Last fall I blogged on Wind River and how their move to more aggressively enable testing, feedback, and remediation of embedded device software could shake up the definition of DSO. Well, the other shoe on that story has fallen with the announcement this week of Wind River's fuller post-production diagnostics and remediation management capabilities.
As part of Wind River's user conference roll outs in Orlando, FL, the expanded technology allows such benefits as hot patches to be applied to networked (and nowadays most are, usually wirelessly) embedded devices that exploit the enabling products and platforms. This means that the embedded software development and deployment process no longer stops at the foundry -- it extends into the managed lifecycle of in-field use, feedback, improvement, and large-scale upgrade.
We can think of this improvement as extending what you can do with an iPod, in terms of software evolution that's independent of the hardware, to all sorts of connected consumer, industrial, and automotive devices.
The technology story behind the diagnostics managment capability is available here. But what intrigues me most are the significant business issues that are positively impacted by the Wind River diagnostics and remediation management capability. Take a help desk or call center, for example. By combining the reach of information about device behavior in the field with a CRM or customer care database, problems could be quickly identified in, say, a consumer electronics or factory automation product. A fix could be developed and made available to the help desk applications. Actual fixes could then be conducted by the help desk personnel. This also has a big impact in terms of product liability -- more fixes, fewer recalls.
The implications for reduced total cost, for total customer satisfaction, for reduced risk and recall, for treating almost any connected device as a lifecycle product -- not a use it or toss it device -- are also quite refreshing. Retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and the ecology of software engineers, architects, and project leaders should see the clear benefits of post-production lifecycle adaptability as a win-win in the DSO arena.
Indeed, such remote service capabilities could be a fierce competitive weapon: Which device would you want in your car -- one that can be fixed or improved right on through 100,000 miles, or one that needs to have the brains replaced for small software snafus at $1,800 a pop at 10,000 miles?
What's more, due to the ability to sequester real-time operating systems kernels from device-bourn applications, the security implications for managed patches is actually far better in appropriate circumstances than those patches that IT operators are all too familiar with for PCs and servers. So in a real-time operating system environment, many levels of security can be deployed, not least of which is the lock-down nature of the kernel.
Wind River with this announcement is pushing the envelope on DSO by extending quality management past pre-production and into the full lifecycle of the devices and finished products that the software powers.
The diagnostics and in-field remediation benefit comes on the heels of other recent Wind River moves to extend DSO benefits. Earlier this spring, Wind River adopted a multi-core strategy to allow device developers to enjoy the benefits of parallelism and multi-threading but also to manage the increased complexity inherent in such platform advances. As device applications grow richer due to multi-media and wireless, and hardware becomes more complex, sophisticated tools and more integrated platforms are obviously required.
Consequently, developers and architects are faced with key decisions: Build embedded platforms myself or go commercial? Is it better to off-load the infrastructure and platform issues and focus on the application logic? Does the complexity of multi-core hardware force a move toward DSO that embraces holistic development and deployment environments?
With those questions in mind, Wind River purchased Interpeak, and is now building out an expanded DSO middleware strategy that I'm told will balance the interests of flexibility, openness, integration, and complexity. The other shoe will no doubt soon be falling on that story as well.
Full disclosure: Wind River is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.