In every industry there comes a moment of truthan inflection pointwhen a vision of the next future eclipses the inertia of the past. For the embedded software world, that moment comes at this year’s ESC West. There, those gathered will get a comprehensive look at the growing phenomenon called device software optimization (DSO). At the show, attendees will get a close-up look at the DSO movement, the industry-wide call to re-use, standardize, and simplify device software led by companies like Enea, IBM, Intel, and Wind River. Show attendees can expect to leave ESC with a better understanding of the transformative force that is DSO.
Initially dismissed as a marketing ploy, DSO has caught fire because it's the right thing to do and because users want it (although not always by name yet). The concept of DSO makes sense. Does anyone think we can continue to hammer out device software the same way we have for the past 20 years? Does anyone think that grinding out in-house Middleware is a smart business practice? Is there anyone in the industry who isn’t behind schedule, over budget, and generally slammed due to the complexity of today’s projects?
The DSO imperative aims to solve the impediments to industry growth by offering a more rational model of software development. In a sense, DSO is still a work in progress. I believe DSO is a business philosophy first and foremost. It's a belief system that says we need to give device software customers, whether they're from the telecomm, consumer, automotive, or medical technology sectors, a faster, cheaper, better way to make their wares. Different companies have different takes on achieving that.
One vendor promotes a clear set of DSO tenets, believing that DSO starts with freedom of choice (in operating systems, tools, pricing models), standardization, simplification and interoperability. For most customers, the solution to time-to-market pressures and razor thin margins is buying over building, reusing over rewriting, choosing pre-integrated over custom cobbled. Also, customers want us to solve a wider array of stack challenges so that they can focus on the high value added work that pays their bills. If we can do more, if this industry can step up and provide bigger solutions and fundamentally change the way software is produced, our customers will be happy to turn over the keys to us and redeploy their software spend, thus growing the contours and size of the device market.
Enea sees DSO as its core value proposition: we offer real-time OSs, middleware, and tools, but our real purpose is to help our customers simplify and accelerate their development processes. No job we do is more important than getting our customers from drawing board to loading dock faster and more profitably.
The DSO Summit
As part of Enea's call to action, its CEO has made a worldwide appeal for the industry to join together and put real substance behind the DSO movement. The industry has responded and that summit will take place at ESC West on April 5. At the summit, the assembled group of experts will assert that the world has changed and the industry must change also, arguing that the old practices of producing software have run their course and new methodologies are needed. They won't attempt to dictate the terms of engagement, however, because the best answers must well up from the industry as a whole. They may include new standards, new best practices, new protocols, all of which require an industry-wide accord. Arriving at this collective consciousness will be an important part of the maturing of the device software world.
Beyond the summit itself, ESC will also feature a physical center of gravity called DSO World, a show within the show. The sponsors allow visitors to experience the DSO difference from a variety of viewpoints: both hardware and software, and from tools to platforms. That approach is significant because it illustrates the complexity of the challenge and emphasizes that true solutions must be aimed at the entire device ecology. The take-away from DSO world should be a better understanding of the issues and a litmus test by which customers can measure prospective device software partners.
An Industry united
Another call to rally is the proposition that forming a formal industry organization may be the best vehicle to achieve the needed systemic change. Examples from other sectors show the power of cooperative endeavors to move entire industries forward. There are industry efforts afoot, such as the Eclipse initiative, but each is aimed at only one vexing problem. No single, cross-discipline effort is chartered to bring about the comprehensive, holistic change DSO demands.
The industry has begun to wake up to the DSO's vision and there's now a credible proposal circulating prescribing the creation of an "Embedded Technology Association." The stated purpose of the association is to promote cross industry cooperation and information sharing, generate and distribute key statistics and industry data, provide neutral meeting opportunities, and generally promote a bigger, more robust device software industry to financial and business interests worldwide.
Regardless of whether this plan is the ideal approach, it's clear from a look at other industries: real sector progress is the product of collective action and common purpose. History shows that industry sectors grow when the participants raise the bar together. For the device software industry, history well may remember this as our defining moment.
About the author
Tom Hayes is the vice President of corporate marketing at Enea. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.