Military Embedded Systems

Ah Wind River, where have you been?


May 31, 2007

Chris A. Ciufo

General Micro Systems, Inc.

I reconnect with Wind River Systems, and it's a happy occasion.

Software is the lifeblood of the embedded industry, which itself is the foundation of modern defense systems.  It’s a known fact that nearly all military initiatives – from Blue Force Tracking, to Future Combat Systems, to DDG-1000 [formerly DD(X)], to
JSF – do what they do because of massive computing power from embedded electronics.  And since everyone uses practically the same components such as PowerPC 7447s or Intel Core 2 Duo processors, Altera Stratix III or Actel RTAX-S FPGAs, or Tundra Serial RapidIO bus peripherals, it’s the software – particularly the operating system – that differentiates and glues together all these defense systems.

Over the past six months, I’ve written about and we’ve covered in our military magazines1 OS environments from Green Hills’ INTEGRITY, LynuxWorks’ Lynx-178, AdaCore’s GNAT Pro. But conspicuously absent has been much mention of RTOS heavy-weight Wind River Systems. Some of you have wondered if I’m boycotting them, or if I simply forgot about Wind River. Far from it.  Several years ago I got a frantic call from Wind River’s then-chairman Jerry Fiddler asking me if I still had a copy of a briefing he’d given me months before, because he had a computer crash and his version had vanished. (I sent it back to him.) Clearly, Jerry and I were on a first-name basis back then, and I was routinely in touch with the company and totally up-to-speed on their strategic plans and products.

But since the year 2000, the dot-com meltdown came and went, the rise (and some would say fall) of telecom passed us by, 9/11 refocused our military attention, and many companies had personnel turnover. The software companies mentioned above –
and others including Express Logic, QNX, RTI, and Aonix – aggressively cultivated editors’ attention, while Wind River wasn’t in my face nearly to the same degree as they had been before.  All companies change priorities, and being only human (and frankly, barraged with PR), I didn’t have much time or success reestablishing contact with my friends at Wind River. I learned about the company’s military product reorganization around platforms, general, ARINC-653, MILS, and safety critical, but not much else.

To me, the Tornado development environment was still their crowning achievement; I halfheartedly noticed they (finally!) endorsed Linux, and I thought I remembered reading something about Eclipse. But hey: I was busy, the world was a frantic place, and it’s the job of the PR professionals to stay in touch with editors, not the other way around. (There are about 20 editors and perhaps 1,000 companies).

Happily, the world has turned a few more times since then, and I’ve reconnected with Wind River – intentionally starting at the recent Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose and continuing through several telephone briefings and even an OSP E-cast cosponsored by Aonix and Wind River. I was especially glad to learn the company has rekindled its Aerospace and Defense (A&D) strategy. (They would argue, “We never stopped.”) And they’ve hired my old friend Chip Downing as their senior industry military marketing manager.

My own discussions with defense contractors plus a recent analyst report indicate that VxWorks still commands the largest share of the embedded RTOS market, followed by Microsoft. Wind River has converted Tornado 5.5 to Workbench 6.x, which is now Eclipse-based. That’s excellent news. The company recently acquired FSMLabs’ RTLinux real-time Linux distro and
is actively partnering with the industry’s leading software companies to cover all the ancillary system pieces for aerospace and defense. This includes AdaCore and DDC-I for Ada, Objective Interface Systems for CORBA, IBM and Telelogic for design tools, and all the way up to Aonix for PERC Java and Zeligsoft for SDR. The company has even publicly refocused on A&D with a developer conference in southern California.

This all adds up to a happy reunion for me. Having originally been a specifier of Wind River’s software when I ran a VME military product line in a previous life, I’m very glad to once again be in-the-know on Wind River’s military plans. Of course, you can be sure we at Military Embedded Systems will continue to keep you apprised of all the RTOS companies’ future plans –
in order to keep you just as equally educated and informed.

Chris A. Ciufo
Group Editorial Director

1Military Embedded Systems, VME and Critical Systems, and   RETURN

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