Embedded Virtualization’s Tipping Point

Embedded engineers remain unfamiliar with concept of virtualization for mobile and embedded systems.

By Cheryl Coupé, Senior Editor

VDC Research analysts expect next-generation technologies – including multicore and operating system virtualization – to be significant growth drivers in the embedded market. Embedded Intel® Solutions asked VDC Vice President Chris Rommel and Analyst Jared Weiner about the trends they’re watching. Based on recent studies by the Embedded Software Practice, they believe mobile and embedded virtualization (MEV) has emerged as a viable alternative to address time-to-market and cost-reduction pressures in the face of the complexity of many new embedded systems. However, the tipping point may not occur until developers gain a stronger understanding and familiarity with these technologies.

Embedded Intel® Solutions: What are some key application demands facing embedded developers that impact their consideration of virtualization technologies?

VDC Research: From challenging economic conditions to increasing time-to-market pressures and costreduction requirements, engineers developing embedded systems must contend with a variety of obstacles. Frequently, these obstacles are in direct conflict with the mounting complexity now associated with many new embedded systems. Increasing mobility needs and intensifying requirements around safety- and/or security-critical applications have increasingly complicated embedded development. Furthermore, the potential benefits of migrating to multicore processors are often overshadowed by an inability to effectively manage the added performance and additional cores enabled by this type of architecture. Mobile and embedded virtualization (MEV) has emerged in recent years as an approach through which to address many of these challenges.

Time-to-market pressures promote virtualization use.

Embedded Intel® Solutions: How do the advantages of virtualization differ in embedded systems compared to more traditional IT applications?

VDC Research: The advantages of virtualization for enterprise systems – which range from potential overhead savings through server consolidation to increased flexibility and data storage capacity – differ slightly as compared to mobile and embedded systems. Many of these differences, of course, are due to the specifications inherent in many embedded designs, including power and memory constraints, and the often small form factor of embedded devices. The top benefits to MEV – according to VDC survey respondents – include the ability to easily port designs to new hardware platforms, the secure partitioning of guest operating systems, and the ability to easily run and manage multiple OSs.

Embedded Intel® Solutions: What kinds of options do developers have in virtualization software to address embedded application requirements?

VDC Research: Leading solutions for the embedded space include Green Hills Software’s INTEGRITY Multivisor, LynuxWorks’ LynxSecure, Real-Time Systems’ RTS Hypervisor, SYSGO’s PikeOS, TenAsys’ eVM for Windows, and Wind River’s Wind River Hypervisor. In the mobile space, Open Kernel Labs’ OKL4 Microvisor and Red Bend Software’s VLX are among the most widely used solutions, while VMware – an enterprise/IT virtualization leader – is expected to raise its profile in mobile.

Embedded Intel® Solutions: What needs to happen in the evolution of virtualization software to meet demands in specific vertical markets such as mil/aero or industrial control?

Respondents’ familiarity with the concept of virtualization

VDC Research: Many applications within these markets require safety-critical certifications, which frequently complicate and add further expenses to development projects. VDC believes that MEV solution providers must continue to address the challenges associated with attaining safety-critical certifications for virtualization-enabled devices in order to further penetrate these and other markets with similar requirements.

Embedded Intel® Solutions: What are your expectations for the growth of embedded virtualization?

VDC Research: Despite the increased attention and dedication to virtualization from mobile and embedded software vendors, little impact has been made on the attitudes of embedded engineers, the vast majority of whom remain less than extremely familiar with the concept of virtualization for mobile and embedded systems. As such, the expectations of mobile and embedded virtualization growth from the supply side seem to outpace the reality of adoption from the demand side. That said, VDC does expect that embedded engineers’ familiarity of virtualization will likely reach a tipping point in the coming years, especially given the continued emphasis on the technology exhibited by the leading vendors in this space. However, the current level of familiarity in the engineering community is an indication that the potential of the mobile and embedded virtualization market remains largely untapped.



VDC Vice President Chris Rommel is responsible for syndicated research and consulting engagements focused on embedded software, hardware and development solutions. Chris holds a B.A. in business economics and a B.A. in public and private sector organization from Brown University.




VDC Analyst Jared Weiner supports all of the Embedded Software and Tools practice’s major research programs and is a contributor on custom research and consulting engagements. Jared received an MBA from Babson College in 2007, and graduated from Bentley College in 2002 with a BS in information design and corporate communication.