Embedded brains brings open source concept to RTOS world
Thomas Doerfler, General Manager of Embedded Brains finds that RTEMS deserves a bigger role in many industry segments. RTEMS stands for "Real-Time Executive System for Multiprocessor Systems" and has originally been developed by the US armed forces back in the 1980s – the acronym initially had the meaning "Real-Time Executive for Missile Systems". For some reason, the armed forces lost their interest in the system and transferred it to the open domain where it currently lives a wallflower life. But with multiprocessor approaches gaining traction in the automotive segment- where advanced driver assistant systems, for instance, call for ever more computing power – RTEMS could be the platform of choice for safety-critical applications which also need to be scalable in a wide range. Plus, it helps OEMs and suppliers in the automotive world to reduce their dependency on specific suppliers. "RTOS vendors sometimes get taken over or they change their strategy", Doerfler explains. "In the automotive electronics industry you need long-term availability and stability for your software platforms. With an open-source approach this can be ensured more easily".
Currently, RTEMS is deployed in relatively few aerospace applications such as mission critical systems for satellites, but also in industrial environments with driverless transport systems being a typical application. It also has loyal supporters in large science applications such as the DESY electron synchrotron in Hamburg (Germany). This could by one of the reasons why RTEMS runs on most popular hardware architectures, ranging from x86 to MIPS, Freescale’s Coldfire family and Renesas’ V850 which is quite popular in automotive applications. It also runs on the Sparc architecture developed by Sun Microsystems (today a unit of Oracle software). Sparc is still relevant in the aerospace market since it is implemented on radiation-hardened chips. A RTEMS port to Infineon’s TriCore architecture is currently underway.
In comparison to Linux, the only other open source operating system with real-time capabilities, RTEMS has been developed with short reaction cycles in mind. It also offers impressively short boot times of below 0.5 sec and very high reliability, explains Doerfler. In addition, it scales extremely well. The implementation with the smallest memory footprint available is the one that runs on the Sparc processor – it requires only 20 kB of memory. RTEMS also can serve communications applications. A TCP/IP stack based on Free BSD, a free variant of the Unix operating system, is available; currently the upgrade to IPv6 is under way.
But there are also some gaps in the functionality spectrum. For instance, virtualization is becoming an increasingly important feature in safety-relevant applications, but the development team to implement this feature has yet to be found. Nevertheless, the sum of its properties makes RTEMS ideal not only for motor control and driver assistant systems in the automotive realm but also for an increasing number of industrial application fields, Doerfler finds.
His company has compiled user-specific sets of development tools, which it now offers to its customers. In addition, embedded brains offers RTEMS technical trainings and initial intensive support for R&D teams which plan to start using the open source software as well as standard support for experienced users.
For more information visit www.embedded-brains.de