Welcome!

Weblogic Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Michael Meiner, Michael Bushong, Avi Rosenthal

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Virtualization for Deeply Embedded Applications

Virtualization has penetrated far into the enterprise; now it's begun the march into portable electronics:

Readers of Virtualization Journal know that virtualization provides enormous benefits to makers and users of computing platforms ranging from desktops, to servers, and even supercomputers. The reasons for this are now obvious; cost savings through server consolidation, reduced administrative costs, and greater flexibility. Less obvious may be the degree to which virtualization can benefit deeply embedded applications such as cell phones, networking equipment, and point of sales terminals.   
 
While there are similarities in some of the value propositions involved, there are also substantial differences due to the more challenging timing and resource budgets of embedded devices. Real-time processing in embedded applications puts a premium on low latency, highly deterministic approaches to hypervisor design, while the available volatile and non-volatile memory is smaller, often by orders of magnitude, than that available in even a low end desktop machine.
 
The virtualization technique most often used in and enterprise computing or desktop application is known as “full” or “native” virtualization. In this approach, each instruction executed by a guest OS or application is trapped and each privileged instruction, instead of being executed by the underlying hardware platform, is processed by software that fully emulates the underlying hardware. This allows for the greatest flexibility in hosted software as essentially any and all software should, in theory at least, run unmodified. 
 
Unfortunately, this approach takes a relatively large amount of memory and processing overhead. In the enterprise space some of the overhead has been reduced by the inclusion by Intel and AMD of hardware virtualization support but the system overhead is still significant.  In the embedded space that hardware support is quite a bit less mature and the available processing overhead is typically not there.  While it is typical in a computing context to have ‘room for growth’ by virtue of more memory or speed than is strictly required at the time of purchase, in an embedded context this is more often than not labeled as ‘waste’ and not tolerated.
 
In order to get around this issue, most commercial virtualization vendors have adopted a technique known as “paravirtualization.”  In paravirtualization, the operating system and device drivers must be modified to take advantage of the characteristics of the hypervisor or Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM).  In this modification, calls to hardware are replaced by API calls to the hypervisor.  Since the analysis of which instructions must be managed, and just how those instructions should be managed, has all been done during the system’s design and development phase, no run time instruction trapping or analysis is required.  As a result, the performance overhead of operating virtual machines in a paravirtualized system is quite a bit lower, often by orders of magnitude than what was possible in full or native virtualization.  It also means that, as the hypervisor essentially owns hardware access, security between different virtualized domains is much greater, and systems can be built in a more robust fashion.
 
Why Should I Virtualize My Cell Phone?
I often wonder what the conversations were like years ago when microcontrollers were a new concept and customers would ask just what could be done with such a thing.  Most of the now common applications such as engine controls, GPS units, and cell phones would have seemed like so much science fiction.  But, once the basic building blocks were well understood by designers, applications began to come out of the woodwork and the microcontroller became just another generally accepted tool leading by stages to just those applications.
 
With virtualization we’re essentially at that same very early stage where designers may have heard of the technology, but they haven’t fully internalized that they have another tool in their toolkit.  The question now is more along the lines of  “what can be done with LOTs of virtual processors?”
 
When looking at the architecture of a cell phone, as often as not there’s a baseband processor that runs the actual communications, and a separate applications processor that does graphical display, multi-media, and other processing that’s not core to the phone’s basic functionality. Using virtualization, it’s very straightforward to integrate both apps processing and the radio stack on the same physical device saving BOM cost and also considerable development time.
 
Another area of study is how to support handset functionality in a robust fashion, and still have a degree of openness. The Open Handset Alliance’s “Android” platform attempts to answer the “openness” aspect, but actually does little to nothing to preserve the integrity of the handset, a critical issue with carriers.  Using virtualization it is possible to create highly secure and independent profiles for the basic phone function, and for the user, creating flexibility and preserving the integrity of the handset against malware or just simple user error. The Open and Secure Terminal Initiative or OSTI is a good example of this approach (http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/corporate/technology/osti/).

More Stories By Frank Altschuler

Frank Altschuler is in charge of marketing for Trango Virtual Processors, a leading provider of embedded virtualization IP. He has just recently joined Trango from Newisys where he was in charge of marketing for their X86 scaling solutions. He has previously held marketing positions at Starcore LLC, a DSP Intellectual property firm, and Cirrus Logic, a fabless semiconductor company. Prior to moving into marketing, Altschuler spent 15 years in engineering design and development in areas such as communications and electro-optics.
He has earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University. For more information on Trango Virtual Processors, please visit http://www.trango-vp.com or email [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
Machine learning has taken residence at our cities' cores and now we can finally have "smart cities." Cities are a collection of buildings made to provide the structure and safety necessary for people to function, create and survive. Buildings are a pool of ever-changing performance data from large automated systems such as heating and cooling to the people that live and work within them. Through machine learning, buildings can optimize performance, reduce costs, and improve occupant comfort by ...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time t...
CloudEXPO New York 2018, colocated with DXWorldEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.
DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
Disruption, Innovation, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Leadership and Management hear these words all day every day... lofty goals but how do we make it real? Add to that, that simply put, people don't like change. But what if we could implement and utilize these enterprise tools in a fast and "Non-Disruptive" way, enabling us to glean insights about our business, identify and reduce exposure, risk and liability, and secure business continuity?
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the tec...
The deluge of IoT sensor data collected from connected devices and the powerful AI required to make that data actionable are giving rise to a hybrid ecosystem in which cloud, on-prem and edge processes become interweaved. Attendees will learn how emerging composable infrastructure solutions deliver the adaptive architecture needed to manage this new data reality. Machine learning algorithms can better anticipate data storms and automate resources to support surges, including fully scalable GPU-c...
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named "Media Sponsor" of CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO 2018 New York, which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.