A recent presentation from Metrowerks reminded me of the advantages of integration and modularity. The advantages tend to be obvious but often overlooked when moving from an existing environment to a new set of tools or platforms. Often the cry is to continue using the current set of tools to effectively utilize existing expertise. Of course, the question is how the cost of integrating new tools with the current toolset compares with migrating to a new toolset that meet the latest set of requirements.
In Metrowerks case, the new toolset for Freescale’s MPC5500 family of architectures targeted at automotive powertrain development is built around CodeWarrior. That is great for developers already using CodeWarrior. The larger question is whether those using other toolsets can be convinced to take on the CodeWarrior Development Studio for the MPC5500 Family.
This latest bundle can incorporate a range of integrated products including:
- The PowerTAP Pro Nexus Class 1 run control emulator,
- Metrowerk’s CodeTEST Software Analysis Suite with Nexus Class 3 Data Trace,
- Enea Embedded Technology’s OSEKturbo Real Time Operating System (RTOS) with deterministic scheduling,
- Ash Ware’s Ash Ware eTPU Simulation Engine,
- And the UNIS Processor Expert GUI initialization tool.
That is a lot of pieces to work together. This level of integration is necessary to quickly develop applications on the multicore MPC5500 processors.
Metrowerks extracts a pretty penny for various bundles, but it is a bargain compared to manually combining the components. It takes time and money to integrate and support a system with this level of complexity.
Linux Integration Myth
Development tools is only one area where integration costs can be significant. Handling integration and support for Linux in-house is often touted as an advantage and disadvantage. On the plus side, a company gains an intimate knowledge of Linux when integration is handled in-house. There is also the possibility of streamlining the Linux image for a particular project.
On the other side, integrating and supporting Linux, or any other operating system for that matter, is no simple job. The effort can be significant but customization can still be attained economically if embedded Linux distributions come with tools that allow a developer to streamline a Linux image.
Early in embedded Linux evolution, in-house integration and support were the only options. Now it is the exception rather than the rule. It is still possible to build a Linux system from a base distribution but companies like LynuxWorks, Monta Vista, TimeSys, Wind River, and even Metrowerks are delivering Linux distributions and tools with a level of sophistication that matches or exceeds that found with other embedded operating systems.
Packaged embedded Linux solutions are not free. They have costs that range from subscription plans to royalty-based pricing. There is quite a variety of licensing terms as there are for other operating systems.
So what is the advantage to using Linux now? Actually there are quite a few. First, consider the different options now available for migration. Different Linux distributions will have different features and toolsets but migration from one to another is significantly easier than between other operating systems. Second, Linux expertise is on the rise and applicable to most embedded Linux distributions. Finally, applications developed for one version of Linux tend to run on other versions with minimal or no alterations.
Integration and support issues are often taken into consideration when initially choosing a platform like Linux or a toolset and platform like Metrowerks recent offering. These issues are often overlooked when looking at third party applications and other development tools.
Don’t underestimate integration and support costs. In the long run, it can be a major issue even for large, custom development projects.
Enea Embedded Technology