Look for a Linux distro face-off in the embedded space

You've seen similar open source distribution and solution as adjunct to a commercial product strategies from Red Hat, JBoss, IBM, Novell, and Sun.

Embedded software developers put Baskin-Robbins to shame when it comes to dishing up a large variety of operating systems flavors. The swirl of Linux permutations alone puts a rocky road in front of those seeking a smooth ride for reuse and modularity of device code.

Yet the use of and preference for embedded Linux shows no signs of abatement in device design. Linux, fragmented like a chunky monkey as it is, is plainly here to stay for use in all sorts of programmable logic applications. MonteVista Software has been a Linux distributor oft associated with the embedded space, but it looks like someone else has their eye on the cherry position of seeking a de facto embedded Linux standard.

Fiesty Wind River is putting the finishing touches on its own Linux distribution spread for use in development and deployment of intelligent embedded devices. That could spell a pending face-off and maturation process in over-drive for embedded Linux. Wind River will remain keen on its own tools and associated platforms for embedded lifecycle management, known as device system optimization (DSO). But Wind River also appears eager to bring more order to embedded Linux development, make DSO fully embrace Linux, and use the total market approach to grease the skids to deeper adoption of its commercial VXWorks approaches when appropriate.

Sound familiar? Yep, you've seen similar open source distribution and solution as adjunct to a commercial product strategies from Red Hat, JBoss, IBM, Novell, and Sun. The chief difference is the complexity and sheer volume of iterations in the highly diverse global device design, development, and build universe. Was a time (recently) when device software designers not only created fresh applications for each product, they created different platforms for each product category, and sometimes even for each product SKU. They even hacked out their own tools and testing across instances of device -- a new software infrastructure stack for each of thousands of uses and implementations. No plain vanilla in sight.

Now -- don't have a cow -- the demands of economics, reduced time to market, and the need to manage complexity have prompted a drive to greater standardization and modularity for embedded design and deployment. And hence the popularity of Linux, which has offered some standardization, but also the ability to access the code and customize it at will. In some ways embedded design is where PCs were 25 years ago, a plethora of approaches and disjointed array of non-compatible subsystems.

So Wind River is trying to combine the best of Razza Dazza Chip with plain vanilla, the best of the best of the wild and wooly embedded Linux attributes with the best of what a controlled albeit proprietary embedded stack-IDE combo provides. Consequently, a "commercial grade of embedded Linux" is what Wind is serving up over the next few weeks. It's called the (plain vanilla) Wind River Linux Distribution. It's joined by an Eclipse-oriented IDE, testing, and professional services ecology.

You'll remember, of course, that devices requiring software creation number in tens of millions every year, in everything from cell phones to airplanes, smart bombs to RFID tags. The numbers of programmed devices continues to skyrocket, even as the tasks expected of small-footprint software expand to include graphical interfaces, mobile connectivity, network compatibility, additional security, and a richer total capability set.

Expect a lot more news from the embedded space: The importance of theses edge devices -- your car is an Internet node in waiting, let's remember -- is immense. The role of the edge itself is gaining as more devices of all stripes tap into the TCP/IP fabric. So an improved design and development environment with fewer but better flavors sounds like a very good idea.