SAN JOSE, Calif. – Trying to stake a deeper claim in the embedded space, Intel has rolled out a framework for management and security middleware at its annual Intel Developer Forum here. The software uses a mixture of Intel’s PC management software with code from its acquisitions of McAfee and Wind River.
The x86 giant announced the Intel Intelligent Systems Framework, a broad technical specification for embedded systems covering everything from network appliances to gateways and end devices such as security cameras. It also released software reference designs that implement new platforms based on the spec from its McAfee and Wind River subsidiaries.
The spec requires use of an Intel processor and Ethernet controller as well as Wind River’s Linux and McAfee’s Embedded Control technology. Other pieces of the architecture include Intel’s PC virtualization, trusted execution and management software and McAfee’s Deep Command and ePolicy Orchestrator.
The software does not replace existing communications transports such as IPv6 or Zigbee. Rather, it seeks to create a new layer of middleware above them. “Our first goal is to drive interoperability in connectivity, security and manageability,” said Ton Steenman, general manager of Intel’s Intelligent Systems Group which claims sales of more than $2 billion x86 products into embedded systems growing at a compound rate of faster than 20 percent.
“Our customers are struggling with embedded systems because none of them talk to each other--managability is inconsistent and cannot be handled from one console, security is spotty at best and comms in general is very proprietary,” Steenman said.
The initiative essentially opens up a new front against embedded processor companies such as ARM, increasingly Intel's closest rival. With the framework, Intel is driving hooks to its processors deeper into embedded software at a time when ARM is encroaching on Intel's server and notebook franchises.
Intel's embedded reference designs for the new framework will span its Atom, Core and Xeon lines including support for its Ethernet and Wi-Fi chip sets. The news comes the same week Wind River announced its Intelligent Device Platform, a Linux development environment for machine-to-machine applications, expected to conform to the new framework.
Intel wants to extend its framework to embrace a set of applications programming interfaces. “Today every [embedded] device has a very proprietary implementation of how data is formatted,” said Steenman, noting Intel’s work with a variety of existing industry groups on such APIs.
The new framework can work with Wind River Linux or Microsoft’s embedded operating systems. Intel aims to work with other embedded OSes in the future. “We have a key relationship with Green Hills and we will extend this capability out to them as well,” Steenman said.
Green Hills declined to comment on the Intel move. Advantech, Kontron and Portwell are shipping framework-compliant products now. Avnet, Axeda, Digi International and WebHouse expect to ship compliant products in a few months, Intel said.
A problem for embedded devices like processors or memory (and their makers trying to move into embedded) is they are not allowed to "stand out" - it's the performance of the system (on the chip or in the package) that counts.
When a soda machine can utilize what is essentially a full PC, you know that the world is changing.
I can understand why Intel is doing this. While I don't see ARM as a world-ending threat to the full PC business, there is and will certainly be a lot of erosion on the low end. This is simply an offensive move into the big-ARM space.
Intel lost the embedded war years ago in two fell swoops. First the 80186/8 was badly crippled for speed. Competitive devices were 2 - 10 times faster. Second they stopped making it (and didn't offer a replacement). Add to that, their vast experience in the PC world where product lifecycles are 1 - 2 years, makes them wholly unsuited to understand the embedded world where product life cycles are measured in decades!
Unless, of course you define the embedded world as cell phones and tablets, which are a significant factor by installed CPUs, but rather fringe by number of development starts.
I presently have about 10 embedded products in the marketplace running the DSTni series of high integration CPUs, which are what the 186 should have been. One processes ethernet packets at 1000 per second!
Middleware is an attempt to turn dummies into programmers. But it has a cost. Every layer between the application and the hardware eats CPU cycles. In the embedded world that is not a good thing. Starting from simple, industry standard protocols, such as RS-232, SPI, Ethernet, it is quite easy to build message handling code directly on top of them that is optimized for the application. If interoperability is necessary, add TCP or ModBus or one of a number of standardized protocols.
Good luck Intel. You aren't speaking to my world.
Embedded System Resources
I think the name intelligent systems is a bit misleading. This initiative seems more like a security features focus not ai as the title implies.
I haven't read release notes though so perhaps you have omitted the details that would back up such a naming.
Why Intel keeps picking up those fights they have no chance to win? With their business model and mentality, I don't see how Intel stands any chance in this business. At least they should bring AMD on board to attack this market together. No customers, unless unavoidable, are willing to lock themselves into single source situation. Soda machine certainly doesn't require Intel high performance CPU to calculate how much customer should pay for one can of Soda.