Embedded Linux Consortium Reveals Revised Development Roadmap

7/15/2003 - The Embedded Linux Consortium has kicked off a new phase of standardization activity to prepare specifications that will help product developers manage power consumption, design user interfaces and achieve real time performance for embedded Linux applications. The revised roadmap will lead to an enriched, globally accepted platform specification offering test suites and branding to enhance the marketability of conforming products.

In 2002, the ELC introduced the Embedded Linux Consortium Platform Specification (ELCPS), marking the first time that broad technical consensus had been reached on operating system technology for embedded computing. Application targets range from cutting-edge consumer electronics to industrial, telecommunications, military, transportation, medical devices, embedded systems and more. A member-based volunteer group consisting of corporate representatives and open source advocates performed the work. Under the revised roadmap, the ELC hopes to achieve an enriched release in about a year.

“This phase of standardization addresses key issues for both device manufacturers and end users,” said Steve Petix, Associate Vice President of Sharp Electronics’ Mobile & IT Solutions Group. “It will help drive development of embedded Linux applications by a broader audience of developers and also accelerate consumer and enterprise adoption of embedded Linux devices.”

“These efforts underscore business and technical arguments favoring open source solutions for embedded applications,” said Dr. Young Joo Kim, Vice President and head of the Software Center of Samsung Electronics. “The Linux operating system is on par with any competitor. ELC standards leadership will benefit all producers and consumers in this vast, diverse marketplace.”

ELC chairman and CEO of LynuxWorks, Dr. Inder Singh, said, “Market demand is behind the destinations we’ve added to our roadmap. The overall objective is to increase the credibility of Linux as an OS while speeding the development of highly competitive products. The time is right. We are assembling teams and encouraging interested vendors, developers and open source organizations to join us.”

ELC treasurer and MontaVista Software CEO James Ready said, “Linux continues to alter the landscape of embedded computing design. Now required is an acceleration of our efforts, and more industry leaders and Open Source advocates behind our initiatives. MontaVista Software has taken a leadership role in power management and we look forward to working with ELC to develop open standards around it.”

“Extending the reach of the core platform to include these specific API’s shows maturation and sophistication of the embedded Linux market,” said Berardino Baratta, Vice President and Chief Technical Officer, Motorola / Metrowerks and an ELC board member. “And satisfaction of user needs by standardizing these areas is bound to improve the value arguments and accelerate share of market for Linux-based products.”

ELC board member and CEO of FSM Labs, Victor Yodaiken, said, “A Linux-centric API for power management in embedded devices has very broad appeal and global agreement on scope and objectives. As a member of the Working Group, I think we can achieve a draft within a year, perhaps sooner.”

The revised roadmap provides the following development efforts. Each will become a candidate revision to be balloted into the ELCPS.

Each effort follows its own milestone-based timetable. Each working group is responsible for studying the API domain, with an emphasis on end users, and setting the scope and milestones of the project with approval by the ELC’s Core Working Group and Board of Directors.

A parallel effort on the marketing front is underway to create branding for compliant products. The ELC hopes to attract new members who will add horsepower to the overall effort. The ELC’s Education Committee is working to insert and staff key sessions at targeted industry events such as the Consumer Electronics Show, Embedded Systems Conferences and Electronica, among others.

The ELC is also continuing to evaluate API-centric working groups in a number of areas, including Security, Threads APIs, Application Enablement (development/debug environment), IPv6, Dynamic determination of system features, RAS, Package Management (host and target), File System hierarchy, Kernel module APIs and Additional File System APIs.

Some Q&A regarding the CELF and its relationship to the ELC
Recently, a new consortium was launched to pursue enhancements to the Linux operating system for consumer electronic devices. The Consumer Electronics Linux Forum (CELF) is a separate entity from the ELC with a substantially different mission and organizational structure. However, the ELC and CELF have several members in common. To help the media understand how we differ, we are pleased to provide this brief explanation.

What are the key differences between the ELC and CELF?
The ELC has two missions: marketing (promotion and implementation) on behalf of Linux as an embedded OS, and standardization of application programming interfaces. The CELF website (http://www.celinuxforum.org/), declares its mission is to “formalize requirements for extensions to Linux to meet the needs of CE products such as audio/visual products and cellular phones, etc.”

Tim Bird, CELF’s Architecture Group co-chair (and Sony senior staff engineer, Linux Architecture and Standards), said “The forum will focus on… improvements in Linux for use in Consumer Electronics products. The forum intends to use the GPL for its work, and to collaborate with the Linux community in creating extensions or enhancements to Linux for this specialized segment of the embedded market. The main purpose of the forum is to avoid duplication of effort by these many companies (each of which has Linux-based products either released or in development), and to help the collective group of Forum members coordinate with the Linux community on enhancements they are considering.

A former ELC Board Member, Bird continues: “There are some key differences between the mission of the ELC and the mission of the CE Linux Forum, which are important to note. The CE Linux Forum will focus exclusively on embedded Linux in consumer electronics, while the ELC's mission is much more broad, covering the entire spectrum of embedded markets. Also, the CE Linux Forum will not have a promotional mission comparable to that of the ELC.”

The CELF is thus narrowly focused on the consumer electronics market space. The ELC is broadly committed to the vast and complex embedded computing market. The CELF is working strictly on the GNU/Linux kernel. The ELC is working strictly on the application development environment. As the CELF’s work matures, there is a reasonable expectation that our cross-memberships will assure compatibility of the ELCPS with any certified Linux distribution proffered by the CELF.

Your release lists power management, real time and user interface as roadmap targets. The CELF lists power management and real time as roadmap targets. This sounds like overlap and duplication of effort. Is it?
No. These areas are complex and technically difficult. Considerations for proper engineering of power management and deterministic performance span the entire development chain, from silicon to application. The CELF effort is focused very close to the silicon, while the ELC effort is concentrated on the application.

ELC board members and working group participants (including representatives from Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, IBM and other firms) identified numerous efforts to build standards in these interest areas. Other groups outside of the CELF and the ELC are working on specific issues and some of this work may benefit the ELC’s API-centric interests or the CELF’s kernel centric interests. The good news is that an increasing amount of professional effort is being expended to make Linux truly excellent as an embedded OS choice.

Together, the efforts of our two groups are unifying a fragmented marketplace. By adding the key API’s discussed in the foregoing press release, the maturing ELC specification will help put to rest uncertainties about Linux. When the CELF release its CE-centric distribution of Linux, the ELC standard will appeal even more broadly to the open source community, vendors of tools and middleware as well as developers of end products.

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