Performance Technologies Embedded Linux from a Hardware Perspective by lso20334


									                                                                                                     INSIDERS’ GUIDE EMBEDDED RTOS: KEYNOTE INTERVIEWS

      15 December 2008: Embedded Linux from a Hardware Perspective
                           PRODUCT MANAGER
                      TEL. 585-256-0200

  Q. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and your responsibilities at
     Performance Technologies.
  A. I’ve served as product manager for our Communications Software and Hardware
     products at Performance Technologies for the past 8 years. A key aspect of my job is to
     ensure we provide our customers a tightly integrated development environment and
     family of communications protocols for our IO hardware products. Prior to joining
     Performance Technologies I held various product management and marketing positions.
     I hold a BS in Electronics Technology with a concentrated study in Telecommunications
     and Micro Computer Architecture from the University of Central Missouri.

  Q. This guide is, of course, about selecting an embedded RTOS. Performance
     Technologies isn’t an OS company, per se, but you are unique in really
     working hard to unify the choice of hardware and a customized embedded
     Linux. Can you tell us a little bit about the company and your products?
  A. That’s a great point. Performance Technologies isn’t just about the hardware or the
     software; we attempt to differentiate ourselves through tight integration of both elements
     into either an application-ready platform, or at the blade level. And we provide this over
     a wide breath of hardware functions, including: compute, storage, Ethernet switching,
     serial I/O, TDM I/O and voice processing modules. Additionally, we support several
     different industry standards such as AMC, MicroTCA, cPCI and PCI to provide the most
     flexibility to our customers.
      To reiterate, our key differentiator is the fact that we support this wide array of hardware
      with our NexusWare suite of software. Being able to provide customers with software
      and hardware that are proven to be compatible is a huge benefit in getting our customer’s
      products to market quickly.

  Q. Now tell us specifically about NexusWare®.
  A. NexusWare is the brand name for our complete software suite. At the very center of the
     offering is NexusWare Core. NexusWare Core is a complete Linux distribution; it is a
     Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) 4.0 registered OS and is one of three Linux Operating Systems
     that has achieved CGL 4.0 registration through the Linux Foundation. In addition to
     being a Linux OS, NexusWare Core is also a complete development environment that
     provides the user with a full set of tools including: NexusWare Studio, a GUI based
     Integrated Development Environment (IDE) based on the Eclipse framework,
                                                                                                INSIDERS’ GUIDE EMBEDDED RTOS: KEYNOTE INTERVIEWS
    NexusWare Kernel Builder, for optimizing the kernel for specific applications, and
    NexusWare Image Builder, an application image builder for creating custom “gold”
    images that allows customers to include their application and configuration for the
    The key here is that the NexusWare Core API totally extracts the user from the hardware
    and allows them to concentrate fully on application development. By using our API,
    customers have portability if they wish to change hardware platforms as hardware

Q. What are NexusWare WAN and NexusWare C7?
A. NexusWare offers a set of optional installable packages to assist customers in developing
   applications by adding features and flexibility.
    NexusWare WAN includes such protocols as HDLC, Frame Relay, X.25, Asynchronous,
    Tadil-B, and our extensive suite of Radar protocols. NexusWare WAN can be purchased
    as either an installable package to add these protocols to NexusWare Core or as Turnkey
    solutions for those customers only interested in running the protocol.
    NexusWare C7 is Performance Technologies installable SS7 MTP-2 software package for
    use with NexusWare Core. NexusWare C7 allows the customer to add MTP-2 capabilities
    to the base NexusWare Core package and build SS7 platforms that can interface to upper
    level SS7 stacks from third parties.
    Both NexusWare C7 and NexusWare Wan provide the customers timesaving middleware
    and more flexibility when creating their applications using NexusWare Core. A soon to
    be announced addition to NexusWare is NexusWare Portal, which provides a GUI based
    interface for configuring and managing our MicroTCA based platforms and associated
    modules. And in the first half of 2009 we are adding new contemporary protocols for IP-
    based networks to provide even more flexibility and choices for our customers.

Q. How did the idea come about for you to put so much effort into your own
   customized Linux? What are the advantages from a customer perspective?
A. Performance Technologies has always offered its customers powerful hardware solutions
   as a basis to build their applications on. About 8 years ago we identified the Linux
   movement as a means of being able to provide our customers with a pre-integrated
   software offering that would help them with applications development and also
   differentiate Performance Technologies. We really saw the advantage of Linux providing
   us the ability to create a software platform that would allow us to create a robust and
   lower cost software offering for our hardware. This allows our customers to more fully
   concentrate on developing their applications. We strategized that this combined
   approach, where our OS is offered at an extremely cost-competitive price-point and is
   tightly integrated with our hardware solutions, would provide a value differentiator
   versus our competition.

