Military Embedded Systems

Intel integrating Wind River subsidiary even more in 2016


January 29, 2016

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military Embedded Systems

Earlier this month Fortune magazine reported that Wind River's run as it's own brand under the Intel umbrella will end as the company absorbs it completely. The news is not surprising as Intel is finishing up it's acquisition of FPGA-maker Altera and doing away with that brand as Altera is becoming Intel the Programmable Solutions Group (PSG).

According the Forbes article by Barb Darrow, which can be read here, Intel bought Wind River for $884 million back in 2009. The article, sourcing an Intel spokeswoman, stated that the "incorporation of Wind River into the broader company is the next step in a logical process. The only other Intel acquisition that remained a subsidiary this long was McAfee, the computer security company that Intel bought for $6.59 billion in 2011....The idea is to align Wind River, which will retain its branding and continue to support non-Intel processors, with other Intel groups to assure better collaboration."

What will it mean for military users of Wind River's real-time operating system (RTOS) -- VxWorks -- and related products? It's an important question as VxWorks has been widely used by military avionics and command and control applications for decades.

A Wind River spokeswoman told me that "Delivering value of subsidiary integration with minimal business disruption is a top priority. Wind River’s development, business, and sales model will be preserved -- and the company will continue its support of non-Intel architecture. Wind River will also retain its product brand as it develops, markets, and sells its products."

The elephant in the room is that the military, while at one time Wind River's largest market, is probably less than 1 percent of Intel's business. Some might be worried that Intel and Altera might go the way of PA Semi (Palo Alto Semiconductor), which when bought by Apple Inc. in 2009 ceased producing its low-power 64-bit processors called PWRficient that were loved by the military embedded computing community. Turned out that Apple only wanted the engineering talent, not the products.

That said, I don't think that will happen this time as military embedded computing suppliers today are not totally reliant one chip or one RTOS. This is evidenced by how they leverage the Intel Corei7 processors, which are not targeted at defense applications, yet fuel the high-end signal processing systems used in military radar and electronic warfare applications.

Also, Wind River's secure OS product lines will help enable Intel's Internet of Things (IoT) endeavors. So it will probably be less bumpy for the industry than the PA Semi situation and Wind River will get a new acronym for a name like PSG.

As for whether there will be layoffs at Wind River? There is concern according to the Forbes piece: "Sources close to Wind River worry about layoffs and other ripple effects from this move. They tend to see it as a consolidation of efforts by Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich as he continues to push the company to be as big a force in the post-PC era as it has been in the past. That is a formidable task, and Intel’s success is not assured."