MontaVista Claims Real-Time Linux Breakthrough

MontaVista Linux claims that is has narrowed the real-time gap for Linux.

The embedded Linux maker announced that is has successfully developed native, hard, real-time developments for the Linux kernel.

Thanks to the new real time developments, MontaVista claims that Linux is now closer to achieving “interrupt response characteristics.”

Those characteristics have never before been seen in Linux and are defined by MontaVista as “the minimum time between the initiation of a command and the execution of an action.” The hard real-time development filters the Linux code to only 100 critical interrupt-code segments from approximately six million lines of code.

According to MontaVista, its Linux has 30 times better overall real-time performance as compared to Linux, based on worst-case kernel preemption and interrupt latency using Fast Real-time Domain (FRD) benchmarks.

its “Open Source Real-Time Linux Project” in October of last year.

Real-time embedded OS vendor Wind River, however, shugged off the development.

One of the proprietary real-time operating systems that MontaVista Linux competes against is WindRiver’s VxWorks. Wind River itself also jumped on the Linux bandwagon back in November 2004, which led to the sale of more than 1,000 developer seats for its Linux platform by February of 2005.

“I wouldn’t characterize ‘real-time Linux from MontaVista’ as a competitive threat,” John Fanelli’s VP, product planning and management for Wind River, told

“Our customers are constantly evaluating their product choices based upon technology, vendor and pricing models. However, all MontaVista has announced is that they have an internal prototype, not a product that is commercially available,” he added.

MontaVista Linux is “close” in terms of performance to WindRiver’s VxWorks according to Kevin Morgan, vice president of engineering at MontaVista.

“Close enough that for the vast majority of real-time applications, Linux with these capabilities will meet the requirements with plenty of time to spare,” Morgan told

MontaVista’s real-time Linux patches are licensed under the open source GPL license, as is the Linux kernel. MontaVista’s Morgan said that, even more importantly, MontaVista’s work is developed under standard open source processes, in conjunction with critical external (to MontaVista) leaders in this technology.

The GPL is a reciprocal license, which means that contributions are available to the community as a whole. At some point, Wind River could potentially “improve” its own Linux offering using GPL licensed contributed MontaVista patches.

“In terms of our Linux offering, we have chosen to base our product on the distribution as the “standard,” Wind River’s Fanelli said.

“Upon a successful community review (of which we will participate) and acceptance into the mainstream distribution, we would look to incorporate into our product. As stated by MontaVista, this is really a prototype offering.”

Still, more work awaits real-time Linux. Morgan said the company needs to improve the capabilities of the synchronization primitives in the Native Posix Threads Library in order to provide the full feature set expected and required by users of such systems as Solaris, HP-UX and AIX in telecommunications applications.

“MontaVista, along with the open source community, is improving the prioritization management of the wakeup of ‘waiter’ in the Linux kernel. We are also working to improve the performance of thread operations in general (synchronization operations most critically). Then the heaviest lifting will be just about complete,” Morgan said.

“But performance is a never ending battle.”

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