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2022-11-26 - 18:09

Dates and Events:

OSADL Articles:

2022-01-13 12:00

Phase #3 of OSADL project on OPC UA PubSub over TSN successfully completed

Another important milestone on the way to interoperable Open Source real-time Ethernet has been reached


2021-02-09 12:00

Open Source OPC UA PubSub over TSN project phase #3 launched

Letter of Intent with call for participation is now available


2016-11-12 12:00

Raspberry Pi and real-time Linux

Let's have a look at the OSADL QA Farm data



Industry-grade Linux

The evolution of so-called "Linux distributions"

When the Linux kernel started to develop and gain momentum at the end of last century, it was – together with user applications and libraries developed in the GNU project – mainly used for file and other servers. Only a few enthusiasts ventured to use it on workstations. Use in industry was not to be thought of at first. In the following years, so-called Linux distributions were created, which contained everything needed for a usable Linux system for desktop computers and servers. The main tasks of manufacturers and contributors of such distributions were

  • to combine software components that are compatible with each other,
  • to establish a software package management to allow
    • automatic software installation
    • software updates for bug fixing
    • entire system upgrades
    from local media and via Internet,
  • to run automated build and continuous integration systems to ensure production quality.


It is certainly an important merit of these distributions that Linux systems evolved and can today easily be deployed as servers in a wide variety of use cases and also as workstations on standard PC platforms. However, it should be noted that this was only possible, because most server and workstation platforms use standard hardware and interface components.

Linux in industry

It was a big surprise for many when in the early 2000s industry started to include Linux in short lists when operating system software was evaluated – it had been generally assumed that Linux would first have to prove itself in office operation and on workstations before it was used for the high-responsibility tasks of industrial products. But the advantages were impressive:

  • Continuous availability of the software
  • Freely available source code
  • Limitless freedom to adapt the software to own needs
  • A growing community of experts

which is also known as the complete elimination of "vendor lock"; in addition, there were no license fees. The main disadvantage of license fees was not always the fact that companies had to make a certain payment, since it often was relative low in comparison to the other costs. The biggest disadvantage of license fees of proprietary software was the license management, which could lead to technical problems (think of dongles) and was often associated with extensive concessions to software manufacturers in terms of controlling production processes and quantities.

The dilemma

However, there was (and still is) a dilemma, since currently available Linux distributions – even if developed explicitly for industry – do not fulfill everybody's wishes. This mainly results from the fact that industrial control systems use less uniform hardware platforms and have a much wider range of use cases than workstations and servers. When intended to be used in industry, Linux distributions may lack support for

  • automated field updates
  • low-delay security patches
  • safety certification
  • real-time operation
  • small memory footprint
  • a particular architecture or controller
  • sufficiently long support
  • license compliance for redistribution
  • etc.

What can be done?

 

Due to the very heterogeneous landscape of Linux distributions that are currently in use, the most reasonable approach to improving the current unsatisfactory situation is to pick one or more existing distributions that come closest to an ideal industry-grade Linux and complement them with missing components.

Questionnaire

An important prerequisite to improving any existing distribution is to know which particular set of tools, functions and components makes up an "ideal industry-grade" Linux distribution. In close collaboration with its partners from industry, OSADL, therefore, has initiated a related two-months community survey that is open to everybody who wishes to participate.

Next steps

When the results of the survey are available, a working group will be established to see if a corresponding OSADL project can be initiated based on these results. All participants of the survey who have left their email address will be informed about the next steps.