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Embedded Linux for microprocessors


Embed the open source Linux operating system within a microprocessor and what do you get? For IST project ACEOS it led to demonstration applications for standard Linux networking and voice telecommunications.

Porting Linux to a new processor platform

Project coordinator Gregory Doumenis of the Athens-based system house Global Digital Technologies (GDT) explains why the ACEOS project was considered successful. "We were very happy with the project results because, one, we managed to port Linux successfully to a new architecture, something that only a handful of companies in the world have achieved, and two, it was the first time we had worked with such a broad open source project, so it was a real challenge for us."

Explaining the background to the project, he continues, "We had a problem with a product for small office networking, in that our target market is very cost-sensitive, yet at the same time customers expect to have fully-fledged operating systems for such products. We needed to go back to the drawing board.

"By project close we had ported Linux to the [Infineon] TriCore processor, and had also developed drivers for both Ethernet and voice interfaces. We were able to demonstrate the kernel running and also the applications running on top of it."

The project result, an open source subsystem for networking, provides the foundation for a wide range of future communication interfaces for the residential communications market, with the processing abilities to implement almost any networking function. As such, it facilitates the introduction of advanced communications equipment to residential communications, allowing more players to enter this market sector.

The project was not an easy one, admits Doumenis. The original workplan had to be revised due to the steep learning curve required to understand the Linux kernel, and also because of the additional effort involved in augmenting the development tools for the porting process.

Nevertheless, Doumenis feels that the results have benefited GDT’s competitive position. The project has proven that a small enterprise with limited financial and human resources can produce state-of-the-art products in highly-competitive market niches.

Business contract awarded

A further key milestone for GDT was the award shortly after project close of the first business contract to port Linux to another processor architecture. Hyperstone, a German microprocessor design company, retained GDT to bring mainstream operating system support to its own user community.

"Porting Linux to our single core RISC/DSP processor opens a whole new world of applications, interfaces and drivers," says Dr Matthias Steck, sales and marketing VP at Hyperstone. "With hyLinux [a Linux kernel] our customers reduce their development costs to a minimum ... customers can enter markets quickly and decrease costs during mass production later."

Although now in the commercial domain, hyLinux is still an open source product, says Doumenis. As such the kernel remains available to anyone wishing to develop Linux-based applications for the TriCore processor.

Gregory Doumenis
Global Digital Technologies
104 Kalamakiou Ave, Alimos
Tel: +30 210 9858816

Source: Based on information from ACEOS

Tara Morris | IST Results
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