General Dynamics Broadband Blog

June 19, 2009

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Wind River (Finally) Releases Virtualization Platform; Welcome to the Party

This week Wind River announced availability of its long-anticipated hypervisor for embedded systems.  Originally announced in June of 2008, Alameda finally appears to have a product ready to ship to OEMs.

Structurally, the introduction makes sense.  The company needs some way of reconciling the attributes of their many and divergent embedded platforms. A hypervisor provides a potential home for any or all of them – in one neat package.  At the very least the Wind hypervisor provides a place to sell and install VxWorks, as a way to salvage RTOS revenues.

The announcement and the materials supporting it primarily tout multicore applications. However, Alameda is keenly interested in all things mobile: they are members of LiMo and OHA and participate in Moblin.  Moreover, the mobile focus of Atom silicon from their new parent company, Intel, signals that mobile virtualization is likely in their sights as well.

Caveat Emptor – Mobile OEMs Beware

Technology stands on its own merits, but to make business sense, successful technology needs the right supplier behind it.  It’s too early and the Wind virtualization product is likely too immature to make definitive claims about its functionality or reliability.  However, it’s worth considering how the source for this technology impacts its position in the mobile marketplace.

Double Lock-In

The Wind River embedded hypervisor locks OEMs into a single proprietary solution in both the short- and long-term. 

In the short-term, designing with the Wind River hypervisor limits system designers to two guest OSes:  Wind River Linux and VxWorks.  It is the company's stated policy that they will not support community-based Linux or Linux-based platforms from other suppliers, and they have no incentive to support other RTOSes.  While over time, Alameda may be forced to admit other guest operating systems to the party, the favored and best-supported guest OSes will come only from that island in the SF Bay.

In the long-term, as a division of Intel, Wind River will surely emphasize Intel Architecture over CPUs with a stronger presence in mobile applications, like, maybe, ARM?  Their initial release supports Intel Architecture and PowerPC, reflecting the origins of their hypervisor in aerospace and defense (reusing bits from VxWorks AE, not exactly their most successful product).  Even if Wind does eventually support real mobile CPUs based on ARM cores, the pressure to focus on Atom designs will be tremendous.

General Dynamics Broadband, as a true mobile phone virtualization solution, is not tied to any guest OS and supports a range of CPUs.  We offer off-the-shelf support for Android, Linux, Symbian OS, Windows Mobile, and key baseband OSes, all running on ubiquitous mobile hardware platforms.

Mobile Traction?

Wind River has made substantial investments in a series of mobile initiatives, including LiMo, Android/OHA and Moblin.  Those investments notwithstanding, Alameda has yet to claim any significant mobile design wins, for Wind River Linux as an application OS, or for VxWorks as a baseband RTOS (or any other mobile role).  Add to this vacuum the lack of off-the-shelf support for ARM processors and buyers should question the depth and breadth of Wind’s commitment to mobile and other volume embedded virtualization applications.

By contrast, General Dynamics Broadband can point to a dozen customers and over 300 million deployments in handsets from leading mobile OEMs like Motorola.

Misalignment

Alameda’s software and silicon pairing is aligned with the needs of Wind River shareholders, but not with the interests of handset OEMs.  Handset manufacturers want virtualization solutions that accommodate the actual landscape of mobile silicon and OSes – they are not looking to revisit their commitments to ARM processors from Qualcomm, TI, Freescale, Marvell and ST-E, nor their choices of SymbianOS, Windows Mobile, Linux, Android, and baseband OSes.

Rather, handset OEMs seek mature and flexible software, tested and proven in the global mobile marketplace.

Posted by Steve Subar on June 19 at 03:00 AM

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About Steve Subar:

Steve Subar, CEO and President of OK Labs, has been an honored leader in the technology industry for 20 plus years and has received several accolades for his work. Steve is an avid runner who can also be found communing with his surfboard in Bondi Beach, Australia; skiing the slopes of Beaver Creek, Colorado; or searching for the perfect Pinot Noir all over the world.

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