RealTime IT News

MontaVista Extends Embedded Linux

With MontaVista Software's latest release of Linux Professional version 5, the Linux vendor is upping the ante in the race to provide faster and more robust embedded Linux capabilities.

The new release adds more real time capabilities, which MontaVista has offered for over a year. It also enables USB  devices to interact with each other without the need for a system host.

The release hits as competition in the embedded Linux space is heating up, as the mainstream Linux kernel teeters on the verge of becoming real-time. For example, MontaVista's competitor, Wind River, is touting even more real-time enhancements to its lines.

"With Professional Edition 5.0, we have advanced the capability of real-time into the user space and added robustness features to enable application developers to have the control they need to take advantage of this functionality," Jim Ready, CTO and Founder of MontaVista, told internetnews.com.

MontaVista has been working on real time Linux for several years. It introduced the feature with its Professional version 4 product, which it released in September of 2005. The mainstream Linux kernel (kernel.org) is on a path to launch real-time Linux patches fully integrated into the Linux kernel by the 2.6.22 kernel release.

Wind River, which competes with MontaVista in the embedded space, has argued that the real-time capabilities provided by the Linux community patches are soft real-time, as opposed to hard real-time. The difference between hard and soft is that hard real-time provides a guaranteed response time while soft provides a statistical real-time response, such that developers know they will get a response within a set parameter of time. Wind River recently acquired RTLinux, a hard real time Linux technology, in a bid to supplement its offerings.

From MontaVista's point of view, the debate over hard or soft real-time is not an issue.

"For the vast majority of applications, there is no significant gap in real-time capability between MontaVista Linux and the RTOS world," Ready told internetnews.com.

MontaVista is also making its flavor of Linux up to 75 percent smaller than standard embedded Linux offerings. To achieve the size reduction, MontaVista has an optimized offering using the compact uClibc library as opposed to the standard glibc library. The glibc library (and uClibc as a replacement) is a core piece of Linux plumbing and is used by nearly all C programs in order to run.

Another new feature in MontaVista Linux 5 is the USB On-The-Go feature that enables direct USB-to-USB communication without the need for a host PC.

"Today, one has to upload images onto a host program before they can be printed usually over a USB printer connection," Ready said. "With technologies like USB OTG, these cameras can talk directly to the printer."