Beat off-shore embedded developers by assuming the high-end, says Green Hills CEO

Sun Microsystems, IBM, and HP, are laying off thousands of engineers in the U.S. and replacing them with others in third-world countries.
Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor on

Dan O'Dowd, founder and CEO of Green Hills Software, rarely shies away from controversial positions and straight talk about them. He's now focused his attention on the trend toward increased off-shoring of software developers' jobs, especially embedded software development. What's needed, he told a gathering of analysts today in Santa Barbara, CA, is less reliance on embedded Linux and Eclipse and more use of proprietary tools and RTOSes, such as Green Hills'.

Why? Because developers in India, Russia, and China -- working for 0.25% of American, European, or Japanese programmers' costs -- are now using Windows and Visual Studio, or Linux RTOS, GNU compliers, and Eclipse tools. So the way to keep high-paying embedded programming jobs in high-cost countries such as the U.S., says O'Dowd, is to resist the move to such low-cost infrastructure and instead focus on the proper tools and platforms that produce embedded applications that are:

  • High quality and always available
  • Secure from hackers
  • Highest performing
  • With lower total cost for systems in production, and that
  • Dramatically shrink time to market for the most complex finished end-products.

At Boeing (with the new 787), at Airbus, and Lockheed (with the Joint Strike Fighter), engineers are using Green Hills products to write and deploy huge embedded software programs that fly these advanced aircraft, says O'Dowd. This same reliability and managed complexity can be brought to printers, telecom equipment, and factory automation, he says. The U.S. NSA and DoD have used Green Hills' MULTI IDE and INTEGRITY RTOS to build top secret cryptographic systems and nuclear weapons systems that can not be broken into, he says. They suffer no buffer overflows, viruses, worms, denial of service attacks, trojan horses, and spyware, he added.

O'Dowd says "onshore" developers should use premium, productive embedded systems, such as the new INTEGRITY-61508. "If we build the best quality, we can charge more money ... we've always been the premium product. This is your only hope," he says to American manufacturers. "It's the only way. ... Go for quality and the higher price that pays for higher-cost engineers, and keep it on-shore."

O'Dowd said Sun Microsystems, IBM, and HP, are laying off thousands of engineers in the U.S. and replacing them with others in third-world countries. This is a short-term strategy that leads to CEOs themselves being off-shored, too, he added. Engineers in India, Russia and China will learn Linux and Eclipse, so O'Dowd said, "Supply and demand will drive all Linux and Eclipse embedded jobs off-shore." By using Linux, Eclipse, and C++, "You have been turned into a cog that can easily be replaced at a lower price," O'Dowd says of first-world software developers.

In addition to his positions on developer economics and geographical hiring trends, O'Dowd on Monday introduced Green Hills' latest offerings: Industry-optimized embedded platforms. These are aimed at vertical industries, such as the medical devices business, with specific industry standards and certification needs. Green Hills aims to provide specific industries with "off-the-shelf" platforms and IDEs to help automate their embedded software development and deployment needs.

Indeed, now that embedded infrastructure and IDE makers like Green Hills have elevated their offerings to a solution level, the next logical step is to tailor those solutions to specific vertical industries. A vertically integrated baseline of standards- and certifications-specific platforms should reduce device development cycles and cut total costs, as well as encourage manufacturers to use software to differentiate themselves in their competitive niche markets.

As it turns out, O'Dowd's stance on high-end, performance-driven embedded solutions is not too far afield from his IDE and platform nemesis, Wind River Systems. Both Green Hills and competitor Wind River are seeking to stake out and lead in the high-end embedded tools and runtimes markets, and both are positioning against Linux and embedded Windows on a hierarchy of proficiency, performance, and security. Wind River, however, is also distributing an embedded Linux RTOS. And Wind River has also embraced Eclipse.

Green Hills is avoiding real-time Linux/Eclipse and embracing embedded Windows as its lower-end alternative to its INTEGRITY platform. Wind River is more aligned to Linux on the lower end and advises the use of its VxWorks 6.2 platform on the high-end, with far less attention paid to Windows runtimes.

The Green Hills-Wind River tussle is only just beginning, and will be worth close monitoring. The tough competition between these two adept vendors can only be good for the buyers and specifiers of embedded solutions world-wide.

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