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Wind River Releases Hard and Heavy Hypervisor

Wind River Releases Hard and Heavy Hypervisor

Wind River has unveiled its new hypervisor, which supports virtualization for hard real-time operating systems -- OSes designed to perform certain functions on time, every time, down to a fraction of a second. Such systems are often used in industrial and manufacturing settings.

By Jack M. Germain
06/17/09 4:00 AM PT

Wind River on Tuesday announced the availability of a high-performance Type-1 hypervisor as the latest addition to its VxWorks product portfolio.

The Wind River Hypervisor Multicore Software Solution for device development supports virtualization on single and multicore processors.

The new hypervisor integrates with Wind River's two operating systems, VxWorks and Wind River Linux, and supports other operating systems as well as SMP, asymmetric multiprocessing (AMP) and supervised AMP.

Wind River specializes in operating systems that provide performance guarantees for critical uses within several markets. The company's new hypervisor tool brings some of the virtualization tasks for these "hard real time" systems that are similar to hypervisors used with general-purpose operating systems such as standard Linux and Microsoft Windows.

"We have a fairly broad user base. What we see is big customers in aerospace and industrial settings using our product. About 50 percent of our customers are within the networking market, where they use multicore processors to get performance but need the hypervisor to protect the different parts of the multicore from each other," Tomas Evensen, CTO at Wind River, told LinuxInsider.

What It Does

The Wind River Hypervisor enables virtualization for embedded devices in market segments that include aerospace, defense, automotive, industrial and networking. Within these markets, embedded developers use hypervisors to enable the replacement of multiple boards or CPUs with a single board or a single CPU.

This allows users to create new devices that leverage multiple operating systems and reduce complexity when integrating multicore processors. The benefits of this sort of hypervisor include reduced hardware costs and power consumption, opportunity for innovation and accelerated time-to-market, according to Wind River.

Using virtualization enables embedded developers to achieve improved device functionality on smaller form factors. One key feature brings a focus on real-time aspects such as performance, latency, determinism and minimal footprint. Another feature establishes protection between operating systems and cores for functions that include starting, stopping and reloading operating systems to increase reliability.

In some respects, Wind River's hypervisor is similar to other virtualization hypervisors like VMWare, according to Evensen. For instance, it can have multiple operating systems running on it. If the platform is a single core, then the hypervisor designates slices of time to run applications from each partition. With a multicore chip, typically people assign one or more ports for each OS so the hypervisor protects each one from the other.

HRTOS Difference

Hard real-time operating systems (HRTOS) are very different from general-purpose operating systems. Users of hypervisors like Wind River's new offering can combine the different OSes.

Hard real time systems guarantee that after a certain event happens, a needed, specific response will take place within a critical timeframe, Evensen explained. For example, in an industrial setting, when a liquid container fills up and a flow valve has to shut it off, a hard real-time OS will sense that measurement and activate the valve function within a fraction of a second.

"A standard Linux or other general-purpose OS such as Windows is not able to do this. Instead, they are designed to do as many things as possible to maximize throughput. Many times a conflict develops," he said.

Essential Technology

Wind River's development of its specialized hypervisor is more about keeping up with rivals than for gaining a solid advantage over them, according to Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist for research firm In-Stat.

"It's almost like they have to have it. It is almost a requirement to keep up with the network requirements going forward," McGregor told LinuxInsider.

Releasing the hypervisor definitely strengthens the position that Wind River and any of its products have in the market -- it is not just a competitive advantage, he said.


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