Embedded Virtualization to Underpin Next Generation Network-Centric Operations

By Chip Downing

Chip Downing“Embedded virtualization” is a technology that is rapidly proliferating in global defense systems that deliver critical data to warfighters.  Embedded virtualization is typically instantiated in small layer of software called a hypervisor that controls all activities and functions on a microprocessor deployed in a military control and communications equipment.

These hypervisors can be foundations for hosting a wide range of complex, dynamic applications for network-centric operations (NCO), electronic warfare (EW) and spectrum planning/electronic warfare battle management (EWBM) systems. Hypervisors enable the migration of existing capabilities from legacy NCO programs onto next generation platforms, enabling wider integration and preserving program investment.  

Embedded virtualization with hypervisors is a proven means to consolidate multiple applications from a diverse supplier base onto a single chip or an array of processors. Hypervisors can be implemented on a wide variety of current military microprocessors and are communications link agnostic.

An embedded virtualization foundation based upon a robust hypervisor enables adaptive growth in capacity and spectrum to address the individual needs of each service, agency, or coalition partner constituency.  Without a virtualization foundation, developing new NCO planning or management platforms from the ground up is costly and would take years to define, get under contract, develop, and deploy.

To conceptualize a hypervisor, think of an iPhone or an Android device. An Android device allows multiple applications from multiple developers to run independently on a single smartphone device. Users can individualize their Android phones by selecting apps that meet their individual needs, and downloading these capabilities on demand as required.

An embedded hypervisor creates this same type of iPhone or Android application enablement, but in a wider, more open, and universal context.  Today there are flexible commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hypervisors that can support simultaneous secure communications applications from different sources and suppliers using multiple operating systems, such as Windows, Linux, and Android on a shared compute device.  Like Android devices, these foundations can simultaneously support GSM, 3G, 4G, and other cellular links, along with a wide range of military communication channels and software defined radio (SDR) waveforms.   

Wind River embedded virtualization solutions are based upon open, global industry standards.  Unlike consumer and IT solutions, Wind River virtualization solutions optimize the physical silicon environment, with focused multi-core utilization, real-time performance and system robustness, enabling deployment of hypervisor-based critical infrastructure and control systems, with full support of demanding safety and security certifications at their highest levels, including Common Criteria EAL6+ and FAA DO-178B Level A.

These Wind River embedded virtualization solutions are operational today in more than 200 critical aerospace and defense programs worldwide and robustly consolidate a wide range of critical applications from global aerospace and defense suppliers.

For example, one Wind River virtualization solution, VxWorks 653, has achieved Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) RTCA DO-178B Level A for use on commercial jetliners, and is now used on the Boeing 787, P-8 MMA, and more than 40 other aircraft.  On the 787, Wind River’s virtualization foundation enabled Boeing to eliminate more than 100 line replaceable units (LRUs) and integrate applications from more than 15 different suppliers on a single compute platform, substantially compressing size, weight and power (SWaP) while reducing certification cost and risk.

Other Wind River customers are using Wind River virtualization platforms as a foundation for deploying multi-level security (MLS) applications on a single device.   This integration and separation of multiple security domains removes the multiple layers of dedicated, single-domain legacy hardware environments that makes multiple service, agency, and collation partner operations both expensive and unwieldy.

Wind River virtualization solutions have complete, open-standards-based toolsets for development, and support the robust insertion of new applications while minimizing the need for end-to-end platform testing.  These solutions support the Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) and have COTS strategies for insertion into high-security-critical (National Security Agency / Common Criteria) and safety critical (FAA RTCA DO-178B) environments.

Use of Wind River embedded virtualization platforms enable:

  • The utilization of legacy program and system investments on new platforms
  • Multiple defense supplier, multiple operating system integration
  • The protection of future investments, rapidly moving to newer processors and environments
  • Optimization of hardware platforms, consolidating multiple legacy systems / domains into one
  • Improving operational security, safety, mobility, and real-time performance in smaller devices

More information on Wind River virtualization solutions can be found at:

Wind River Hypervisor: http://windriver.com/products/hypervisor/

Wind River VxWorks 653: http://www.windriver.com/products/platforms/safety_critical_arinc_653/

Wind River VxWorks MILS: http://www.windriver.com/products/platforms/vxworks-mils/

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