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MontaVista Linux 6 Gets Market Specific

Linux has gained in popularity among server and device vendors as being a good general purpose operating system. When it comes to device vendors which often have different chip architectures and needs than a general purpose operating system provides, there is a need for customization which adds time and expense to a project. Embedded Linux vendor MontaVista is now taking aim at that issue by splitting apart its Linux distribution into what it refers to as Market Specific Distributions (MSDs).

MontaVista Linux 6, officially announced yesterday is the first Linux release from MontaVista with the MSD approach. Initially MontaVista is targeting devices that include Intel's Atom, FreeScale's PowerQUICC II Pro, PowerQUICC III, i.MX processors and Texas Instruments OMAP35x processors. MontaVista is aiming to give device vendors more Linux power, that is specifically tailored for their platforms with MontaVista Linux 6 and enable faster time to market for Linux based devices.

"We don't have the standardization in the embedded device market that you see in the server and PC market where everything is predominately x86 based," Brad Dixon, director of product management at MontaVista, told InternetNews.com. "In the embedded device market, you've got a mix of processors and architectures and you need an operating system that is adaptable not just to the architecture, but for the target market that those target architectures are being taking into."

MontaVista Linux 6 is the first major release for the company since the MontaVista Linux 5 release in 2007.

Dixon noted that there are many device vendors that roll their own Linux distributions in order to meet the custom needs for their own particular devices. The previous MontaVista Linux 5 release could have been used by device vendors as a basis for customization but the platform was not customized for specific market needs.

For example the Texas Instruments OMAP35x is a chip designed for multimedia applications. Dixon explained that MontaVista Linux 6 MSD for that chip will contain additional features for power management to help the chip address its target market. MontaVista and Texas Instruments have been working together on Linux initiatives dating back until at least 2005.

Optimized for developers

MontaVista is also changing how developers actually build their Linux distributions and applications. There is a new version of the DevRocket IDE which is Eclipse based that has now been optimized to work with the new version of MontaVista Linux.

As well there is a new application called the MontaVista Integration Platform. Dixon explained that the MontaVista Integration Platform is a tool that MontaVista built internally to meet the challenge of building the market specific distributions. It is also a tool that will enable users to tailor the Linux distribution even further.

Rounding out the development tools is the MontaVista Zone Content Server which works with the Integration platform to provide a download mirror for source code and binaries for building distributions.

"Customers don't just use MontaVista Linux as a finished product," Dixon said. "Embedded developers customize the Linux software stack to the needs of their design so the integration platform that we're providing helps them with that effort."

Dixon explained that the Integration Platform tool in tandem with the Zone Content Server can be used to build the entire operating system including all of the middleware and the device vendor's application from source code.

MontaVista vs. Intel Moblin

One of the new market specific distributions from MontaVista targets Intel's Atom chips which comply with Intel's Moblin (mobile Linux) standard. When Moblin first launched, MontaVista was not a supporter of the effort. Moblin is now being worked on under the direction of the Linux Foundation and is now also being supported by MontaVista.

"From a technical point of view Moblin isn't something we haven't worked with before -- it is the source of raw technology and architectural guidance," Dixon said. "To be Moblin compliant means that you need certain components and integrations."

MontaVista competes against Wind River in the embedded Linux space, though Dixon argued that roll your own is still a big growth area.

"As Linux becomes a common choice, we still see developers re-inventing the wheel, making their own build systems, creating their own Linux from scratch," Dixon said. "Now that embedded Linux is mainstream, I think developers need to know that there are commercially backed paths so they can get the benefits of embedded Linux without having to be specialists in non-differentiating technology."