21 February 2003

Standard approaches

Platforms prove persuasive for embedded profiles. Philip Ling reports.

Extra efforts to create momentum for embedded Linux have resulted in three standard platforms being released by the Embedded Linux Consortium (ELC) this week.
Like the operating system, the platforms are open source and available to all. The impetus behind their creation was to generate some standardisation around embedded Linux, promoting compatibility between products, and to enable applications and middleware to be ported easily. The freedom to customise and optimise Linux is a double edged sword – while it offers great flexibility, it ultimately renders each version unique, making portability of applications and middleware troublesome.

Applications that exploit connectivity could benefit most from a standard platform, allowing applications to be added in service. But middleware developers will gain too, by enabling standard functions such as protocol stacks to be developed and ported to multiple implementations without customisation. According to Inder Singh, ELC's chairman and ceo of LynuxWorks, the biggest push towards standardisation came from the middleware developers.

Three versions have been created – small, medium and large – each a superset of its junior and therefore upwardly compatible. Together, it is hoped the standard platforms will generate enough momentum to threaten proprietary operating systems – those developed in house and those sold by companies like Windriver and QNX.

Standardisation is becoming common amongst open platforms, especially where connectivity is concerned. Java is a prime example of where standard platforms can promote interoperability in vertical sectors. The challenge is that, even within a standard platform, there is room for optimisation. Benchmarking can help and the Embedded Processor Benchmarking Consortium has recently introduced its first benchmarks for the Mobile Information Device Profile of the Java 2 micro Edition (J2ME) connected limited device configuration. It targets mobile communication devices but illustrates the convoluted nature of profiles. Benchmarks for the ELC's embedded Linux standard platforms are not anticipated in the near future, as the ELC will be concentrating on formalising its processes and generating test suites to show compatibility.

Graham Pitcher

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