General Software Releases Firmbase SDK Version 1.1 for Embedded x86 Firmware Applications

12/16/2002 - General Software, Inc., the leading supplier of embedded firmware, has released a new version of its Firmbase Software Development Kit (SDK) to embedded systems developers. The new functionality in Firmbase Version 1.1 improves upon the fault-tolerant, run-time infrastructure that embedded devices need to run high-availability firmware applications concurrently with the run-time operating system.

Firmbase version 1.1 offers a system registry, cacheable kernel, polled interrupt model, dispatcher controls for load leveling, an integrated high-availability subsystem, O/S system death detection, network boot, Media Access Control drivers, and Socket library for building network-aware firmware applications. Sample code for drivers and applications is included, allowing OEMs to leverage existing working code in the development of new drivers and applications.

Firmbase is an operating environment that runs in parallel with the foreground operating system, whether it is still booting, running, crashed, or even missing from the system. Stored alongside the BIOS code in the BIOS ROM on a motherboard and launched by the BIOS, Firmbase runs within the insulating protection of the CPU’s System Management Mode (SMM), providing a safe operating environment that the foreground operating system cannot breach. This execution environment is always available for running firmware applications--those 32-bit programs developed with 32-bit Windows tools and stored with the Firmbase kernel in ROM.

Whereas previous versions of Firmbase required the kernel and applications to fit within the small System Management Mode RAM area in non-cacheable low memory, the new version lifts this restriction, allowing firmware applications to have megabytes of cacheable memory available to them. Running applications in cached memory increases their performance by over a factor of ten. This increased performance reduces the amount of time the system spends in SMM to perform the same work, effectively reducing the SMM load on the foreground operating system. The new Firmbase kernel also provides API functions available to firmware applications for dynamically tuning the load on the CPU. This dynamic tuning allows SMM to use more of the CPU when it is needed (i.e., during network boot), and fewer CPU cycles when in a steady state, monitoring the system’s health.

This new version includes a TCP/IP stack, providing a native transport driver interface (TDI) and a Sockets network-programming interface to firmware applications. Using the Sockets interface, developers can write firmware applications to signal other systems when the host system has crashed or has an increase in recoverable failures.

"This new ability for systems to coordinate availability at the firmware level over an arbitrary network topology is the breakthrough we’ve needed to drive high availability into the market," says Steve Jones, General Software’s founder and CTO. "OEMs see the immediate advantage of driving availability policy down through the system stack to the lowest levels, achieving maximum availability in a coordinated way across the entire customer infrastructure."

Network boot is a key feature of Firmbase version 1.1. This new facility, packaged as an executable firmware application that uses the Sockets library to provide BOOTP and TFTP services over TCP/IP, offers a high-performance ability to boot an embedded operating system from a boot server.

The Firmbase SDK version 1.1 is available now for technical evaluation and purchase.

About Firmbase
Firmbase is a unique operating environment because it is not an operating system replacement -- it is a complementary operating mode that increases the availability of a system running Windows, Linux, or any proprietary operating system. Using a patented technique, Firmbase runs protected mode code within System Management Mode. SMM was originally used for implementation of BIOS Advanced Power Management support, which needed to operate independently from the foreground operating system. With the industry’s shift to ACPI for its power and control standard, SMM can now be used to increase availability of embedded systems.

About the Firmbase SDK
General Software’s Firmbase SDK is the tool embedded developers need to create firmware appli-cations. The SDK includes high availability applications, binary runtime components, application support libraries, sample firmware application code for device drivers, file system drivers, and printed documentation. It provides standard binary versions of the Firmbase run-time system that can be hosted by Embedded BIOS 2000, by Linux, and by Windows operating systems. A set of system services are available to use when creating applications with modern control structure paradigms -- separate processes, threads, timers, mutexes, events, interrupt objects, and deferred procedure calls.

About General Software, Inc.
General Software provides superior enabling firmware and world-class support for OEM manufacturers of telecommunications, data communications, consumer electronics, dedicated servers, and other specialized computing devices. General Software’s well-architected and reliable firmware products reduce risk, speed development, and address embedded OEM product lifecycle needs. For more information about General Software and its embedded firmware, visit, e-mail, or contact Leslie O’Brien at 800-850-5755 or 425-576-8300.

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