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Mohit Sindhwani, director—Technology and Training at Viometrix (www.viometrix.com) in Singapore, was one of the first people outside Japan to port the T-Kernel to another processor. “I was inspired to look at the RTOS as it was built on the solid foundation of ITRON—arguably the world’s most-embedded RTOS (in terms of shipment units). At the same time, it was also attractive since it was open source (as is Linux), but was coming specifically from the embedded systems world—as against Linux/Windows CE, which came to the embedded world from the PC/desktop area. This meant that it was better suited for all sorts of applications, including hard real-time applications (both Linux and Windows CE were not able to claim that for quite a while),” says Sindhwani. “The T-Kernel is currently the only open source RTOS that I know, which can support middleware and applications on a very wide set of processors.”
He immediately adds that focusing on the T-Kernel alone is like missing the forest for the trees. It is the platform-based approach that makes the T-Engine a superior technology choice.
“Platform-based computing is essential for rapid development and deployment of products with shorter design cycles. Way too much attention is focused on the T-Kernel (the RTOS) and very little on the T-Engine (the platform). Platform-based computing is critical in meeting stringent Non-Recurring Engineering (NRE) cost constraints and reducing the Time-To-Market (TTM),” he says. “In this sense, the T-Engine offers a plug-and-play approach to building systems, by rapidly combining hardware and software middleware to enable very rapid prototyping. For this, the platform has extensive support for expansion. This will be crucial in the future, if designers want to roll out multiple products in a year. Other operating systems do not have such platforms that can support a wide set of hardware options.”
Professor Sakamura stresses the ‘open and free’ nature as the main reason in favour of the T-Kernel—he feels there is no other RTOS that makes the entire source code available for free. “Not only that, with the backing of the 500 members of the T-Engine Forum, we share the experience of the members with the development community and users as well. The T-Engine Forum is the world’s largest organisation of its kind, and its activity is supported by many semiconductor companies which make CPUs for the embedded systems market: MIPS, Renesas, NEC, Fujitsu, etc,” he says. “As for the T-Engine, we can claim that the T-Engine family supports all the important embedded CPUs in a uniform architecture. Again, not many companies can claim the same. With the help of CPU vendors, we have produced working boards that can be used for development and prototype production.”
As is evident from Sindhwani’s arguments in favour of the T-Engine, one of the biggest advantages of a platform-based approach is the ability to create, distribute and use middleware—enabling one to put together new products and applications quickly, using already available components.
The Tokyo-based YRP Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory (www.ubin.jp) is an active member of the T-Engine Forum. Chiaki Ishikawa, senior researcher/international liaison at the UNL, and Nobuyuki Kashiwa of the T-Engine Forum Secretariat, enumerate some significant middleware.