Got a few minutes?

By Dinyar Dastoor

Dinyar_lgThere are several things you can do in a matter of minutes. You can walk over to a coffee machine and make yourself a tasty stimulating drink. Or you can open Wind River’s Embedded Development Kit and start evaluating your application on a fully functional hardware/software ready reference platform in the same time interval.

If you are an engineering manager worried that you never get enough time to select the optimal software and hardware for your applications, you’ve got good reason to be excited. With today’s announcement of Embedded Development Kits as a part of the Wind River On-Board Program, Wind River and its board partners are helping developers to begin application development in minutes rather than hours. Personally, I feel especially proud as this idea was born in my team, and they did an excellent job converting a concept into reality.

We live in an ever-changing world of technology and the embedded industry is no different. What seemed to be a perfect solution 4 years ago feels very cumbersome today. In almost every case, it is not the solution that has become complex, it just simply cannot scale to the needs of a variety of evolving technologies. And it always amazes me how we technologists occasionally put on “blinders” and continue to solve problems in a certain way when a more simplistic solution may be just around the corner.

It was only a few years back that a 32-bit embedded single core machine with a good network stack was enough to do most tasks. Today, we are constantly dealing with processors with multiple cores (2,4,16,32 and growing), rigid requirements to isolate functionalities as well as faults, and the need to execute multiple incongruent operating systems in the same memory space.

The software content and work needed for configuration and optimization for performance/size has grown tremendously and engineering departments find it very time consuming to get it right the first time. In traditional models of embedded software delivery, a multi-core embedded project typically requires ~10-15 DVDs, parsing large amounts of kernel components to retain only the bare minimum required and configuring 100's of application packages. This is enough to keep a skilled engineer busy for couple of weeks just to get the first command prompt on the board!

Simplicity is at the core of the Embedded Development Kits – insert the USB flash drive in any available laptop or desktop in your office and power on the PC. It does not matter whether you have Windows or Linux OS as your existing OS and the hard drive is not touched at all. The Flash drive is a self-contained unit comprising a host operating system, preconfigured embedded operating systems, embedded tool suite and various media (docs, video) to start development. Once powered on, you are ready to start evaluating your applications within minutes. All the complex configuration and customization for a particular processor board is already done by Wind River.

Innovation does not stop here. As the embedded world marches towards multi-core processors, engineers may be interested to try out different configurations for the same hardware to find the optimum design for their requirements. For example, conducting trials with two cores handling VxWorks and two handling Linux. Or Linux with 4 cores in SMP format and compare the results on your applications. We’ve got additional developments cooking that are based on the same simplicity paradigm of the Embedded Development Kits. Stay tuned.

Dinyar Dastoor is Senior Director of Field Engineering, managing various teams across the Americas. Dinyar brings 22 years of embedded experience developing devices and systems in Automation & Process control, Networking and A&D.