According to Personal Computer industry-watchers like IDC-Gartner, general purpose PCs are declining in sales year-on-year, but are being more than made up by the growth of small form factor computers including tablet PCs, smartphones, and purpose-built hand-held embedded systems. Systems that were once the domain of science fiction writers have become commonplace in an increasing number of embedded applications like consumer-quality, digitally-compensated microphones, smart self-calibrating sensors, motor controllers, automotive engine control, and even the telephone systems we use every day.
In the 1950s early IBM analysts predicted that the world’s demand for digital computers would be satisfied with at most a few dozen systems. In the early 1970s the minicomputer seemed destined to take over computing tasks. In the 1980s the mainframe was declared dead. Now there’s a new approach in which the mainframe concept is back – cloud computing.
Cloud computing carries with it increased requirements for remote access and control. As a mainstream technology, cloud computing is viable only because ubiquitous computing is nearly here. The difference between small form factor PCs and handheld embedded systems continues to blur as systems power consumption continues to drop while processing capacity increases. The most visible aspect of this shift in the technology space is in how data is presented to users. Where once the predecessor technology to cloud computing relied on IBM Channel Controllers managing alpha-numeric video terminals, today’s presentation technologies embrace most media forms including video and audio. Companies like Eurotech (1), ILS Technology (2), and GoS Networks (3) are at the forefront of the addition of cloud computing and embedded systems to the technology mix.
Eurotech offers a complete solution for gaining access to the cloud with its Everyware Cloud products. Everyware Device Cloud is the integration between devices running Everyware Software Framework and the Isidorey device cloud platform. Eurotech’s ESF relies on Wind River Linux to provide a flexible, communications oriented development environment. The Wind River Carrier Grade Operating System Linux (CGOS) includes more than 500 software packages, virtualization based on KVM (kernel-based Virtual Machine), and multi-core offload capabilities. This facility allows Eurotech customers to use the potential of modern multi-core Intel hardware.
Everyware employs the OSGi Alliance software platform based on Linux that is supported by dozens of Information Technology companies and embedded systems suppliers. The Eurotech system runs on a virtualized platform using the communications services provided by Wind River’s (4) CGOS. In an earlier blog I commented on the desirability to develop software in a more modern, fully typed language. Eurotech does this by developing their software using Java. Adopting Java as their preferred programming language accrues many advantages both to Eurotech and their customers:
- Java applications run in a virtual machine environment – improving reliability.
- Java is a “type safe” applications language, meaning that the larger operating environment is safe from mal-formed code.
- Java is network centric, a crucial architectural choice for cloud computing environments.
- Object oriented programming.
- Built-in memory management.
- Rapid code development and test.
- Large software repository of Java code.
Java has recently benefitted from Intel’s research group with the availability of an open source implementation of parallel Java. Although Java currently lacks some of the facilities needed to implement general hard realtime systems, the addition of parallel Java moves the performance barrier back to allow more high-performance signal processing algorithms to operate within the Java environment.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of using Java for embedded applications development in the ESF environment is the interpretive nature of Java code. Code can always be translated to native machine language, but the mind set of employing an interpretive language on a virtual machine encourages a mind-shift to dynamically defined systems. Adding or changing a piece of application code is a simple matter of using Java to stop an application, load a new instance in to the operating environment, and then start the new instance. According to Eurotech, systems using the ESF have not failed due to an errant program over-writing system memory.
Eurotech’s Catalyst TC card, based on the Intel® Atom™ processor E6xx series, is a highly integrated and flexible embedded module that offers multiple communications, I/O, and multimedia capabilities with low power consumption in a small footprint. The product has been chosen by a supplier to the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department to host handheld embedded applications using Eurotech software.
ILS Technologies offers a machine-to-machine (M2M) platform called “deviceWISE.” The deviceWise M2M Application Deployment Kit includes configurable deviceWISE M2M Gateway software, an Intel Atom processor-based M2M gateway hardware platform, and a developer cloud subscription. The software includes a device connection library with an edge processing and event engine. The software allows developers to create simple workflows to translate raw data from connected devices into intelligent events. These events are subsequently securely transmitted to applications residing in the cloud or in ad hoc customer locations. ILS’ communications software also works with Wind River VxWorks and Linux products to provide communications protocols within that environment – in addition to the deviceWise M2M Applications Deployment Kit. According to industry analysts Frost & Sullivan, simplifying embedded application deployment in a cloud environment is a major technological hurdle. ILS Technology simplifies that task. deviceWISE allows end users to connect device-to-device, device-to-database and device-to-application. deviceWise also includes Remote Access Service features which allow end users to create role-based accessibility while retaining control of all the information flow and access.
GoS Networks takes a different slant on M2M communications and access to cloud computing. GoS software fits into the link connections of networks and manages network traffic. Motivated by increasing their providers’ ability to acquire, manage, maintain, and bill customers, GoS has a unique approach to Service Quality Assurance. It enables service providers to see traffic as the user experiences it. GoS enforces policies and shapes traffic at the real edge of the network. In the case of this network definition, the edge is the client device. GoS manages network congestion with:
- guaranteed bandwidths
- enforced bandwidth limits
- reuse of unclaimed bandwidth
- separate control of loss and delay priority
- fair sharing of quality, not just bandwidth
- network stability under increasing load
- predictions of loss and delay behavior under saturation
- live monitoring of delivered quality
GoS manipulates the relationship between data loss, delay and throughput. These three variables are fundamentally interdependent - if one is fixed, the other two adjust to the fixed variable. If two are fixed, the third is determined by default. Using this principle, GoS Technology permits different simultaneous levels of management for different data streams. Some data streams can’t tolerate delay but can accept packet loss without a perceptible drop in quality, while others require that all packets arrive at their destination eventually. GoS permits managing these and other data handling issues.
GoS Networks’ cloud-specific software is GoS 360. Using the software network, operators can ensure secure, reliable delivery of complex cloud-based services by deploying GoS Agent at client premises and GoS Manager in the network. GoS Manager acts as a performance monitor for all connected GoS Agents. This ensures that accurate, real-time information of application performance is available to client devices. Network operators can respond to the data by controlling individual sessions via the embedded GoS Agents.
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- Eurotech is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
- ILS Technology is an Affiliate member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
- GoS Networks is a General member of the Intel Embedded Alliance
- Wind River is an Associate member of the Intel Embedded Allaince
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor)
Intel® Embedded Alliance