Embedded virtualization has become an increasingly discussed topic in recent years, with leading vendors such as Enea, Green Hills Software, LynuxWorks, SYSGO, and Wind River each dedicating significant resources toward developing and marketing solutions that enable this technology. Webinars, white papers, and other marketing collateral abound, serving to evangelize the benefits of virtualization in the embedded space and promote acceptance and adoption within the engineering community. From lowered BOM costs through hardware consolidation to ease of software reuse and safe/secure partitioning, the potential benefits of embedded virtualization are largely agreed upon by solution suppliers.
But what about the disadvantages of embedded virtualization?
According to respondents to VDC’s 2011 Embedded Engineering Survey, the complexity associated with implementing embedded virtualization was the primary disadvantage of this technology:
Another frequently cited disadvantage of embedded virtualization, potential for vendor lock-in, has been a common criticism also expressed by standalone virtualization vendors such as TenAsys and Real-Time Systems. These suppliers contend that because their hypervisors support a wider variety of guest OSs, particularly with regard to real-time operating systems, their solutions promote a greater degree of flexibility and choice, thus limiting vendor lock-in.
By contrast, vendors such as Wind River and SYSGO have touted the ability to provide customers with a complete, tightly integrated, end-to-end solution – RTOS, Linux, hypervisor, IDE, and support – as a key benefit of acquiring software solutions through a single vendor.
While the risk of vendor lock-in has clearly been recognized by the engineering community, it remains unclear as to which virtualization solutions this concern applies. Is the community as a whole fully aware of virtualization technologies offered by smaller vendors, or do the benefits of “one-stop-shopping” from a large vendor out-weigh any potential benefits provided by a standalone solution?