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Intel's Wind River tweaks embedded OS for Core i7

SMP and AMP goodies for VxWorks

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When Intel shelled out $884m to buy embedded software supplier Wind River Systems last year, the company did so because it had big plans to expand into the embedded computing market with its own processors. But the embedded space has a number of compete architectures, and Intel is in the uncomfortable position of having to support them all as Wind River has for years.

To that end, Wind River has duly launched VxWorks 6.8. VxWorks is Wind River's home-grown real-time operating system. It stands beside Wind River Linux 3.0, the company's real-time Linux variant, and the new commercialized variant of the Android Linux-for-handsets that Wind River announced a month ago.

Wind River is billed as a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel, presumably assuring its partners of its continued independence (much as EMC does with its VMware virtualization juggernaut).

Among the many products that use VxWorks are the Apache Longbow attack helicopter, the radar system in the F-18 Super Hornet, and various drone aircraft made by Northrup Grumman. VxWorks is slated to be deployed in the 747-8 and 787 aircraft from Boeing and the Airbus A400M Airlifter, and will also be used in NASA's Ares I manned rocket and Ares V cargo rocket for guidance, navigation, and other control systems.

To date, Wind River's various OSes have been deployed in over 500 million devices since its first real-time operating system was delivered in 1981, and is supported on x86, x64, MIPS, PowerPC, ColdFire, i960, SH4, and a wide array of ARM-derived processors.

With VxWorks 6.8, Wind River is adding support for Intel's Core i7 processors (a whole slew of embedded versions of the Core i3/5/7 chips debuted yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas). The new version also supports ARM MPCore and Cortex A9, Freescale QorIQ P2020, Cavium 54XX, 55XX, 56XX, 57XX, 58XX, and Raza Microelectronics XLR and XLS embedded processors.

The release has tweaks to the symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) parts of the VxWorks kernel, including SMP core reservation, which allows for a single core in a multicore system to be allocated for a single process and be isolated from other processes and cores.

The VxWorks real-time operating system can also implement asymmetric multiprocessing (AMP) configurations, which are important for weapons systems and other kinds of embedded controllers where absolute isolation between workloads has to be maintained, but applications need to be able to communicate.

With SMP configurations, a single operating system spans the hardware and lets multiple applications take advantage of all the threads available to run workloads; with AMP setups, each application is paired up with its own instance of the VxWorks or Linux OS and they talk to each other using the VxWorks multicore interprocess communication (MIPC) communication stack.

With VxWorks 6.8, Wind River is adding spinlocks to its AMP configurations. spinlocks are a kind of holding pattern for instructions that allows them to keep executing while they wait for resources, allowing for instructions to not have to be stalled and rescheduled. The update also has a new small-footprint aimed at ARM processors, commonly used in handsets and now smartbooks. Not that either of these will be running VxWorks any time soon. ®

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