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TimeSys expands tools strategy to support “any” embedded Linux

Nov 3, 2003 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive
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Citing market data indicating that most embedded Linux kernels are derived from non-commercial sources, and that developers are generally dissatisfied with current embedded Linux development tools, TimeSys announced that it has added several new tools and broadened its embedded Linux tools offering to support “any” Linux distribution.

With the addition of two key new tools, TimeSys claims its TimeStorm Linux Tool Suite is now the first to support the entire embedded Linux development cycle — including kernel and driver development, BSP development, target configuration, board bringup, application development, and system debug, test, and validation — regardless of the kind of Linux used.

Bridging an embedded Linux tools gap

TimeSys hopes its new tools will address what it considers to be a notable gap in the availability of quality embedded Linux development tools. According to market data from Evans Development Corp., fewer than 20 percent of developers rate Embedded Linux toolsets “good” and only five percent rate them “excellent.”

TimeSys attributes the tools satisfaction gap to several new elements that Linux brings to the embedded development cycle. Commercial embedded OS customers have historically relied on vendors to build the kernel, port it to new hardware, and develop drivers. The openness of Linux, though, results in companies doing this themselves. Unlike commercial OS houses, which over time develop skills and toolsets around the process, “roll your own Linux” developers have so far been left largely to figure things out on their own, without the assistance of useful tools, according to TimeSys.

Of course, many companies building Linux-based embedded systems and devices make use of the numerous off-the-shelf board support packages (BSPs) and development tools commercially available from companies like MontaVista, TimeSys, and others. However, LinuxDevices.com's most recent annual embedded Linux market snapshot found that the majority of Linux-based embedded projects is based on essentially noncommercial sources.

Thus, TimeSys hopes its Linux-agnostic tools, by working both with commercial embedded Linux distributions and with custom, in-house-developed embedded Linux implementations, can serve the needs of the lion's share of developers.

Stephen Balacco, senior analyst at Venture Development Corp. (VDC), agrees: “TimeSys's new development and testing tools are unique in that they enable embedded developers to build, port, customize, and test any flavor of Linux, whether they use a commercial Linux distribution as a starting point, or start from scratch by downloading a non-commercial version from the Internet.”

TimeSys is not the first embedded software vendor to adopt a distribution-independent embedded Linux tools stance. Motorola's Metrowerks tools division purchased the assets of Embedix (formerly Lineo) a year ago and claims to support multiple Linux kernel implementations with its CodeWarrior embedded development tool suite, in addition to its own Embedix kernel. And proprietary embedded OS vendor Wind River, which currently holds the largest market share in the embedded software market, recently announced its first embedded Linux oriented tools product and apparently plans to increase its Linux-oriented tools offerings over the coming months.

TimeSys's Eclipse-based IDE

The new tools introduced today by TimeSys include a Linux Verification Suite (LVS), a Linux Development Suite (LDS), and a Linux Hardware-assisted Debug (LHD) tool. The expanded embedded Linux system development toolset is being offered as part of TimeSys's TimeStorm Linux Tool Suite, an Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE). Additionally, the tools are usable as plugins for other vendors' Eclipse-based tools platforms, TimeSys says.


TimeStorm Linux Tool Suite IDE
(Click above image for larger view)

TimeSys CEO Larry Weidman notes that the new products “represent the culmination of more than two and a half years of interaction with customers, partners, and developers. Embedded engineers have been telling us they want Linux for the freedom that it provides to customize their specific platform. Because it is such a robust and complex operating system, developers need tools to help them build, customize, and most importantly, test their Linux platform, whether they start with a Linux BSP from a commercial vendor or are using a homegrown version of Linux. We've packaged our own Linux development systems and testware along with the knowledge and experience accumulated in the development of more than 70 Linux SDKs in order to take the guesswork out of developing and customizing Linux for their specific needs.”

“I'm impressed with TimeSys's leadership as they leverage the best of the Eclipse platform for embedded and Linux development with these new tools,” commented Skip McGaughey, Chairperson of the Eclipse Board of Stewards. “By delivering tools for Linux kernel and driver development, application development, and automated testing on the same workbench, TimeSys is supporting the Eclipse Consortium's mission to provide a universal framework for tools integration across platforms, development activities, and vendors.”

