Extend the Lifecycle of Embedded Systems with a Hypervisor

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Embedded Systems

Extend the Lifecycle of Embedded Systems with a Hypervisor

Multiple embedded systems are at the heart of medical devices, transportation systems, automobiles, heavy equipment, and industrial robotics. In complex systems like these, a hypervisor provides the supervision to safely and reliably allowing separate functional software areas to share common hardware and resources.

When it comes time to develop a new version of a system, the capabilities of the hypervisor play an important role in a product team’s ability to rapidly create, test, and certify a new safety-critical product.

What is an Embedded Hypervisor?

Embedded hypervisors allow virtualization, in which software is used to divide hardware resources into separate execution environments called virtual machines (VMs). A hypervisor manages these virtual machines, making sure they share resources without conflict.

Ensuring critical systems start immediately at power on – every time and without delay or runtime inconsistencies – is also a role of a hypervisor, as is protecting security-sensitive interfaces within the virtual machines.

Five Ways a Hypervisor Supports Innovation

Flexibility and expandability are essential to innovation. As system-on-chip vendors add more computing cores with more processing power, developers gain long-term advantages with a standards-based, expandable hypervisor design.

With these capabilities, a hypervisor allows embedded systems developers to:

  • Reuse proven, legacy software: A manufacturer may want to reuse previously certified software in a new product. A hypervisor allows a development team to bring forward legacy software into a new device or board and can encapsulate the legacy software, and new functionality or applications can be added around it easily, even if they are running on a different operating system (OS).
  • Reduce costs: A hypervisor can be used to consolidate multiple electronic control units (ECUs) into a single domain controller. Combining systems can save cost, size, weight, and power consumption.
  • Protect safety-critical systems: It’s important that safety-critical systems cannot be impacted by other systems. A hypervisor keeps functional areas separate, so that if a Linux-based system malfunctions, for example, other systems remain available.
  • Start small and innovate with confidence: New product development also benefits from a hypervisor. Software components can be built by independent teams, tested separately, run together, and swapped out without affecting other systems, losing reliability, or having to retest the whole system.
  • Simplify product testing, verification, and certification: In a safety-certified hypervisor, the use of standards simplifies product testing, verification, and certification for the current and future generations of products. For instance, the QNX Hypervisor 2.0 for Safety supports standards such as POSIX C (and C++) for hypervisor host services and VirtIO for custom virtual devices, pre-certification to ISO 26262 ASIL D and IEC 61508 SIL 3, and compliance with IEC 62304.

A Hypervisor for Reusable, Scalable, Secure Systems

The BlackBerry QNX Hypervisor provides broad design flexibility to allow a development team to deliver next-generation product features with multiple virtual machines, high-speed connectivity, custom and off-the-shelf device drivers, encryption services, system monitoring services, shared storage, and more.

By supporting real-time response and priority-based scheduling of virtual machines, including where multiple virtual machines share the same CPU cores, the BlackBerry QNX Hypervisor allows designers to:

  • Blend virtual and host environments
  • Run separate and isolated guest operating systems
  • Develop full-featured hypervisor environments that share graphics, audio, and touchscreens between guests and the host
  • Support the safe co-existence and control of unmodified Android, Linux, QNX, and other operating systems
  • Communicate between virtual machines

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Randy MartinThis article was written by Randy Martin and originally it was published here. Randy serves as Product Manager Virtualization Technologies, BlackBerry QNX. He is an energetic outgoing Technical Sales Representative, Product Manager, Product Marketing Manager, Technical Writer and Technical Sales Manager with 15+ years of proven results. Strong team builder, mentor, facilitator and motivator.

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