while back," Seiler said.

Seiler was quick to note, however, that the real-time Linux patches that MontaVista first proposed had undergone some change over time and are now part of a merged effort with Red Hat kernel developer Ingo Molnar.

Though Wind River is incorporating the real-time patches, Seiler commented that Linux is not anytime in the foreseeable future going to ever be able to provide true determinism.

"There are certain preemption free spaces in the kernel where you can't put in spin locks," Seiler explained. "We're getting better levels of determinism but it's still not hard determinism."

That's where the other OS in Wind River's stable, VxWorks, comes into play.

In cases where hard real time is required, Seiler said that VxWorks is the obvious pertinent choice for those applications.

Seiler also agreed that it was a safe assumption that Wind River would pitch VxWorks to the aerospace and defense industries.

"VxWorks is by far our primary solution for that market," Seiler said. "With that being said, we do have some Linux wins in A&D [aerospace and defense], and it's actually maybe 10 percent of our overall Linux business."

Aerospace giant Boeing is now one such Wind River Linux customer.

Boeing will be using Wind River Platform for Networking Equipment in support of the U.S. Navy P-8A Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) mission system, which, the company said, is a long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.

Boeing is not the only company to use Linux in a defense application.

In November, Lockheed Martin Space Systems revealed that it would be using Concurrent's real-time RedHawk Linux operating system for a U.S. Army strategic missile defense system.

Though Wind River continues to support and push both its proprietary and open source operating system solutions, there is no real tension between the VxWorks and Linux sides of the Wind River business, according to Seiler.

"We're growing our VxWorks business and we're growing our Linux business as well," Seiler said.

Wind River's Workbench development suite is the bridge between the two. The latest version, 2.5, is based on the open source Eclipse Framework.

But the company isn't just a user of Eclipse; it's also a participant.

Today Wind River announced that it is donating 300,000 lines of code to the Eclipse Foundation.

It will distribute the code across four Eclipse projects, including the C/C++ Development Tools (CDT) Project, the Platform Project, and both the Target Management (TM) and Device Debugging (DD) subprojects within the Device Software Development Platform (DSDP) Project.

"Open source projects do not move along on their own; they don't mature on their own," Steven Heintz, director of product management, developer tools, told internetnews.com.

"It takes a commitment from companies like Wind River, of code, of business expertise and a financial commitment to move these projects along."

"We're not dedicating eight engineers full time just to open source contribution at Eclipse. We also contribute over a quarter million dollars to Eclipse, as well."