Reliable Safety-Critical Software At Design West 2013

April 23, 2013
Technology Editor Bill Wong takes a look at some safety critical software tools and operating systems before the Design West gets started.

Design West 2013

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Design West 2013 is not quite out the chute yet. Tech sessions have been in full swing but the tradeshow floor will not open until tomorrow. In the meantime I talked with a number of vendors before to check out the latest software that will be on display. This includes a mobile version of Green Hill Software’s Integrity RTOS, LDRA’s latest support for standards like DO-178 and McObject’s news embedded RDBMS.

This collection highlights the variety of offerings at the show but only skims the surface on what is available. I had an earlier look at CMX’s compact RTOS (see Small RTOS Drives Cortex-M3/M4). There is more to come when I get a chance to write about it later this week.

Themes like virtualization and clustering are common. Safety and security are themes that look to be moving out from environments like avionics where they are required to industrial and enterprise and even consumer applications areas as demonstrated by Green Hills Software’s mobile version of its Integrity RTOS.

Secure RTOS Targets Mobile Devices

Green Hills Software is well known for its Integrity RTOS. It is used in application areas from DO-178 avionic systems to secure enterprise applications to safety-critical medical applications. The latest incarnation looks to bring improvements in safety and reliability features to mobile devices.

The Integrity Multivisor for Trusted Mobile Devices is now in its fourth incarnation. It a Type 1 hypervisor built on a certified, secure separation kernel. It can now handle ARM VE virtualization extensions. Its virtualization support now includes the latest Android Jelly Bean versions. One of the tricks Green Hills can deliver is 3D hardware acceleration shared between isolated Android instantiations.

The latest version also supports multicore SMP and secure boot. Security has always been part of Green Hill’s offerings. This also includes VPN hypervisor support, Green Hills Software’s FIPS 140-2 and NSA Suite B cryptographic library support, and support for the latest Virtual Self-Encrypting Drives (vSED). The vSED support allows for hypervisor-protected user authentication and data-at-rest protection.

Of course, the system would not be complete without a collection of virtualized and securely shared I/O drivers. Green Hills supports Bluetooth and USB devices including sensors and GPS devices. It has Wi-Fi and cellular voice and dta support. There is audio and hardware-accelerated graphics with touch screen and buttons support.

Streamlining Compliance Management

Certification of avionics projects is a requirement. It is not an easy one to meet and the enumerable artifacts and procedures are necessary. LDRA’s Compliance Management System (LCMS) is designed to provide part of the infrastructure necessary for companies to deliver projects that are compliant with standards like:

  • Aircraft & Systems Development (ARP-4754A)
  • Safety Assessment (ARP-4761)
  • Integrated Modular Avionics (DO-297)
  • Flight Electronic Hardware (DO-254)
  • Flight Software (DO-178B/C)
  • Ground Systems (DO-278/A)

LCMS services can be provided by a local server or via the cloud. The LCMS Cloud provides an economical option for companies that can host their data off site.

The LCMS provides life cycle tools like descriptive process checklists (Fig. 1), fully compliant plans, and problem reports. These are configured to assist customers in managing certification planning, development, verification, and regulatory activities.

Figure 1. LCMS’ checklists ensure proper process compliance for safety standards like DO-178C, DO-278A and DO-254.

LCMS also has configurable templates (Fig. 2) that have been approved by organizations like the FAA for use with safety-critical related standards. LCMS also integrates with the LDRA Tool Suite of development tools as well as third party tools.

Figure 2. : LCMS’s templates can help cut down the thousands of management and engineering hours required for avionic projects and they have FAA approval.

Embedded RDBMS Gets Clustered

An embedded, in-memory RDBMS (realtime data base management system) can run on a range of platforms from hand held mobile devices to multi-board avionics systems. McObject delivers products that span the gamut and their latest versions are impressive. The eXtremeDB 5.0 incorporates new features including dynamic clustering plus .NET and Java class generators. The family includes options such as high availability and 64-bit support. Versions are suitable for safety-critical applications like those that require DO-178 certification.

The dynamic cluster support allows cluster nodes to join and leave the cluster at any time without interrupting data base processing by other nodes. This simplifies management and maintenance. McObject also added a local table option that exempts tables from automatic, cluster-wide replication. Optionally, the local tables can be shareable using a scatter/gather mechanism.

Clusters are designed to support large, distributed applications using hardware like InfiniBand. The latest version of the RDBMS supports the InfiniBand switched interconnect taking advantage of features like low latency, remote DMA (RDMA). The system also supports the Message Passing Interface (MPI) that is commonly used in distributed application communication. These platforms are initially supported under Linux. The eXtremeDB Cluster support can be used on other hardware such as Ethernet.

There are more esoteric but useful improvements like the new support for the NUMERIC and DECIMAL data types. These provide more precise calculations than FLOAT and DOUBLE types. COBOL and other programmers will be very familiar with these variable scale and precision, integer data types.

eXtremeDB 5.0 adds support for nullable data types. This support extends to all of McObect’s application programming interfaces (APIs) including SQL, native C/C++, Java and .NET. This support highlights the range of environments supported by eXtremeDB. The platform’s eXtremeDB’s Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) API is compatible with with Oracle’s JDK 7.

The .NET and Java class generators mentioned earlier are supported by eXtremeDB’s database schema compiler, mcocomp. The compiler can process database schemes written in the DBMS’s native language database definition language (DDL) and generate code defining the equivalent .java and .cs classes. This is handy when creating Java and .NET front-ends that access existing eXtremeDB databases.

A real time DBMS is handy when dealing with a hard real-time Java environment lik JamaicaVM. The JamaicaVM is available from aicas GmbH. It supports fully deterministic garbage collection. It has also been optimized for critical control and visualization systems.

About the Author

William Wong Blog | Senior Content Director

Bill Wong covers Digital, Embedded, Systems and Software topics at Electronic Design. He writes a number of columns, including Lab Bench and alt.embedded, plus Bill's Workbench hands-on column. Bill is a Georgia Tech alumni with a B.S in Electrical Engineering and a master's degree in computer science for Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

He has written a dozen books and was the first Director of PC Labs at PC Magazine. He has worked in the computer and publication industry for almost 40 years and has been with Electronic Design since 2000. He helps run the Mercer Science and Engineering Fair in Mercer County, NJ.

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