With PikeOS, Today's Hardware Decisions Do Not Limit Tomorrow's Options
Use Case Focus
- Company: Gantner Instruments GmbH
- Sector: Commercial
- Market Segment: Industrial Controls
- Subsegment: Data Acquisition Instrumentation
- Hardware: x86
- Software: PikeOS, ELinOS, POSIX®
“Historically, it's been difficult to maintain technology based on aging hardware platforms. PikeOS allows us to make choices that fit today's needs while knowing that our investments are secured for the future.”
Werner Ganahl, CEO, Gantner Instruments GmbH
- Plan for obsolescence by encapsulating dependencies and using standardized interfaces
- Easily move to new platforms when virtualized operating systems become available
- Adapt hardware-dependent stacks rapidly as new functionality arises
A major problem for embedded system developers is dealing with evolving hardware technology. Large investments are made to develop code to run on a particular platform with specific behaviors in function, timing, and space usage. The PikeOS virtualization platform facilitates a planned approach to obsolescence management that ensures the greatest possible use of today's designs in future generation systems.
As hardware is upgraded, certain functionality may be deprecated while new functionality becomes available. Semiconductor manufacturers update their CPUs and chip sets every three to five years on average, and then launch more advanced and complex components. New manufacturing technologies and the steady downsizing of the chip structure lead to a significant performance improvement of the electronic units. Obsolete Technologies are removed periodically from the production line, so that several semiconductor components will only be available for a few years.
Notably affected by the evolution of device technologies are the manufacturers of durable industrial goods with long product lifecycles - 10 to 30 years or more. The system- and device manufacturers have massive problems to obtain the required components over such a long period of time. This applies primarily to industrial sectors such as industrial automation, medical instruments, automotive and transportation. In many cases complex redesigns seem to be the only way out, but this comes only at a very high price, and may lead to quality problems.
SYSGO´s answer to obsolescence management is PikeOS. The PikeOS real-time operating system supervises every hardware access and has the ability to classify all resources according to subsets of requirements. Through the concept of paravirtualization, different operating systems, runtime environments, and API´s are able to run simultaneously within protected software partitions. The requirements for this purpose are accurate manageable communication channels, which provide the use of safety critical and noncritical applications with a single hardware environment.
Thanks to this performance feature, PikeOS is an ideal solution for integrating obsolete software in a modern, high-capacity embedded system by isolating separate partitions. The advantage of this approach is the ability to reapply the already existing legacy code, which does not have to undergo costly, time-consuming, and error-prone. The established software is able to be operated on a new hardware platform intermingled with other, newer software components such as a modern Linux operating system. The modularity and independence of the separate systems allow this peaceful coexistence and cooperation to occur.
The pre-requisite for isolation and encapsulation of different software packages is the ability to provide resource partitioning and time partitioning. In case of resource partitioning, a static assignment of all available and temporary resources takes place. Every application obtains guaranteed access to the assigned resources, but does not have any access to resources of other partitions. By a strictly enforced separation, it is guaranteed that failures in one partition may not affect other partitions. Whenever subsystems with different security levels run the same system, it is necessary to guarantee that noncritical applications will not affect safety critical ones. For example, it is therefore possible under PikeOS to run a Linux-based subsystem and a safety critical application with its own operating system on one CPU-Platform. All partitions run in user mode and do not influence the stable kernel mode. Many operating system personalities are available in this environment, including those based on POSIX®, PSEK and Linux.
An example the use of PikeOS to implement a planned obsolescence management strategy is the work performed by Gantner Instruments. Gantner designed their new control unit e.gate as part of a family of measurement modules and test controllers. This data concentrator collects and synchronizes data of up to 120 remote modules and packs and transmits it via standard interfaces. Measuring modules convert signals with a measuring rate of up to 100 kHz. In order to make use of Linux industrial interfaces, Gantner searched for an integration of hard real-time and Linux. The virtualization platform PikeOS offered a solution by separating the POSIX® based I/O data acquisition and the Linux based Network into different partitions, thus bringing hard real-time and Linux together. Furthermore, for a new engine test bed, Gantner was able to reuse its legacy code on top of a POSIX® API making the application software standard based and future-proof. That way, Gantner Instruments was able to meet tight schedule and budget constraints. As new hardware platforms emerge in future decades, porting the existing code will be straightforward by migrating the virtualized guest operating system to PikeOS on the new platform. This provides two avenues for obsolescence management. First, in the event that a new hardware platform of the future has a paravirtualized guest operating system with PikeOS, all existing code can be readily ported. Second, the use of the POSIX® standard interface facilitates transition to other POSIX® operating systems that may be virtualized for the future hardware.