Q. What are the advantages that you see to Linux in general? Is it a choice that
   is strongly pushed by your customers? Why or why not?
A. Obviously Linux has been a huge movement in the software world for the last 10 years in
   that it provided freedom from the tight grips of the traditional operating system vendors.
   I think over the last 5 years you have really seen Linux become more and more adopted as
   the OS of choice as well as becoming more mainstream and gaining more credibility
                                                                                                  INSIDERS’ GUIDE EMBEDDED RTOS: KEYNOTE INTERVIEWS
    through the work of such organizations as the Linux Foundation and through their
    activity with work groups such as the Carrier Grade Linux Work Group. Further, many
    new graduates have been exposed to Linux. These very same graduates are our future
    software developers. So when presented a choice of an OS to develop in, their logical
    solution will most likely be to work in Linux.

Q. In the telecommunications vertical in which you play heavily, many
   developers buy their hardware from one company and then use their own
   Linux or perhaps a version from MontaVista or Wind River. What are the
   disadvantages that you see to this way of developing products?
A. We see three main disadvantages to using a separate hardware and software vendor: first
   is that the customers have to interface with two different vendors, one for the software
   and one for the hardware, and that inherently increases the time to solve problems.
   Second, customers also run the risk of having problems working with both vendors in
   seeking to understand where a root problem may exist. This potentially may take up
   significant critical development cycles and costly resources. Lastly, you will never have a
   hardware/software solution as tightly integrated or resilient to hardware or software
   updates if there are two vendors involved.
    We recently had a customer engagement where this was the case. The customer had been
    seeking to resolve a situation for weeks. When we got involved in the program, we
    suggested an alternative that utilized both our software and hardware, and had the
    customer’s prototype up and running within hours. Another advantage with our
    approach is that NexusWare operates on all functions of the complete hardware platform
    and not just the processing element.
    Also, while you’re correct in stating that we play heavily into the telecommunications
    vertical, we are also aggressively providing embedded hardware and Linux-based
    solutions for aerospace and defense applications as well as achieving deployments in
    commercial markets.

Q. Performance Technologies certainly has competitors on the board / systems
   side, yet you seem almost alone in developing a very robust Linux. Why do
   you think your competitors have avoided becoming a “software” company?
   Or a “hybrid” like yourself?
A. We’ve been evolving to this model for the last 8-10 years. I think it was a great vision by
   our management to place us on this track. Over the past year or two you’ve started to see
   some of our competitors start to emulate what we have done with regard to providing
   both the hardware and software elements. However, our strength is the man-years we
   have invested in creating a proven Linux OS with a well-defined customer basis.

Q. How do you deal with the GPL issues involving Linux? Does that put any
   special burdens or restrictions on your customers who might be developing
   applications on top of NexusWare? Do your customers ever have to modify
   the Linux kernel and then get into GPL issues in that fashion?
A. Customers that are using our NexusWare software really do not change the kernel. This
   is one of the major benefits of our software in that we have made all of the changes so that
   the customers can concentrate on their application. We provide an extensive array of
   well-defined APIs that our customers use which totally abstracts them from having to
   create their own, or worry about lower driver levels for their complete hardware
                                                                                                 INSIDERS’ GUIDE EMBEDDED RTOS: KEYNOTE INTERVIEWS
    platforms. In developing and releasing our software, we follow the guidelines outlined by
    the GPL. We follow the GPL version 2, which does not apply usage restrictions to our

Q. How do you deal with support issues on the Linux side? When a company
   engages with you, do they get or sign up for a “Linux support package?”
A. We offer a number of standard support packages depending on what our customers
   require. Additionally, Performance Technologies is also willing to tailor support packages
   to meet our customer’s needs as well as provide training and various levels of professional

Q. What about downstream changes as the Linux kernel evolves? Do you
   usually update / upgrade their Linux, or are most of your designs not
A. We usually maintain 2 kernel versions at a time. By the customer leveraging our API,
   which abstracts them from the kernel and drivers, they have very few issues when we
   change kernel versions.

Q. What about multiple projects for the same vendor? Isn’t it true that as Linux
   evolves you will have different versions of the kernel at the same company,
   and doesn’t this create a maintenance headache? How far back in time will
   you support a version of NexusWare?
A. As I mentioned, we support 2 versions of the kernel at any given time. But again, through
   our tools and API, changing the kernel version has not been an issue for our customers.
   Being in the embedded market, once our customers complete their application and have
   created their image that contains their applications and configuration files, that is what
   they upload onto our hardware. Kernel changes or hardware changes have very little
   impact on our customer’s applications.

Q. Do you ever think Performance Technologies will become a full-fledged
   software company competitive with Wind River or MontaVista? Or do you
   think you’ll abandon the effort at embedded Linux, and throw your
   customers to their own devices as most of your competitors do today?
A. Our ability to provide both the hardware and software elements in an integrated fashion
   to our customers is a great strength of ours. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but the
   highest regards for Wind River and MontaVista, both of these companies are fantastic
   software houses. Our strength is in our ability to provide more of a holistic approach to
   our customers. I will say, however, that our customers continue to recognize the value
   that NexusWare provides, especially as we continue to offer and sell more application-
   ready platforms. With our extensive prolonged history in embedded hardware, and our
   continuously emerging capabilities within NexusWare, I do not see PTI ever abandoning
   this powerful combination of leading-edge hardware and proven software capabilities.

Q. Thank you for this interview.

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