Open systems, reliability, and security are primary drivers in software development environments

Nov. 1, 2005
Security, reliability, and open-systems features are some of today’s most notable technology trends in applications of software design and development tools and integrated environments.

By John Keller

Security, reliability, and open-systems features are some of today’s most notable technology trends in applications of software design and development tools and integrated environments.

Moreover, the ever-increasing size, complexity, and proliferation of software code throughout military and aerospace electronic and optoelectronic systems is driving software developers away from proprietary tools and environments and toward industry-standard products-which are often compatible with open-systems software tool interfaces such as Eclipse.

“Increasing software content in electronic devices drives the need for ever-increasing productivity of software development teams,” says Rob McCammon, director of product management for the Wind River Workbench Development Suite at Wind River Systems in Alameda, Calif.

Wind River is best known for the company’s VX Works real-time operating system for embedded applications. Workbench is an Eclipse-compatible open-systems software development environment that integrates third-party software engineering tools, and supports multiple-target operating systems, process/task/thread debugging, and several hosts and processor architectures.

Eclipse is an open-source application framework for building software that provides tools and frameworks that support tasks ranging from modeling, language development environments for Java, C/C++ and others, testing and performance, business intelligence, client applications, and embedded development. For more information on Eclipse see

“Increasing software density and complexity drives software developers toward a single environment,” says Rob Hoffman, Wind River’s program director for aerospace and defense field operations. “This will help move them to more powerful processors, and makes software development practical. Developers would have trouble meeting budget and time to market without that.”

Wind River’s McCammon points to software trends toward connecting a wide variety of electronic systems, which such as that envisioned in the U.S. military’s Global Grid concept.

“Software components need to talk to each other,” McCammon says. “Interconnection is driving us pretty hard. The kinds of software middleware that are more common in telecommunications now are needed in aerospace and defense. One example is software-defined radio, which requires XML/SOAP, and CORBA.”

Software complexity and open systems also are driving Wind River engineers to embrace open-systems software such as the Linux operating system. “Workbench works just as well for Linux as it does for VX Works,” McCammon says.

The growing popularity of Eclipse is also driving software experts at LynuxWorks Inc. in San Jose, Calif. LynuxWorks produces the Luminosity Eclipse-based integrated software development environment.

“LynuxWorks is a strong advocate of open systems and open source, from Posix to Linux as customers want to move to Eclipse, an open-tool environment; it is consistent with our customer strategy,” says Steve Blackman, director of military and aerospace business development for LynuxWorks.

In addition to open-systems frameworks like Eclipse, LynuxWorks engineers are paying close attention to industry trends that call for an ability to debug software that runs across several processors in multithreaded tasks.

“There is a need for more and more multiprocessor-, multi-CPU-, multi-everything debugging,” Blackman says. “We address that with our TotalView tool to provide debugging across multiple threads and processes. It is no longer a single-CPU world; everything is more distributed, and more connected, and debugging in that environment is a requirement.”

The industry press toward interconnected software also is contributing to the ever-growing size of military and aerospace software programs. Such complexity is driving software developers toward commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) development environments not only to keep costs down, but also because closed-system proprietary solutions are simply becoming impossible to use for programs of such large size.

“Everything is big and connected, and how do you debug in this environment?” Blackman asks. “Everything is homogeneous now. Everything has to talk to the other components. In the future we will see a common development environment across different sets of devices, from CPU, to FPGA, to DSPs. We will see this in the next five years.”

In the midst of open-systems trends in software development, however, companies are not losing sight of the military and aerospace imperatives to provide security and high reliability in system software.

“One trend that seems clear is the emphasis on highly secure, high integrity, and high reliability,” says Robert Dewar, president and chief executive officer of AdaCore in New York. AdaCore provides the Gnat Pro Ada development environment for real-time military and safety-critical applications.

It is a general trend to make software more reliable, Dewar says. “Also the focus on terrorism has raised interest in high-security software.” Reliability, he says, “is software that won’t fail from its own incompetence,” and security involves “software that won’t fail because people attack it.” Dewar points to DO-178B as a venerable reliability and security standard that has been successful in the avionics industry.

The DO-178B standard for software reliability is a primary concern and technology driver for software experts at Green Hills Software in Santa Barbara, Calif., which provides the MULTI software development environment, as well as the INTEGRITY real-time embedded operating system.

“In the military and aerospace area, two overriding goals are reliability and security, and that is our specialty,” says Dan O’Dowd, the Green Hills founder and chief executive officer. “With the emphasis on reliability, we are primarily focused on DO 178B level-A specification.”

On the open-systems front, O’Dowd says he does not believe that the Eclipse open framework for software development tools may not be appropriate for the safety and security software markets. Demanding applications, he says, require more than Eclipse can offer.

Click here to download a .PDF of software design and development environments and tools for military and safety-critical applications.

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