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Wind River Leads Open-Source March into Device Software Space

Wind River has upped the ante on its open-source strategy by upgrading its membership in the Eclipse Foundation and proposing a new project for device software development.

Alameda, CA-based Wind River, probably best known as the provider of an embedded OS that was installed on the Mars Exploration Rover "Spirit," has been a member of the foundation for about a year, but has participated on what company CMO John Bruggeman calls a "passive" basis. The time was right, Bruggeman says, for a leading provider of operating systems, development tools, and middleware for devices to get active in the organization.

"There is tremendous pent-up demand in the marketplace for open-source solutions," says John Bruggeman, chief marketing officer for Wind River. "And when I say 'pent-up,' I mean that literally. The quality of the solutions in the market is bad, and that is creating opportunity for a company like ours, which is embracing open source in a very aggressive way, to come and start solving some of the problems that have yet to be addressed in the device software space."

Bruggeman points to three open-source challenges that are unique to device software: inadequate tools, weak integration and testing solutions, and problematic support.

"Eclipse has gotten a lot of traction recently, but its progress has been mostly in the IT space for enterprise applications," Bruggeman says. "The issues for device software developers are very different. If I build an HR app and use Linux and it's kind of buggy, some employees might get pissed off, but we can live with it. If my camera or my cell phone doesn't work, people don't buy it. We're talking about a company's products, where the quality and expectations are significantly higher."

As a Strategic Developer, Wind River has committed a minimum of eight developers to work on the Eclipse platform, and it has proposed a top-level project. The Device Software Development Platform project will focus on accelerating device design development, Bruggeman says.

The project is an extension of the Eclipse framework, which is very "IT centric," Bruggeman says. "In the IT world, there's no requirement for understanding what the target is," he says. "It's all the same architecture. But on a device, it's the Wild West. The Eclipse framework doesn't handle that challenge very well today. The focus of our extension is to help solve that problem, which is unique to device software. "

Wind River made the announcement at the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco (March 6-10). But the company has been eschewing the term embedded systems to describe its products, preferring device software.

"Embedded focuses on the hardware," Bruggeman says. "There's software embedded in hardware. That's just the wrong way to think about this industry now. It's really about the device software. More and more of our customers are using that terminology, and it's because, in more and more cases, they're thinking about the software before they think about the hardware."

Wind River has been embracing open source since last February, when it rolled out new versions of its VxWorks operating system, its WindPower IDE, and some middleware products designed to support developers building embedded applications using Linux. In October, the company re-architected WindPower to create a device software development suite built on the Eclipse 3.0 framework, called Workbench.

In a related announcement, the company is offering updates to the open-source cluster communication protocol, TIPC ("tipsy") at SourceForge. The TIPC protocol provides the portability of code between Linux and Wind River's VxWorks operating systems.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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