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LinuxDevices.com: MontaVista unveils fully preemptable Linux kernel prototype

Sep 07, 2000, 13:49 (10 Talkback[s])

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"MontaVista Software has taken the wraps off what it calls a "hard real-time fully preemptable Linux kernel prototype," based on Linux kernel 2.4. The company claims its kernel modification has the power to revolutionize the application responsiveness of Linux, while fully preserving the Linux programming model. The prototype kernel modification is currently showing better than a 10-fold improvement in worst-case kernel responsiveness, but is expected to reach gains of 100-fold or better, by the time the technology is incorporated into MontaVista's Hard Hat Linux distribution in the January 2001 timeframe."

"Kevin Morgan, MontaVista's Vice President of Engineering, says "the kernel modification results in a "relatively fully preemptable kernel at this point in time. The long locks that are held in a SMP environment are being implemented as a no-preempt region, which we feel is a good starting point for this approach. Our goal is to eventually get those to much shorter periods. We've got a lot of measuring work and tuning work to do, as well as refinement of the specific techniques to both drive the responsiveness to even better numbers and to improve some of the architectural attributes. Right now what we're putting out is a prototype, in the best spirit of 'release early, release often'."

"Morgan points out that the enhanced kernel responsiveness is not merely useful for esoteric real-time industrial process control systems, but rather is of value even to today's desktop PC users. "This technology has use in all segments of the market, including the desktop, for the simple reason that desktops these days require multi-programming and multi-processing, with live streaming media in action," says Morgan. "For example, as a desktop user I want to be able to watch a movie and hear the sound, while also running a browser and my mail program. And when I use the mail program and the browser, I don't want any glitches in the movie or sound. That really requires improvements in Linux responsiveness, and that kind of behavior really is a real-time problem, because a human is really pretty good at detecting glitches in continuous real-time operation. So, this technology is applicable on the desktop. And, of course, it's highly applicable in the more traditional embedded control environments."

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