While embedded Linux, wireless NICs, and mesh networks are quickly becoming commodities, the effort and design is not. Xwire Linux starts with the build system which is a dynamic and elegant way to manage an application based on open source and the software that glues these components together.

The Build System

All intellectual property about boards, drivers, and wireless is built into a single system that easily manages a system as a turnkey solution. This system creates solutions that are all the "have to haves" for networking and mesh routing is just one of these components. The value that Xwire adds is the ability to reproduce a board specific kernel, a root filesystem, and integrated application from scratch. A new project does not have to be started each time a new idea or new hardware is introduced to the project system.

When open source packages are upgraded, security patches are required, or application ideas are added -- a running live system can reflash itself in real time with the newly created firmware. This is necessary to accommodate a rapid development environment and application changes. Similarly, developing application changes inherited by all target platforms.

Every board, every SDK, every Linux implementation was cobbled together and not quite the right quality that we were looking for. The benefit for developers is a structured core environment for new applications can be developed on top of in a repeatable and very reliable way. In new board development, the major effort is bringing the kernel up. With the exception of Endianness the application can be readapted quickly to the new board. All the core application benefits are still intact.. The benefit for the system integrator and the network engineer is that they don't have to learn a new system each an every time they want a new product added to the architecture. The acceptance and adoptability of new platforms and new boards are much more easy when the interfaces and methods are identical from one platform to another.

Keys to Success

There are a couple levels of support that are keys to creating a successful solution:

First, is platform engineering -- the ability to merge the application component onto a particular platform that's suitable for the task. Second, application engineering -- the ability to take the existing tools that are assembled in the operating system and create reliable solutions that is easily repeatable and reproducable. Finally, network engineering -- the overall architect that designs the system where each of the individual components are assembled together into a complete solution.

Wind River Software and Monte Vista software are the biggest commercial providers of embeddeded Linux and development tools. With MonteVista having 8% marketshare in Asia and Wind River dusting off their new Linux distribution for the same purpose. Despite those powerhouse companies the major competitor in the embedded space are those that roll their own. Time-to-market differences are critical were starting from scratch may take 18 months to complete versus perhaps 4 to 6 months with a well designed configuration management system.