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MontaVista 5.0 Aims To Drive Embedded Linux Development

Real-Time Development

  • April 12, 2007
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

With a major revamp of MontaVista Linux Professional Edition, MontaVista Software hopes to spur development of more embedded Linux systems in handheld PDAs, smart phones, telecom equipment, and all manner of other devices.

MontaVista is already serving over 2,000 customers, ranging from organizations such as St. Jude Medical to big OEMs such as NEC, Philips, Nokia, Sony, Ericsson, Cisco, and Japanese telecom provider NTT DoCoMo. Other embedded Linux developers are using tools from Wind River and some other vendors.

Examples of a couple of devices that use embedded Linux include Hewlett-Packard's Media Vault desktop storage device and Pepper Computer's PepperPad 3 Web Player.

But although embedded Linux now appears in some devices, most of them still use proprietary RTOS (realtime operating systems). The success of embedded Linux is being held back by complicated and time-consuming development processes, contended MontaVista's Patrick Maccartee, during a meeting with Linux Planet on a recent press tour.

Yet, he said, many embedded Linux developers have been trying to build their own environments by downloading componentry from the Web, and the difficulties of dealing with a text-based user interface--and of finding and integrating the right software parts--can be so overwhelming that some of these "do-it-yourselfers" just give up in midstream.

Conversely, Professional Edition 5.0 brings together all of the needed components for both commercial- and carrier-grade Linux in a single integrated development environment (IDE).

As another star attraction, the new 5.0 edition of MontaVista's embedded Linux environment features an application development kit (ADK) with a bright new GUI-enabled user interface, meant to speed time to market through greater ease of use.

Maccartee also told LinuxPlanet that the new release benefits from recent improvements to the Linux kernel, including greater scalability and performance and support for IPv6.

In 5.0, MontaVista is using real-time patches from Ingo Molnar, a major contributor to the Linux kernel, to keep up-to-date with the latest kernel developments.

The new MontaVista Application Development Kit (ADK) 5.0, a big piece of the new release, also adds DevRocket 5.0, a set of Eclipse plug-ins for automating remote debugging and analysis.

MacCartee maintained, too, that Professional Edition 5.0 overcomes other bugaboos long associated with embedded Linux development, including a traditionally large footprint and slow response time.

Even though prices on RAM and flash memory keep sliding downward, OEMs continue to view a small footprint as a high priority, he said.

In response, Professional Edition 5.0 gives customers a choice of two configurations. One of these uses the standard glibc library, while the other one uses the smaller uClibc library. The uClibc configuration results in a system footprint of under 3 megabytes, 75 percent smaller than that of older embedded Linux platforms.

Version 5.0 also provides average response times for scheduling/preemption latency in the range of five microseconds. This compares favorably with response times for RTOS, according to Maccartee.

Some analysts agreed that the new release of MontaVista will help to drive creation of more embedded Linux devices.

According to Laura DiDio, a research fellow and analyst in the Enabling Technologies Enterprise Group at Yankee Group, commercial Linux can help to cut costs while also delivering a feature-rich environment.

"Yankee Group survey data indicates that Linux is currently deployed in 60 percent of organizations, and we expect this figure to continue to increase," she said.

"MontaVista Professional Edition 5.0 and its native real-time capabilities address many of the real-time service requirements needed in the robust environments of the embedded market, and Yankee Group anticipates that there is a strong pent-up demand for this product and its advanced capabilities."

Steve Balaccco, director of the Embedded Software Practice at Venture Development Corporation, pointed to the abilities of the ADK 5.0 to reduce time in the development cycle.

"Comprehensive solutions such as MontaVista�s ADK are expected to offer increasing efficiency to the Linux-based development process and enable the development of new generations of innovative applications," the analyst said.

On the ADK side, other features for streamlining embedded Linux development include target management; a C/C++ Developer Toolkit (CDT) extensions for managed Make; virtual target platform; dynamic tool chain selection; and MontaVista Linux (MVL) Edition Management, for example.

The Professional Edition 5.0 environment also adds USB "On the Go" (OTG), for communications with mobile devices when a PC is unavailable; MPatrol memory debugging; an updated GNU version 4.2 C/C++ compiler; and Eclipse-based trace analysis, for instance.

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