Open Source Real Time Opearting Systems Overview

Modern control systems applications are often built on top of a real time operating system (RTOS) which provides the necessary hardware abstraction as well as scheduling, networking and other services. Several open source RTOS solutions are publicly available, which is very attractive, both from an economic (no licensing fees) as well as from a technical (control over the source code) point of view. This contribution gives an overview of the RTLinux and RTEMS systems (architecture, development environment, API etc.). Both systems feature most popular CPUs, several APIs (including Posix), networking, portability and optional commercial support. Some performance figures are presented, focusing on interrupt latency and context switching delay.

RTEMS and RTL are two quite different open-source RTOS solutions. RTEMS seems to offer both, core features and performance which are comparable to a commercial system like vxWorks. RTL could be interesting in situations, where the full power of a desktop system is needed, enhancing such a system by hard-real time features. This comes, however, at the expense of higher latencies (compared to RTEMS or vx-Works) and limitations of system services that are available to the real-time tasks. Finally, it should be noted, that the simple benchmark presented in this paper does by no means constitute a thorough performance evaluation and comparison, an arduous task to which the interested reader is encouraged to contribute.

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