Electronic Design

CORBA/e: Not Your Father's Distributed Architecture

What do battlefield robots, wireless basestations, air traffic control systems, sophisticated medical equipment, and the like have in common? They need a distributed communications architecture that has high reliability, high performance, and a small architecture must be powerful enough world's most sophisticated programming, power consumption and low cost.

And there's one more thing. These systems same distributed communications middleware Yes, CORBA.

These systems are built on the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA). They use the most modern implementations of Real-Time and Embedded CORBA, enabling the development of source code that's reusable across systems, applications, and other projects.

It wasn't always like this. When CORBA was first released in the early 1990s, the initial approach was to enable large enterprise systems to interoperate with each other. Vendors were solely focused on adding features, so size and throughput were secondary concerns. People thought CORBA was big, fat, and slow.

However, demands by real-time and embedded engineers for compact size, high performance, and speed drove the emergence of Real-Time and Embedded CORBA. The Real-Time CORBA standard was adopted in 1999. This added predictability to the execution of CORBA operations.

Now, the Object Management Group (OMG), keeper of the CORBA standard, has finalized the CORBA/e specification. The CORBA/e (CORBA for embedded) specification is the result of years of experience among vendors and users focusing on real-time and embedded systems.

CORBA/e is designed for developers who work in resourceconstrained environments. It lets developers keep up with changes in processors, operating systems, and communications bus types while protecting their engineering investment. Also, CORBA/e systems are compact, fast, and reliable. They provide real-time execution in a small footprint that fits easily onto board-based or chip-based systems.

The OMG has merged the interoperability of standard reliability and deterministic execution of into a pair of specification profiles—CORBA/-Profile and CORBA/e Micro Profile—to meet needs of Distributed Real-time and Embedded-computing.

CORBA/e Compact fits easily on a typical 32-bit microprocessor, running a standard real-time operating system (RTOS). These systems may run such applications as signal or image processing with real-time dependability. CORBA/e Micro is even smaller. It fits on the kind of low-powered microprocessor or high-end DSP found on mobile or handheld equipment.

Embedded systems no longer exist in a vacuum. From tiny, remote sensors to utility grids, these embedded systems need to communicate and interoperate using a constantly changing variety of processors, operating systems, and compilers, yet they cannot compromise reliability and performance. The necessary interoperability and dependability can only come from a mature, standards-based middleware.

CORBA/e, designed by the most experienced providers of distributed real-time and embedded software, meets and exceeds these requirements. CORBA/e middleware is available today. A team of diverse companies, including representatives from telecommunications, aerospace, and CORBA vendors, jointly authored the CORBA/e specification.

When embedded in automobiles, airplanes, weapons systems, handheld radios, cellular telephones, and other devices, software must work as reliably as hardware. Deployed in military, industrial, and consumer applications around the world, CORBA/e provides these characteristics in an architecture that fits systems ranging from the largest server arrays to small chip-based sensors and networked DSPs.

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