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Wind River Linux and VxWorks team up for new Helix Virtualization Platform

Feb 26, 2019 — by Eric Brown 1,398 views

Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform combines Wind River Linux and VxWorks under a common, cloud-managed edge computing platform. Features include virtualization and safety certified functionality, and support for guest OSes and mixed-criticality workloads.

Wind River announced the release of Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform (Helix Platform), which combines the company’s “industry-leading” VxWorks commercial real-time operating system (RTOS) and the Yocto Project based Wind River Linux embedded Linux distribution. The combined offering provides an integrated edge compute platform for applications ranging from industrial infrastructure to autonomous driving. This “scalable and agile platform for edge devices” also permits other 32- and 64-bit OSes, such as Windows, Android, and other Linux and RTOS distributions, to run unmodified as guests within the same framework, says Wind River.

Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform architecture
(click image to enlarge)

Helix Platform supports legacy VxWorks and Linux software running alongside new applications for critical infrastructure that need to run AI algorithms both on edge devices and in the cloud. Helix Platform addresses critical infrastructure development needs, from highly-dynamic environments without certification requirements, to highly-regulated static applications such as in avionics and industrial. It also supports systems requiring the mixing of safety-certified applications with non-certified ones, such as in automotive platforms.

Defining features of Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform are said to include:


  • Robust time and space partitioning leveraging RTOS and virtualization technology, safety certified functionality, and COTS certification
  • Multi-OS capabilities for consolidating mixed-criticality workloads, side by side, on a single edge compute platform
  • Consolidation of multiple applications into one platform, enabling common edge devices to serve diverse system architecture needs, such as low latency control functions on an RTOS alongside Linux-based applications and machine learning frameworks

Over the last decade, Wind River, which is once again independent after Intel sold it last year to investment firm TPG, has made various attempts to integrate VxWorks and Wind River Linux. The company has created various cross-platform cloud and security frameworks for applications that require both the real-time and low-latency benefits of an RTOS and the higher end capabilities of Linux.

In 2015, for example, Wind River launched a Helix Cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform for developing, testing, and managing IoT applications. The platform was accompanied by new lightweight versions of its products called Rocket (VxWorks) and Pulsar Linux.

Wind River Virtualization and Simics integration

As the name suggest, Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform is based on a newer version of Helix Cloud, as well as the Wind River Virtualization hypervisor. However, the integration between VxWorks and Linux appears to be tighter in this latest unifying framework.

The Helix Platform also integrates the company’s Wind River Simics simulation software, which Intel acquired from Virtutech and handed over to Wind River back in 2010. Helix Platform meets the stringent safety-certification requirements of the DO-178C, IEC 61508, and ISO 26262 safety standards, says Wind River. The framework can run on multi-core processors from Arm, Intel, NXP, and Xilinx.

Helix Platform supports the industry trend toward “heterogeneous systems where the development of many critical infrastructure systems requires both an open source Linux and a proven commercial RTOS,” in the words of Wind River president and CEO Jim Douglas. His statement continues: “Drawing from our rich proven technology heritage and unmatched safety expertise, Helix Platform is a critical building block for how we will continue to accelerate the evolution from automated devices towards more intelligent and autonomous systems.”

In a blog entry on the Helix Platform announcement, Wind River’s Michel Genard says the software meets the needs of VxWorks developers who want to update their legacy applications with support for machine learning and computer vision. To accomplish that, they need to integrate Linux.

Alternatively, Genard paints a picture of a company that has developed a Linux-based autonomous robot or car, but then struggles to meet government regulations and safety certifications like DO-178C and IEC 61508. Passing these tests is a lot easier with RTOS technology such as VxWorks. Genard also suggests the platform can help meet the trend toward mixed criticality applications running with multiple OSes on flexible new multicore architectures.

Testimonial quotes were offered by VDC Research, NXP, Xilinx, and Arm. Stated Neil Stroud, Arm’s Director, Technology Strategy, Automotive and IoT Line of Business: “Arm’s industry leading functional safety IP portfolio in concert with Wind River software, provides developers with solutions that safely scale across multiple markets and certification standards.”

Further information

Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform is available now with pricing undisclosed. More information may be found on Wind River’s Helix Platform product page.


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