Who Leads The Real-time Linux Niche?

Think the open source community is all one big happy family? Think again.

Though real-time Linux is supposed to be a community effort, there is apparently some dissension over who is leading, who is forking and who is actually making a difference.

Executives at embedded Linux vendors MontaVista and Concurrent fired back at a Red Hat executive who claimed MontaVista isn’t a real-time Linux leader and that embedded Linux vendor Concurrent is forking code.

“We absolutely do not want to distract from the broad efforts of the community in advancing real-time Linux,” MontaVista CEO Tom Kelly told internetnews.com.

“I think that quite frankly Red Hat has done a great disservice to the community by positioning themselves in a broad way that they are advancing real time on their own without building on the benefits of the community. They are today taking advantage of the ongoing efforts of the community.”

In remarks made to internetnews.com by Red Hat, Tim Burke director of emerging technologies, said that though MontaVista helped to kick start real-time Linux efforts, MontaVista is no longer a leader in this space.

“We’re glad to have them as part of the community they are good testers but their contribution rate has not been significant,” Burke said.

Jim Ready, CTO at MontaVista and a real-time operating system pioneer, strongly disputed Burke’s claims. According to Ready, you couldn’t find a better example of how open source is supposed to work than in real rime.

“Linux was not designed to be a real-time system by any means and when we started MontaVista in 1999 it clearly had no real-time capability,” Ready told internetnews.com. “Since then, there has been a continuous process in which MontaVista has been an active and continuous contributor.”

Ready recounted that MontaVista first threw down the real-time Linux gauntlet to the community in 2002 with the first attempts at making Linux pre-emptable, which is a key first step for real time. Since then, others, including Red Hat, have participated in the effort.

“No one company, including MontaVista ,has ever claimed sole ownership of making real time improvements possible,” Ready said. “We certainly participated and in some cases we got the ball rolling.”

MontaVista’s Kelly added that, until now, Red Hat has not participated in the commercial real-time market and is now only taking real time into the x86 datacenter and desktop world. MontaVista, on the other hand, deals on a broader set of embedded architectures beyond x86 that power a myriad of consumer devices.

“Just look at the installations — there are 40 million devices worldwide running MontaVista Linux and that number easily dwarfs Red Hat’s installed base,” Ready said.

Then there is the question of actual leadership.

Currently Red Hat employee Ingo Molnar is leading the real-time Linux development effort at kernel.org. It’s a fact that doesn’t faze MontaVista.

“It is not a competitive advantage even if that was implied,” MontaVisa’s Kelly said. “Leadership is a service to the community and a role that we appreciate and everyone should bear the burden of helping and MontaVista has done it in the past.”

In addition to knocking MontaVista, Red Hat’s Burke also dinged Concurrent, which also integrates with Novell for Novell’s real-time Linux offering.

“Concurrent is not working in the upstream community to get their changes in,” Burke alleged. “Concurrent is effectively a proprietary branch, they are not players in the open source space.”

In an e-mail sent to internetnews.com Gary Beerman, director of real-time marketing at Concurrent, stated that kernel enhancements made to Concurrent’s products are in full compliance with the GPL. The complete source of all of Concurrent’s kernel patches is included in its distributions and has been available for over seven years.

“Concurrent would never consider a fork of the Linux kernel,” Beerman said in the statement. “Doing so would not benefit us or our customers. We try very hard to remain as close to possible to the pure kernel and only make significant changes when necessary.”

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