Did you see it? Tucked away in a quiet corner at IDF Beijing, amid the buzz about announcements of new products and exciting directions on the tablet and embedded markets, was a demonstration that was not particularly flashy or impressive, but could potentially be one of the biggest catalysts for major growth for Intel in the embedded space. The demo was for the Intel® Boot Loader Development Kit (Intel® BLDK - www.intel.com/go/bldk), a product which will allow embedded customers to create simply hardware initialization firmware for their designs. The demonstration was accompanied by two separate technical sessions, both that were packed with interested developers wanting to know more, and certainly keeping the presenters on their toes with all the questions!
Over the past 10 years Intel has made various attempts to provide competitive firmware solutions for embedded customers, against open source offerings such as U-Boot and Coreboot. I’ve been around Intel during those 10 years, and have enabled many Intel customers with various firmware solutions, ranging from “Here is the spec, good luck!” to very involved 3-way agreements with 3rd party BIOS companies to provide highly customized firmware code. However, I have never until now seen Intel make a complete firmware solution publicly available. However, we are doing it! We announced at IDF Beijing first public availability in July of a completely customizable firmware solution, beginning with a reference implementation for the Intel® Atom Intel® Atom™ Processor E6xx Series with the Intel® Platform Controller Hub EG20T.
While this still isn’t the full “open kimono” that you might get with an open source solution, only the very lowest level initialization will be provided as binary libraries. All the rest will be open source code (BSD license). And the great news is this will be a UEFI compliant solution, with its foundation as the Intel® UEFI Development Kit 2010 (Intel® UDK2010 - www.tianocore.org). Why is that great news? Because all the interfaces are standardized, developers will get a lot of reusability by simply plugging in the binary libraries for the platform of choice. Granted, I’m probably oversimplifying, but the long term goal of the Intel BLDK program is to provide a highly customizable and easy to use solution, particularly for developers that might be new to developing firmware for Intel silicon.
Will it be perfect at first launch? Probably not, as it this is pretty new for Intel, both in using the latest Intel UDK2010 implementations, as well as in the business approach to make this solution public. I’ve been through initial launches of new software at Intel, and it usually takes a year or two to work out all the kinks. However, I’m excited to be part of the Intel BLDK program, and fully expect this to be one of the biggest game changers this decade for Intel in Embedded.
Follow me on Twitter @intel_drew to keep up with the latest developments on the Intel BLDK program.