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Embedded Development Goes Virtual

A potential pitfall for embedded developers is actually determining what silicon and what board to use. It can turn into a time and money pit.

Enter embedded Linux developer MontaVista with a potential solution: a new online test drive service for virtual problem solving.

The MontaVista Test drive acts as online virtualization lab and enables developers to see the capabilities of MontaVista Linux Professional running on specific embedded hardware configurations. MontaVista claims the new service will save money and time for both MontaVista and its users.

"It's fast because there is zero setup and zero licenses that [customers] have to manage and install," Troy Kitch, senior product manager at MontaVista Software, told InternetNews.com. "It's also very powerful because now we're eliminating the project evaluation phase so decisions can be made in days rather than months."

Kitch noted that MontaVista is seeing a lot of confusion in the market, thanks to the array of different Linux tools that users can choose from. Add to that the complexity of making sure the chosen tool actually works with a given piece of embedded hardware for a particular development project and it adds up to a potential barrier for adoption.

"Product timelines are getting eaten away by just selecting a vendor, so customers are often reluctant to consider swapping out what they're already doing," Kitch said.

What MontaVista used to do is actually fly people out to a customer's premises to load and demonstrate MontaVista Linux for a particular piece of hardware. With the virtualized test drive online that's not necessary anymore.

MontaVista is using Virtutech's Simics virtualization technology in order to deliver the test drive.

"We are behind the scenes providing access to a board that is virtual and doesn't exist," Michel Genard, vice president of marketing at Virtutech, told InternetNews.com. " From the customer point of view the experience is just as real as if they were touching the actual hardware."

Genard noted that with Virtutech Simics, MontaVista has created a virtual board farm so customers can change boards with a click.

The latest tool isn't MontaVista's first experience with virtualization. In the current version of MontaVista Linux Professional 5, the embedded Linux vendor includes a VMware player that lets users simulate application development. But Kitch said the test drive service takes the virtualization to a different level.

"Now you have the processors, which you can simulate, which we can't do with our current environment, "Kitch said. "With VMware you don't have the broad processor and board support."

The way in which MontaVista is using virtualization for its test drive service may well also be taking virtualization to a different use case scenario than the one made popular by VMware.

"Virtualization has been popular and is gaining momentum in the datacenter and back office applications," Virtutech's Genard said. "Here it's an example of how you can apply virtualization in a different way. This is a technology that can change the way you do business."