TimeStorm Linux Verification Suite (LVS)

TimeSys says its TimeStorm LVS can save development cost and time by making it easy for developers to test code and fix bugs throughout the development cycle, rather than after deployment, when bug-fixing can be expensive.


TimeStorm Linux Verification Suite
(Click above image for larger view)

According to TimeSys, LVS incorporates:

  • 1,150 open source Linux Test Project tests examined, approved, and enhanced by TimeSys, for example with modifications to output format that increase usability
  • More than 50 Linux tests developed by TimeSys
  • Custom tests that can be developed by LVS users

Developers can use LVS to automate the testing, recording, and reporting processes, says TimeSys, reducing the effort needed to test any element of the operating system or the embedded applications, including the Linux kernel, device drivers, toolchains, and root filesystem. LVS can integrate with any SQL-compliant database, and comes with the open source Postgres database.

TimeStorm Linux Development Suite (LDS)

TimeSys has operated for more than two years as a commercial Linux and tools vendor, during which time it has built and ported Linux to “every major processor architecture,” it claims. The company believes this experience gives it the know-how to deliver tools that address device development from the ground up&

According to TimeSys, LDS helps engineers build the Linux kernel, port it to their target hardware, write custom device drivers, build and configure the root filesystem, and load the finished Linux OS to their hardware. The TimeStorm LDS includes a reference bootloader to initialize the hardware and load a Linux OS.

LDS includes access to TimeSys's Developers Network, which provides reference BSPs and device drivers, reference guides, and How-To documentation developed by experienced TimeSys engineers.

TimeSys plans to offer kernel and device driver wizards to streamline building and debugging custom Linux components with future LDS revisions.

TimeStorm Linux Hardware-assisted Debug (LHD)

The TimeStorm LHD assists in hardware debugging, initialization, and Linux bring-up by providing an interface between TimeSys's TimeStorm IDE and JTAG-accessed on-chip debuggers that utilize GDB as the debugging agent. TimeSys has partnered with JTAG debugger vendor Abatron to resell its BDI 2000 with the initial offering of LHD. TimeSYs says TimeStorm LHD also can be used with a development team's existing JTAG products, including those from Wind River, EPI, and others.

Early adopters

TimeSys says several embedded development teams are already using its new TimeStorm products in ongoing development projects, both with new projects started from scratch, and in porting existing Linux OSs and embedded applications to new hardware and testing integration and performance across multiple platforms. Some of its early customers for the new tools are single-board computer and semiconductor vendors who are using the tools to build, test, and deliver their own Linux solutions to customers. Other early TimeStorm adopters include system integrators and VAR partners using the tools to develop custom products and test Linux solutions on custom hardware.

“We've been working with Linux for years because of the level of customization it provides to support unique hardware and software requirements. While our core competencies include designing and integrating software and hardware, there is still a tremendous amount of effort required to develop and support an embedded Linux platform from scratch,” said Frank Smith, Principal Software Engineer at AMIRIX, a leader in customized embedded systems design services. “TimeSys's new TimeStorm Linux Tool Suite will help us reduce our development workload and enable us to rigorously test and validate our customized Linux platforms.”

Availability

The TimeSys TimeStorm Linux Tool Suite is currently available and is licensed on a per-seat basis. In addition to the TimeStorm IDE, LVS, LDS, and LHD, TimeSys also offers free board support packages which include TimeSys's embedded Linux kernel and source code for ARM, MIPS, Pentium, PowerPC, SPARC, SuperH, XScale. The company sells SDKs in three versions:

  1. Standard: includes GNU toolchains and all device drivers for the specified hardware platform, costs $2,000 on most architectures
  2. Professional Edition SDKs add TimeStorm and TimeTrace, and cost $3,500 on average.
  3. Designer Editions include all of this plus the LDS tool, and cost $4,500 on average.

TimeSys also offers Timewiz, a Windows-based design tool for modeling, analyzing, and simulating the performance and timing behavior of dynamic real-time systems. Additional details are here.


 
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.

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