Imagine you're a designer of industrial control systems. You're working on a control system for performing automatic temperature and pressure control cycles for advanced composites manufacturing. The system has to allow up to six programmable temperature/pressure ramps with timed dwell periods after each. You’re facing the usual challenge of trying to increase system performance, while reducing costs so your solution can be more competitively priced in today’s market. Someone mentions to you that you can combine your motion control system and human machine interface (HMI) computer onto a single machine. You know that is not possible because you need to run two very different operating systems (Microware* OS-9 and Microsoft* Windows* XP) to handle a variety of distinctively different applications. Your source tells you that it doesn't matter. In fact, according to them, moving over is easy — you can migrate both systems to the new machine in just hours. You start reaching for a purchase order.
That's the approach that RadiSys (a Premier member of Intel® Embedded and Communications Alliance) is currently pursuing with great success. For this installment of the roving reporter and our continuing look at the coming world of 15 billion connected devices, I visited with Linda Xiao, Director, Integrated Systems – Commercial Segment, at RadiSys to learn more.
The RadiSys solution is actually very logical. Just think Intel® multi-core technology and virtualization. The real genius lies with how they pack different technologies onto a complete system. Their Procelerant IS 1000 is a fully-integrated, ready-to-use system complete with software, middleware and development tools — including an integrated development environment (IDE) and pre-ported real-time fieldbus protocols like EtherCAT. The company has done all the software porting, testing and verifying so a manufacturer can hit the ground running with a solution for industrial customers.
The IS 1000 is empowered by Microware* Real-Time Systems Hypervisor. Xiao pointed out that with the Hypervisor “one machine does the work of two, running HMI on one core and real-time control on another.” According to Xiao, by running both general purpose operating systems (such as Windows® or Linux) and real-time operating systems (such as OS-9) concurrently on a single platform, "the Microware Real-time Hypervisor technology provides RadiSys with distinct advantages in serving industrial control customers." The ultimate deal clincher is the lower total cost of ownership. Not only do you get enhanced performance, but you also save money because you have fewer computers to maintain. One system replaces two or three.
Xiao gave as an example a high precision computer numerical control (CNC) grinding system used in manufacturing everything from parts for cars to elevators. Typically this system would consist of an industrial PC running Windows or Linux and used to set up the grinding programs, as well as for networking and other non real-time based operations. There would also be a motion control system for controlling the grinding machines's axis servo system. The motion control system would be on a separate dedicated computing device running a hard real-time operating system. Because the IS 1000 can dedicate the required resources to the motion control system and its operating system, these two computing systems can be consolidated into a single system for a significant cost savings in hardware, maintenance and power. What's more, by consolidating both functions using just one system, the sheer number of components involved are reduced, increasing the mean time between failure (MTBF).
The IS 1000 comes with a choice of Procelerant COM Express modules. This enables you to customize a system to your specific requirements. Available Procelerant modules have been upgraded with an extended temperature range (-25C to +70C) to handle harsh industrial conditions. These include multi-core choices such as modules equipped with Intel® Core™2 Duo processors.
For rugged, industrial applications requiring low power and the ability to withstand really harsh environmental conditions, the new RadiSys Procelerant CEZ5XL is ideal. This industrial-temperature (-40C to +85C), ruggedized Com Express module is based on recently announced options for the Intel® Atom™ processor Z5xx series. By supporting hyper-threading technology, the Intel™ Atom® Z5xxP/PT processors is capable of running two operating systems concurrently under the Microware Real-time Hypervisor. This makes the CEZ5XL module an ideal solution for industrial control applications needing low-cost, industrial-grade, high performance and support for both general purpose and real-time operating systems in one powerful package.
According to Xiao, the key advantages of the IS 1000 for designers is it enables them to accelerate time-to-market and devote their engineering resources to adding new competitive features, all while allowing customers to reuse their existing system software. Think about it — what could be better to bring to market than a single computing system that can manage a variety of functions ( including computer numeric control, programmable logic control and a human machine interface), all without breaking a sweat?
Have an opinion on this? What role do you see virtualization playing in the coming Embedded Internet? Will versatility in handling operating systems one day be a requirement for everything?