SAN JOSE, Calif. – Five software companies have joined the Linaro collaboration as part of a new partners program. Canonical, Collabora, Genesi, Mentor Graphics and Thundersoft are part of the not-for-profit group developing low-level Linux software for ARM-based SoCs.
Linaro was formed a year ago by six companies—ARM, Freescale, IBM, Samsung, ST Ericsson and Texas Instruments—and now has 100 engineers. Software, services or product development companies can join for free as long as they dedicate at least one full-time engineer to the group.
"We've moved the situation for Linux on ARM from one where every chip company was doing his own thing to a base where people can do things together," said Stephen Doel, Linaro’s chief operations officer.
The group is also expected to announce at least one new development board at next week's Computex event. Nvidia and Qualcomm, the two other top ARM SoC developers working in mobile systems, are not taking part in the group so far.
Linaro's aim is to help ARM SoC developers keep pace with the code needed for their chips amid a diversity of mobile Linux variants all turning out new releases twice a year.
"There's a real challenge here to open source developers that are used to longer develop cycles," said David Rusling, chief technology officer for Linaro. "It’s a bit of a culture shock to a classic open source developers used to server design cycles," he said.
Linaro is tackling a handful of low level software issues. It is creating a device tree to automate the process of indentifying to a Linux kernel peripherals and drivers in a system.
The group also is working on a clock API. "Mobile systems use a collection of different embedded, real-time and DSP clocks, and without this interface you have to go hack code everywhere a specific clock is used," Rusling said.
In addition, Linaro is developing a code base to handle shared memory transactions between CPUs and GPUs in an effort to eliminate unneeded copies to buffers. The job has involved collaboration with other embedded Linux groups.
Linaro also is proposing to create an open source working group that will review and maintain changes to the Linux kernel for ARM chips. "This is more of a social engineering problem of how code changes are up-streamed and consolidated," said Rusling.
The group has already delivered some builds of its code for Android and Ubuntu environments. It also is developing a test framework called the Linaro Automated Validation Architecture.
Linaro may have an evergreen role, particularly as new challenges arise in automotive, set-top box and server areas the group is only tracking today.
"I actually think the ARM guys will always need some way to collaborate," said Rusling. "We are not Intel with 2,000 people in a big office, we are a bunch of smaller companies so there will always be a need for having a place to work together and over time the problem space will shift," he said.