PARK RIDGE, Ill. Making their strongest bid yet for the embedded market, open-source vendors will unveil a host of software products at this week's Embedded Systems Conference. Operating systems, development kits and wireless protocol stacks designed for the embedded arena and aimed squarely at a broad array of microprocessors commonly used in that market are among the products scheduled to roll out in San Francisco.
That's considered a significant step for the open-source community, which until now has focused primarily on the desktop and on that market's high-performance microprocessors.
At the show, companies like Lineo Inc. (Linden, Utah), LynuxWorks Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) and MontaVista Software Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) will announce support for CPUs from Hitachi, MIPS, ARM, Intel, Motorola and others.
"Companies like ours are realizing that if we want to be in consumer appliances and handheld PDAs, then we're going to have to support the architectures that are being developed for those markets," said Doug Agnew, a product manager for LynuxWorks. "That's what we'll all have to do to penetrate the embedded market."
The open-source migration to the embedded market has gained significant momentum. Even Wind River Systems Inc. (Alameda, Calif.), which has long dominated the embedded market with proprietary operating systems, has moved toward the open-source camp. The embedded software giant announced last week that it had acquired the software assets of Berkeley Software Design (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which develops and markets the open-source BSD Unix-based operating system.
Similarly, OnCore Systems Corp. (Half Moon Bay, Calif.) also announced a compatibility strategy for Wind River's VxWorks application developers. It enables the use of VxWork s applications in a mixed-OS environment that includes Linux and other OS platforms.
At this week's show, software vendors will display new open-source products and embedded applications using them. Red Hat Inc. (Research Triangle Park, N.C.), for example, will demonstrate a handheld bar code scanner representing a cooperative effort with Symbol Technologies (Holtsville, N.Y.) and Sun Microsystems Inc. The scanner, which was built by Symbol for Sun, uses Sun's Java Virtual Machine technology for the custom interface, as well as a Red Hat operating system and libraries based on a Linux 2.4 kernel. Engineers said that the scanner, which has 16 Mbytes of RAM and 12 Mbytes of flash memory, needed an operating system with a small footprint. Although the system hardware initially used a Windows CE port, engineers said they went with the Red Hat Linux operating system b ecause it offered enhanced visibility into the kernel and better performance for the custom interface.
"They needed high performance out of their Java layer and they couldn't get that in a packaged operating system with closed-source constraints," said Joe deBlaquiere, a senior architect for Red Hat. "With the open-source approach, we were able to customize the windowing system to meet the needs of the Java Virtual Machine so they get seamless integration." Red Hat will demonstrate the scanner at its booth.
Also at the show, the open-source community's biggest embedded players will announce broader hardware support for Linux-based products. MontaVista Software, for example, will roll out Hard Hat Linux 2.0, which will offer a larger stable of development hosts, as well as expanded architecture and board support.
Hard Hat Linux's Professional Edition will support five CPU families, including products from Intel, Motorola, ARM, MIPS and Hitachi, representing 2 1 processor types. It will also support such development hosts as Red Hat Linux, Yellow Dog Linux, Solaris, SuSe, Mandrake, TurboLinux and VMWare on Windows, as well as 60 boards and systems. In addition, the company will offer a Journeyman Edition for free download from its FTP site, a spokesman said.
Similarly, Lineo will display its newly announced Embedix Software Development Kit (SDK) 2.0, which offers support for Open Linux 2.4, Red Hat 6.2, Mandrake 7.1, Debian 2.2 and SuSe 7.0, as well as support for ARM, MIPS, Hitachi, Intel and eight new Motorola processors. In that way, the new version of Embedix SDK contrasts sharply with its predecessor, which offered hardware support for only one PowerPC processor and Intel X86 processors.
Lineo's announcement parallels those of LynuxWorks, which will unveil a new release of its BlueCat Linux with MIPS support. Known as BlueCat Linux 3.1, this version will offer microprocessor support for MIPS, Intel's Pentium and X86 -compatibles, the ARM family, StrongARM, PowerPC and Hitachi SuperH.
Equally important, products such as Embedix SDK 2.0 now enable developers to do their host development work on Windows-based machines. "This is a way for developers to create embedded Linux solutions from their NT desktop," said Brad Christensen, director of product marketing for Lineo. "They don't have to change the working environment they're already familiar with. They can run the software development kit in Windows and develop embedded Linux solutions for their projects from there."
Analysts say that such capabilities may be key to the success of open-source systems in embedded applications. "Our surveys show that the majority of developers are using Windows as their host development system," said Daya Nadamuni, senior analyst for Gartner Dataquest.
The migration of open source to the embedded market will also be reciprocated at the show, as several embedded-product vendors in other areas reach out to the open-source community.
Metrowerks (Austin, Texas) and Lineo, for example, will introduce the MPC8260 Development System. Lineo will integrate the Embedix SDK 1.2 kit with Metrowerks' CodeWarrior Integrated Development Environment and with Motorola's MPC8260 development board, which is used in networking and telecom development.
The new package, which comes in a suitcase that includes software, development boards and cables, is designed to cut developers' time-to-market. Lineo and Metrowerks say that the system is the first in a series and that plans are under way to provide nearly a dozen more such development systems for other Motorola development boards.