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Intel and Linux Foundation develop open-source IoT hypervisor

Steve Rogerson
March 22, 2018
Intel is working with the Linux Foundation to develop an open-source hypervisor for IoT device development.
The Acrn (pronounced acorn) embedded reference hypervisor project will use engineering and code contributions from Intel. The hypervisor was built with real-time and safety-criticality in mind, and optimised to streamline embedded development.
This project will provide a framework for industry to build an open-source embedded hypervisor specifically for the IoT.
Acrn is comprised of two main components: the hypervisor and its device model, complete with IO mediators. Intel’s experience in virtualisation technology was key to the initial development of the hypervisor.
“With project Acrn, embedded developers have a new, immediately available hypervisor option,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. “Acrn’s optimisation for resource-constrained devices and focus on isolating safety-critical workloads and giving them priority make the project applicable across many IoT use cases. We’re pleased to welcome project Acrn and invite embedded developers to get involved in the new community.”
Developers can benefit from Acrn’s small, real-time footprint, which is flexible enough to accommodate different uses and provides consideration for safety-critical workloads. Consolidating a diverse set of IoT workloads with mixed criticality on to a single platform helps reduce development and deployment costs, allowing for a more streamlined system architecture.
An example of this is the electronic control unit (ECU) consolidation in automotive applications. While open source hypervisor options are available today, none are said to share Acrn’s vision of an open-source hypervisor optimised for embedded and IoT products.
“Acrn will have a Linux-based service OS and the ability to simultaneously run multiple types of guest operating systems providing a powerful solution for workload consolidation,” said Imad Sousou, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s open-source technology centre. “This new project delivers a flexible, lightweight hypervisor, designed to take real-time and safety-critical concerns into consideration and drive meaningful innovation for the IoT space.”
Acrn will incorporate input from the open-source, embedded and IoT developer communities and encourages collaboration and code contributions to the project. Early Acrn project members include Adlink, Aptiv, Intel, LG Electronics and Neusoft.
“The lack of open-source virtualisation for embedded, real-time and safety-critical systems has been greatly hindering consolidation and to some extent the most interesting forms of fog computing,” said Angelo Corsaro, chief technology officer of Taiwanese company Adlink Technology. “The release of Acrn as a Linux Foundation project by Intel will be a game changer as it brings the agility and manageability of virtualised environments into embedded and real-time systems. This will be a key enabler towards making the industrial internet of things happen for real.”
Lee Bauer, vice president of Aptiv, said the approach from Intel fitted very well within its product roadmap and was a welcomed approach that would meet its customers’ desire to have more open-source references.
“Aptiv is excited to be a part of this new project Acrn, and with it usher in a new era of flexibility and scalability for our mobility IoT products,” he said.
Seongpyo Hong, vice president of LG Electronics, added: “Because Acrn will allow for faster feasibility checking of ECU consolidation, it will benefit our growing vehicle components business. As a result, we will be able to respond more quickly to OEMs’ customised requirements and will continue to play a key role in contributing to the Acrn project.”
And Meng Lingjun, vice president of Neusoft, said: “As Intel’s strategic partner, Neusoft is pleased to join Intel in project Acrn. Acrn has landed in China’s automotive electronics industry with practical implementation. I believe Acrn can meet the development requirements of IoT technology. We’re pleased to work with open-source communities and introduce Acrn into the ecosystem.”
Founded in 2000, the Linux Foundation provides tools, training and events to scale any open-source project, which together deliver an economic impact not achievable by any one company.