Virtualization Technology...and LynuxWorks

At last week's GSPx (DSP) show in Santa Clara Intel gave a briefing on its new Virtualization Technology.  VT isn't new: anyone in the IT world - or running a Mac with Bootcamp or Parallels - is familiar with the idea of running an OS within an OS.  (My next laptop is going to be a Core 2 Duo PowerBook so I can run OS X and XP Pro  (too wary of VISTA for now).

Anyway….for those in the defense market you’re familiar with partitioned OSes, including offerings from Green Hills (INTEGRITY), Wind River (VxWorks…sort of), QNX, and LynuxWorks (LynxOS).  With Common Criteria, EAL-7, and DO-178B requirements, the concept of a partitioned OS makes good sense.  This is an environment on top of a kernel where different applications (or OSes) run in “partitions” that are segregated from each other. A fault, bug, or problem in a partition doesn’t necessarily kill the whole environment. Perfect for safety critical and military apps.

What Intel is doing with their new Core 2 Duos, while working with the PCI-SIG, is building in HARDWARE support for VT (partitions).  The advantage of this that apps or OSes running in a partition can get more direct access to hardware (think Ethernet or PCI Express) without having to traverse through goofy (think latency) software drivers and other layers. More importantly, this provides a more deterministic setting for I/O, and more closely couples the underlying hardware with the software. I don’t profess to understand the nuances yet (but I will). Still: this is YET ANOTHER example of desktop technology migrating into embedded to our benefit.

Oh….why do I mention LynuxWorks in the title? Intel showed off a slide of an embedded system with a LynxOS kernel with DO-178B partitions running on an Intel CPU, a Northbridge, and misc Intel I/O devices like WiFi and Ethernet.  To see the word “LynxOS” on an Intel slide…along with “DO-178B” just blew me away. Gotta keep an eye on Intel.  And I still think Freescale (PowerPC) ought to be worried.