Friday, January 7, 2011

What is Linaro?

Happy New Year!

With the onset of this New Year I decided to share insight (once in a while) into topics that indirectly affect the verification engineers. While browsing the product list at Consumer Electronics Show 2011, I see that a large no. of devices getting showcased run on Linux variants. A quick analysis into the product development of these devices reveals some shortcoming.


-      With application driven designs picking up, the system companies want chip vendors to provide a platform (middleware+hardware) ready for application development. With each vendor having proprietary platform, applications may not utilize the hardware features optimally as the app developers have little or no knowledge of the hardware features.
-      With software claiming majority of SOC development cost, controlling this rising cost is a must so as to avoid limited no. of new (costly) SOC designs at future nodes. Companies need to cut down on any redundancies to lower cost.
-      System companies find it difficult to evaluate SOCs from multiple vendors as both the hardware and software are variables in this process.
-      Unless the system companies have squared down on the vendor the application development cannot start. 

Linaro’, a not for profit, open source organization formed by contributions from ARM, Freescale, IBM, TI, Samsung and ST-Ericsson.  It is focused on delivering optimized tools and software for Linux on ARM Cortex-A processors. Linaro has five Working Groups: Graphics, Multimedia, Power Management, Kernel consolidation with tools focusing on middleware (e.g. multimedia and graphics) and low level software (e.g. kernel and boot). It would be working with Linux-based distributions, such as Android, LiMo, MeeGo, Ubuntu and webOS, to create regular releases of optimized tools and foundation software that can be used widely by the industry. User interfaces & applications needs to be built on top of Linaro code.
The generic middleware available from Linaro results into no. of benefits -
-    Improved Time to Market with significant reduction in product development cycles.
-    Optimal use of hardware features to improve power & performance.
-    Minimizing redundancies reduces cost of SOC development.
-    Increase choice of hardware with software no being a variable anymore.
-    Provides a platform to compare hardware from different vendors.
As of now Linaro only supports Linux on ARM processors. It would be interesting to watch how other vendors (mainly Intel) react to this. Do they join Linaro or extend a parallel offering.  Also, recently some SOC vendors have revealed their own processors claiming it to bring in the differentiating factor for their products. With multiple processors pitching in, Linaro (though promising) may see a long road to success.


  1. Thanks for your interesting post!

    A comment about the pitfalls....

    Linaro only targets the ARM ecosystem so far, though it benefits to cross-platform projects (Linux, gcc, Valgrind, QEMU...)

    ARM cpu vendors can still differentiate with hardware features: power management, performance, gpus, acceleration blocks... That's why Linaro is very useful: it allows ARM cpu vendors to share their investments in common plumbing and infrastructure, making the platform more attractive. Then, this leaves more budget to work on those differentiating features.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for the comments.

    Yes, Linaro definitely provides a series of advantages for ARM based SOCs. Given that there is no specific bottleneck to support other processors also, I believe it still is an industry standard in the making.