MontaVista shrinks Linux capabilities

MontaVista has released a smaller version of its embedded Linux platform and application developer kit to support real-time embedded devices and programs. Both products, the MontaVista Linux Professional Edition 5.0 and the MontaVista Application Developer Kit 5.0, are intended to wean programmers away from older, proprietary real-time operating systems by offering a compact, open software alternative.

The Santa Clara, Calif., software vendor has a staff of about 250, and more than 2,000 global customers using its compact Linux software and tools. The software is used in blade servers, telecom carrier services, satellites, industrial equipment and smart phones. Customers include Alcatel, Cisco, and Nokia.

“Embedded Linux“ covers an increasingly wide area, from the more traditional special function industrial devices handling one or a few tasks, to more complex client devices, including smartphones. A recent report from ABI Research predicts Linux-based phone sales will jump from US$8.1 million this year to more than $200 million in 2012.

The study projects that 127 million smart phones will have a “commercial Linux OS” with a little more than half that number, 76 million, using a version of Linux as a replacement for conventional real-time operating systems (RTOS).

The report noted that an array of Linux industry groups are collaborating more closely in this market, even as the OS itself is becoming more can capable of RTOS performance. The RTOS vendors are responding by acquiring embedded Linux technology. The trend was highlighted this week when Palm CEO Ed Colligan told industry and Wall Street analysts that the company is actively creating a Linux-based platform for its Treo smart phones. Access, which took over the PalmOS when it acquired PalmSource, is a key partner in that effort with its Access Linux Platform, and the Hiker Application Framework, announced late last year. Hiker is a set of libraries and utilities for installing, managing and securing applications.

MontaVista is riding this same wave of interest in Linux for mobile and embedded devices. Earlier this year, the company closed a US$21-million round of new venture funding under its new chairman, president, and CEO Thomas Kelly, who was appointed in June 2006. The company takes the Linux kernel, currently the 2.6.18 distribution, and then adds an array of functions and features to flesh it out for the constrained resources and demanding requirements of embedded applications. Two major changes in Professional Edition 5.0 are new real-time capabilities and a greatly reduced memory footprint.

Among the real time changes is priority queuing of processing tasks, so the system’s CPU gives precedence to critical functions and deals with less important ones when compute resources are freed up, says Patrick MacCartee, director of program management for MontaVista. A related new feature is a high-resolution timer, enabling an OS process to schedule an event, such as asking the kernel to notify an application when a specific amount of time has passed.

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