Aug 28, 2019 Aerospace and Defense

Virtualization for Embedded Systems

By Jessica Schieve

New technological trends are forcing a change in the world of embedded systems. Legacy architectures must give way to a more fluid, software-defined, and connected approach. While virtualization has been a common practice in enterprise IT for years, it is just making its way into the embedded systems market. A robust virtualization solution will enable this transition and offer a way to run any embedded system, old or new, while supporting the security, safety, reliability, and certification requirements of modern embedded systems.

Virtualization for embedded systems has the potential to bring your legacy systems into the modern age and keep your business at the forefront of innovation.

The Evolution of Embedded Systems

Embedded systems are changing. They are moving from purpose-built, closed legacy architectures to ones that are more fluid, software-defined, and connected. New technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) are putting pressure on businesses to innovate faster than traditional legacy technology will allow. What were once isolated systems are becoming increasingly connected. Organizations must determine how they can continue to support legacy architectures along with these new systems.

Multiple components are driving this evolution. First, changes in embedded systems design include improvements in hardware and evolving software development methods. Second, advances in software development techniques point toward more software-defined systems.

Regardless of how embedded systems continue to evolve, the four core requirements remain the same. Embedded systems must be secure, safe, reliable, and certifiable.

Current Challenges

Many manufacturers are facing multiple challenges regarding their current embedded systems:

  • Legacy systems are reaching the end of their lives and must be replaced or updated to align with modern practices and architectures—an extremely expensive and sometimes impossible process.
  • Retirements are reducing the number of developers available to keep the current systems up and running.
  • New market cycles demand shorter development cycles than ever before.

What can be done to combat these challenges?

Wind River Helix Virtualization for Embedded Systems

The Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform is designed to specifically address this transition while taking into account the demanding security, safety, reliability, and certification requirements of modern systems. It enables the consolidation of multiple embedded computing operating systems onto a single device and bridges past legacy systems with the future of embedded devices.

Advantages of Virtualization for Embedded Systems

Advances in hardware and virtualization have occurred in parallel with the evolution of embedded systems. It is now possible to overcome most of the challenges associated with legacy systems running on proprietary hardware. Developers can now consolidate applications and operating systems onto a single platform and hardware architecture.

In addition, this consolidation provides more robust security. More systems mean more surface area exposed to potential attack, and cybersecurity best practices suggest that multiple endpoints are harder to protect than a single endpoint. Consolidation also makes it easier test for vulnerabilities. Security testing can be completed on a single path rather than deciphering potential vulnerabilities across multiple paths. The Helix Platform’s robust partitioning also restricts access to critical embedded system elements. If a malicious actor gets into the embedded system, they aren’t able to attack other areas.

Financial Payback from Virtualization for Embedded Systems

Developers that rely on embedded systems should be able to see a clear return on investment (ROI) as a result of the move to virtualization.

Capital expenses are reduced, as the Helix Platform removes the need to purchase specialized software for hardware development, testing, and production for embedded systems. Virtualization also supports additional savings in terms of operational expenses:

  • Faster product cycles and more efficient testing and QA reduces development spend.
  • The need to hire and retain developers with increasingly rare skill sets is no longer an issue, as developers can now design solutions without worrying about the underlying software.
  • Fewer costs associated with supporting earlier generations for embedded systems, and more applications become consolidated.

Revenue will also increase through the use of virtualization for embedded systems. Faster development cycles mean companies have the opportunity to get more products to market quickly and increase sales numbers. Increased extensibility and integration supports further revenue growth. Lastly, virtualization increases intellectual property (IP) reuse, and organizations can repurpose existing codebases and guest OSs for new embedded system innovations.

Move into the Future with Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform

It’s a new time for embedded systems. Market demand doesn’t allow for slow development processes associated with one-off productions. Organizations must look to virtualization for embedded systems to provide the extensibility and integration expected in today’s products.

The Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform provides the tools businesses need to address the security, safety, reliability, and certification requirements of today’s modern systems. It utilizes a single platform to bridge existing legacy systems with the future of embedded systems in a range of industries. Embedded system developers are no longer trapped in legacy support. The ROI from the Helix Platform provides a clear path forward for developers of embedded systems, who must evolve with the times to support legacy investments.

Interested in learning more about the capabilities, features, and industries revolutionized by the Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform? Download our eBook, Virtualization for Embedded Systems: A Bridge to the Future.

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