NASA rover coders at Intel's Wind River biz axed – sources

Senior VxWorks engineers laid off this week, we're told

Curiosity selfie as it drills for water

Exclusive Intel-owned Wind River – the maker of the VxWorks software used in NASA rovers, spacecraft, military computer systems, and industry – has laid off a number of its most experienced staff, sources tell The Register.

We've learned that some of the engineers hit by this quiet "reduction in force" have been with the Alameda, California, biz for more than 20 years – and worked on the version of the software used in space programs.

The redundancies kicked off on Tuesday, we're told.

One of the axed employees, said to be one of the most senior techies at Wind River, was one of the last developers of the NASA build of VxWorks, and provided support for the real-time operating system on radiation-hardened processors.

"Wind River, which is a subsidiary of Intel, has just laid off many of their long-term employees, some who have worked there for 25 years," one source familiar with the matter told us on condition of anonymity.

"They have laid off the last engineer who worked on the version of the operating system used on spacecraft."

It's claimed the employees who have been at the company the longest, or are among the most senior, have been the hardest hit by this round of redundancies. At an all-hands meeting this week, staffers were told they were being laid off on a performance basis, and the axe appeared to fall heavily on those who worked from home.

Wind River was founded in 1981, and bought by Intel in 2009 for nearly $900m. It employs more than 1,000 people worldwide, and develops software for embedded systems powered by ARM, MIPS, PowerPC, x86 and SPARC chips.

In October last year, Wind River was fined $750,000 for exporting encryption to China, Russia, Israel and other countries. And a significant security bug was found in VxWorks this month.

The operating system is otherwise a very neat piece of kit that supports multi-processor systems, and multiple guest operating systems on its hypervisor. It is focused on providing a secure, deterministic, and reliable base on which critical software for military, aerospace, medical, energy, and robotics applications can run. It is now playing a role in Intel's Internet-of-Things push.

No one at Intel was available for immediate comment.

"Wind River does not comment on personnel matters and we don’t engage in speculation about these kinds of matters," Jessica Miller, Wind River's director of corporate communications, told The Register when asked how these redundancies will affect the future of VxWorks. ®

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