What it takes for your Linux-based IoT designs to succeed in mass-production IoT

March 12, 2017 OpenSystems Media

In Greek mythology, the story of Charon, the ferryman, goes like this: to cross the river Styx to the underworld, souls needed Charon’s guidance. Those who did not get his help were forced to wander the shores, lost for a hundred years.

If you listen to some industries prognosticators, Linux is the be all, end all, for all your embedded needs. While that may be true given its great advancement and innovation rate, going from prototyping an IoT solution to mass production are two totally different things. Sure, you need the apps, but it takes a lot more to productize your device idea. You need vital components for productization and commercialization: from a strong and secure software and hardware foundation to the post-market management of connected devices that still need to be protected from cyber threats — all components that open source will not be able to provide.

So instead of wondering off the shores for a hundred years, you need to find an experienced champion to guide you through this journey — someone like Wind River, with a rich history of software security to ensure that those Linux devices remain secure and protected.

In response to developers’ needs, Wind River has created the Pulsar Linux OS to handle the requirements of today’s Internet of Things (IoT) applications. To get you started, a free download of Pulsar is available. The operating system (OS) also ships with hardware from select partners like Advantech, Avnet, and many more in the works to bring the benefits of a complete solution to customers.

The goal of Pulsar is to provide a container OS designed to deliver a steady flow of bug fixes and security vulnerabilities fixes to protect deployed devices and mitigate cost of ownership and risks associated with unmanaged open source technology. It will get you going right away on embedded and IoT developments.

Pulsar is a minimally-layered container OS that’ll run on any device, from small to large, from low performance to high performance. As such, applications are packaged in separate boxes or containers, each with a different functionality. The application can be extended by sandboxing part of the platform where you add your “things.”

Wind River is no stranger to secure OSs, as its VxWorks OS is a leader in the embedded industry. It’s now bringing that same thought leadership to the commercial open source market with Pulsar. While we know the pedigree behind the product, you may not, but no worries: Pulsar is developed as community project and available for download for you to take a test drive, try out, extend, and finally adopt.

In the IoT space, developers (and the public at large) are quite concerned about security, as products are hitting the shelves in record time. It’s great to get a product out the door so quickly, as long as no area, including the security, is getting short-changed. Unfortunately, security check boxes are not always checked, particularly with some of the flavors of Linux that are floating around in the industry. That’s one of the beauties of working with Wind River. We bring the legacy and expertise of decades of work in this space.

One way we maintain security is by having every image of Pulsar connected through an agent on our update network. This is where every device that’s powered by Pulsar can download updates as they become available. It’s similar to what happens in the IT and PC worlds, where when you boot your PC, it searches for updates and prompts the user to install them when available. This gets devices updated and protected against security vulnerabilities like heartbleed, shellshock, or drown — the kind of man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks that you have to fix right after they are discovered.

The great wave of security vulnerabilities that get discovered every year (6000 on average) shows that not all software is impenetrable, inviting hackers and breaches. One caveat is to only consider the “problem” from the perspective of the hardware, concentrating more on hardware compatibility than on the software, an area where Wind River obviously shines. And we all know that it only takes one chink in the armor to do you in.

Beyond the security, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of Pulsar and how easy it is to navigate, regardless of whether your application will reside directly on the edge device or in the cloud. Either way, a host of tools is available to help ease the development process. Many of those tools come directly from Wind River, but just as many hail from third-party developers who have thrown their hat in the ring to support Pulsar.

Because the OS enables application middleware abstraction, any application from just about any ecosystem can run on the device. Software packages can be built on the target and added from a certified repository. And this is done while running multiple isolated systems (containers) on just one control host.

But don’t take my word for it. Download a copy yourself and give it a look at pulsar.windriver.com.

Davide Ricci is Director of Product Management and Marketing at Wind River.

Wind River, an Intel Company

www.windriver.com

@WindRiver

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/wind-river

Davide Ricci, Wind River
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