PARIS A Sun Microsystems spin-off will on Friday (June 27) roll out embedded software that puts Linux on the same board with a real-time microkernel. Jaluna, thus, can deliver "real-time [capability], availability and security," three ingredients now missing from the Linux operating system, said chief executive officer Michel Gien.
Critical services run on the company's C5 real-time microkernel, which Jaluna calls a "software coprocessor," while general-purpose applications run on Linux. Gien termed this two-pronged approach "a much more elegant and cost-effective solution for system companies" than cramming two boards into a piece of equipment. A one-board solution can also save on space and power consumption.
What's more, Jaluna's architecture keeps a hands-off approach to Linux itself. The Linux kernel need not be modified, giving OEMs all the benefits of this popular open-source operating system but freeing them from "being affected by Linux evolution," Gien said. Linux "can evolve at its own pace" while system companies "add their own value through the [C5] software coprocessor," he said.
In today's billion-dollar embedded-systems software market, the big trend is the migration from pro-prietary in-house embedded operating systems to an off-the-shelf OS. According to Venture Development Corp., Linux and other open-source solutions today account for 7 percent of overall revenue in this market, but industry players expect that figure to rise.
Jaluna hopes to lure system vendors eyeing such a migration but hesitant about working with the open-source community. With a royalty-free scheme and an architecture that allows use of the same processor and memory as existing systems, the Jaluna-2 family of products can help OEMs lower their system costs, said Gien. More importantly, the new architecture lets them safely add their own intellectual property "without being contaminated by the GNU Public License" under which Linux is written and distributed, he added.
Jaluna this week will launch three products in that family: Jaluna-2/EL, a standalone embedded Linux version; Jaluna-2/RT, consisting of an embedded version of Linux with hard real-time capabilities provided by the C5 microkernel; and Jaluna-2/VL, in which the C5 microkernel can control "virtual" Linux instances, or operations, on a single piece of hardware.
A number of embedded-system software companiessuch as MontaVista Software Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.) and FSMLabs Inc. (Socorro, N.M.)have already taken on the challenge of adding real-time capabilities to Linux by building Linux extensions. But Jaluna eschews the idea of a Linux extension largely because such efforts could lead to the fragmentation of Linux itself. "Once you start building extensions, your version of Linux begins to fork," Gien said.
Instead, Jaluna leaves Linux alone, dedicating its own real-time microkernel, the C5, as a so-called software coprocessor to execute critical tasks in real-time within a broader computing environment. Under such a scenario, a hardware resource dispatcher splits the system memory and virtualizes the microprocessor so that Linux and a C5 software coprocessor each have their own access to hardware resources. This means the two software environments can coexist in the same hardware. The C5 real-time engine gets priority over Linux-in case the Linux kernel fails or to ensure availability and security.
Jaluna's software coprocessor approach is analogous to the hardware world's use of dual processors, such as a core CPU and a coprocessor in a mobile handset, said Gien. While the core processor runs baseband processing, the coprocessor runs multimedia operations.
Jaluna, a strong player in the network equipment market dating from its days with Sun and its earlier incarnation as Chorus Systems (see story, below), sees new segments opening at two opposite ends of the market for its Jaluna-2 offerings. One consists of companies building mobile handsets and consumer devices. The other is computer OEMs designing multiple virtual Linux servers for such applications as Web servers, mail servers or firewalls.
The Jaluna-2/RT product could play out nicely for handset vendors seeking a cheap way to migrate their proprietary software to a new, open environment, the company believes. With Jaluna-2/RT, handset vendors can retain the same hardware platform and reuse their existing, proprietary code, yet add a new operating system environment such as embedded Linux. "We are talking to a lot of Japanese handset vendors," said Gien.
Jaluna-2/RT could be useful for game console companies as well, he added. While general operating functions can be processed through Linux, developers who want to write their games much closer to the hardware can leverage Jaluna's coprocessor architecture to do so.
Since the consumer market tends to have "so many unknowns," Gien said that Jaluna is counting on the computer market to embrace products such as Jaluna-2/VL. In that architecture, the C5-based software coprocessor installs, configures and manages several Linux instances on a single hardware system. Under the C5's control, separate instances with different computing purposes can be independently executed, or identical instances can run for hot-standby redundancy, all on the same server.
The Jaluna-2/VL is also useful for edge and core network infrastructure equipment, according to Gien, especially for next-generation basestations de-
signed to share the same hardware among multiple service providers.
Prices for new Jaluna family of products range from $3,000 for the entry-level Jaluna-2/EL up to $12,000. The company offers pricing schemes based on developer seat, yearly subscription and target processor family.