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The Embedded Software Beat

A Q&A with Jacques Brygier, VP of Marketing, SYSGO

This interview is the fifth in a series that we have conducted with embedded software solution providers to share their views on their company, products, and state of the market.

VDC: SYSGO has been in the embedded software business for over 20 years; can you briefly introduce the company to our readers?

Brygier: SYSGO has been providing software solutions for the embedded market since its foundation in 1991. The company, headquartered in Mainz, Germany, has developed skills and expertise over the years into two areas, actually very complementary: industrial embedded Linux and safety and security certified RTOS. SYSGO has been quite innovative in addressing the needs of the applications requiring the highest levels of safety and security: the company was the first to introduce to the market a certified embedded virtualization solution that is both a full RTOS and a type 1 hypervisor. SYSGO is primarily addressing the A&D, industrial, transportation, medical and automotive markets, but the combination of Linux/Android, safety and security functionality of its offering attracts new customers in industry sectors like smart energy, high range mobile and even consumers.

VDC: SYSGO recently announced it was acquired by Thales. What does this mean for SYSGO and its customers?

Brygier: This is great news for SYSGO! SYSGO remains the same with just more financial backup to move forward. The company keeps its identity, management team, full staff, and offices. It is Thales’ willingness to let SYSGO decide its own growth strategy, including the choice of market segments Thales is not involved with. We of course have to remain the technology innovator we are in the key sectors of A&D, transportation, and security, in order to provide to Thales (and others) the best-of-breed products they need to be successful. But we are free to continue to address the other markets such as automotive, medical, industrial, or even consumers when it makes sense. Thales’ investment is based on the long term. The requirements they have in terms of product features for their own benefits were part of our roadmap anyway: we just have more means to speed up their implementation.

VDC: What are the challenges engineers face today in designing and developing embedded devices and how are embedded software suppliers responding?

Brygier: More than ever, the embedded systems developers have to manage a tremendous increase of functionality requirements but keep a high level of quality at reasonable cost! New software environments like Linux, Java or Android give access to a wide range of graphics, peripherals, and networking capabilities. However, even as the hardware platforms become more and more powerful (thanks to a growing usage of SoCs, multi-core, specialized built-in devices, etc.), the usual requirement for performance is now combined with a growing need for more safety and, maybe more importantly for most of the markets, security. To say it differently, engineers need new ways of implementing software. That’s probably the reason why we see a growing interest in our safe and secure virtualization RTOS: having the ability on the same hardware (I mean processor) to mix real-time and non-real-time, critical and non-critical applications, legacy and brand new code is very attractive!

VDC: SYSGO’s flagship product, PikeOS, is a combination of an RTOS and virtualization platform; Can you explain the concept of PikeOS, and tell our readers what sets this platform apart from the competition?

Brygier: In the early 2000s, SYSGO decided to develop its own operating system approach based on the embedded virtualization concept. After having evaluated different approaches, SYSGO realized that the existing concepts couldn’t support the highest levels of safety and security requirements SYSGO’s customers were asking for. The result of this internal development is the PikeOS microkernel, which today is part of SYSGO’s product portfolio. The target markets are A&D, industrial automation, automotive, transportation, medical, smart energy, part of consumer electronics and all sectors requiring a high level of security. PikeOS enables multiple operating system interfaces to work on separate sets of resources within a single machine. Because of the resource separation enforced by the PikeOS microkernel, multiple applications with different safety and security requirements are able to co-exist in a single machine. Thus, PikeOS can be regarded as a MILS separation kernel as well as a hypervisor. Currently, PikeOS can host about ten different operating system APIs. Among them are ARINC-653, POSIX, certified POSIX, AUTOSAR, different Java virtual machines, Ada and several popular RTOSes such as Linux (SYSGO’s ELinOS is a natural choice), Android, RTEMS or iTRON. PikeOS is certifiable to safety standards like DO-178B/C, IEC 61508, EN 50128, or ISO 26262, and is currently involved in various security standard CC EAL certification projects.

What makes PikeOS different, besides the fact it has no legacy baggage (making it easy to use), is that it is a) truly processor agnostic, supporting a very wide range of processors and not relying on any specific hardware feature but able to use it if needed (I’m thinking about the use of hardware virtualization to manage multicore, for example), b) built on a single set of core components (no derived version or specific flavor depending on the nature of the application such as non certified or certified, safety oriented or security oriented, cost sensitive, resources constrained or large and complex systems), c) offering the widest range of Personalities of the market (12), and d) the first “hypervisor” certified DO-178B, IEC61508 and EN50128!

VDC: You recently released the latest version of your industrial grade Linux platform, ELinOS; How would you describe the state of the embedded Linux market today?

Brygier: We see an increasing demand for Linux functionality in almost all markets. There is a low but steady rate of growth. Our focus is industrial Linux, a distribution that minimizes the side effect of open source software (potential issues of liability, lack of control, roadmap visibility, documentation, etc…) and offers a ready to use, qualified and well-packaged solution. I don’t know if this gives you an idea of the Linux market but I can tell you that almost half of our PikeOS users are using the Linux Personality. Our understanding is that we cannot make Linux safe and secure but thanks to PikeOS we can make its usage in a system safe and secure.

VDC: SYSGO also provides support for safety & security certifications, two areas that have begun to converge in recent years; what is the relationship between safety and security, and what are some of the challenges engineers face as they pursue these certifications?

Brygier: In terms of objectives, safety is quite different from security: one aims at removing any bugs while the other one tries to prevent any hostile attack. But they share in common the fact that they are required in a growing number of systems, increasingly in a jointly manner. There are some features/attributes PikeOS offers that apply to both areas: strict partitioning, controlled communications, availability of system resources, etc. If you combine the rigorous development process of DO-178B Level A and the formal verification of the microkernel, you tend to have a pretty good piece of software. But, even if they share some aspects of the evidence to be provided to comply with their respective standards, the certification process is quite different in spirit and in ways to assess the compliancy. For safety certification, engineers have a set of guidelines that are now quite familiar and easier to handle when you have some experience. A security certification requires first identifying your assets, the threats you envision and the adverse actions the threats can use to harm your assets. In a sense, the objectives must be very specific. The way for the accredited lab to challenge your equipment depends of course on your security objectives but is mostly not known by you. This explains why the timeline of a high level of security validation is usually more difficult to estimate.

VDC: Thank you, Jacques.

Interested in participating in VDC’s “The Embedded Software Beat” series of interviews? Please reach out and let us know.

Jacques Brygier has spent more than 20 years in the business of high technology and computer science where he has acquired a deep knowledge of the software industry, its evolution and its main application fields. He has been more specifically involved in the development of mission-critical and safety critical software solutions. His primary focus has been embedded and real-time applications. Jacques obtained his Ph.D. in Computer Science in University of Lille, France and then joined Alsys to work on Ada compilers and produce the first Ada products available on the market. After working in different technical positions, he obtained his degree in International Marketing and Business in Minneapolis, USA. As the Marketing Director for Aonix, Jacques spent 5 years in San Diego, USA, developing and promoting software development tools before returning to France where he took the position of VP Sales for 3 years. He then became VP Marketing with worldwide responsibility for product strategy, product management and marketing communication. Jacques joined SYSGO in February 2007 to initiate and lead Product Management and Strategy. As VP Marketing he is in charge of all global marketing activities. His main task is to develop the SYSGO portfolio that includes the safe and secure virtualization RTOS platform PikeOS and the Industrial Grade Embedded Linux ELinOS.

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