Electronic Design

Software Directory: SoC RTOSs

  NET+Works ZFx86
Company NetSilicon ZF Micro Devices Inc.
Processor 32-bit ARM7TDMI 32-bit x86
Peripherals Ethernet, serial, GPIO serial, parallel, 10-channel DMA GPIO, IDE, USB, floppy disk, serial, parallel, IrDA, PS/2, I2C
RTOS NET+OS (ThreadX), uClinux, Wind River's VxWorks, Accelerated Technology's Nucleus LynuxWorks' BlueCat Linux, Red Hat Linux, Wind River's VxWorks, Microsoft's Windows CE
Tools GNU, Green Hills' Multi 2000 IDE, Accelerated Technology's code/lab, Wind River's Tornado, Esmertec Jbed GNU, Wind River's Tornado, Microsoft's Platform Builder and Visual Studio
Services Network protocols, NET+Services Phoenix PC BIOS
Miscellaneous NET+DB development board FailSafe Boot ROM, Z-Tag

NetSilicon was one of the first companies to deliver an off-the-shelf, system-on-a-chip (SoC) with a bundled operating system and tools. Called the NET+ARM, the SoC targets embedded network applications. It's based on the 32-bit ARM7 architecture with 8 kbytes of cache and incorporates a 10/100 Ethernet MAC. The development board contains the Ethernet transceiver.

NetSilicon provides four different real-time operating systems (RTOSs). NET+OS 4 is the primary RTOS. It's based on Express Logic's ThreadX v4 RTOS. The development tools for NET+OS are part of Green Hills' Multi 2000 IDE. NET+OS 4 includes the Fusion 5.0 TCP/IP stack and support for SNMP v3, LDAP, and Active Directory. A new XML Parser provides the basis for protocols like SOAP. The optional NET+Services includes mail, FTP, and Web servers.

The other RTOSs for NET+ARM include uClinux, VxWorks, and Nucleus. GNU tools are used with uClinux while Wind River's Tornado is used with VxWorks. Accelerated Technology's code/lab development environment works with Nucleus. Each RTOS comes with its own set of drivers and services for NET+ARM. All have been tested with the NET+ARM and have comparable services to NET+Services.

The PC x86 architecture is a popular base for SoC products like ZF Micro Devices' ZFx86 family. This family provides a PC-compatible platform, easing cross development. But setting up an RTOS isn't easy, especially when taking advantage of the ZFx86's FailSafe Boot ROM and Z-Tag configuration support.

ZF Micro comes with support for LynuxWorks' BlueCat Linux, Red Hat's Linux, Wind River's VxWorks, and Microsoft's Windows CE. The latter two are royalty-based when a product is delivered. ZF Micro is RTOS-agnostic, providing similar configuration support for each RTOS. This includes drivers for the built-in PC-compatible hardware such as the IDE, USB, parallel, and serial ports.

A typical ZFx86 system can often provide host-based development. But most developers will utilize a cross-platform development approach because most PCs have significantly more power and disk space than a typical embedded system. Still, having the ability to use the same OS on the embedded system is handy. Versions of the ZFx86 are available with minimal on-chip peripherals and specialized peripherals like the ZFx86-TV, which has video support.

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