Linked by Eugenia Loli on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 17:16 UTC
Original OSNews Interviews The main commercial company behind NetBSD is Wasabi Systems. The company has contributed advances and big chunks of code to the open source project, while they do offer a boxed release of NetBSD. However, their main business for the company is the embedded market and NetBSD is marketed as an embedded OS. Today, we talk to the Vice President of Wasabi Systems, Jay Michaelson.
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1 MB RAM just for the kernel?
And that supposed to be for embedded systems? Well, back in the day unix was running on a 64 KB kernel and it could support up to 50 users... Sure, this is not the '70s anymore, however, embedded systems hardware for commodity devices are STILL not powerful in general (e.g. cheap mobile phones are only one example out of many), and they come with a big shortage in memory. Most commodity devices come with 128 KB to 1 MB of memory overall..
So, how Wasabi's NetBSD fits to this market reality? What kind of devices are you running on in the first place?

NetBSD is not just embedded
by MobyTurbo on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 08:09 UTC

Although NetBSD has many strengths in the embedded field, it has strengths in the traditional Unix domains of servers, workstations, and even desktops.

For the desktop sphere, Mozilla, your favorite X Windows window manager, and over 3,000 other programs in pkgsrc (what FreeBSD calls ports) all can be installed out of the box. It's overall elegance in drivers handle the hetrogenic PC market in the case of what I use, the i386 port. (NetBSD was the first *nix to support USB, for example. It's not always ahead of Linux of course in driver support, but typically when something is (frequently) available, it's implemented in a correct fashion.)

Many other details of correctness exist. The code is elegant, the man pages are actually useful, and it's Unix goodness to someone who loves Unix rather than merely hating Microsoft. :-) NetBSD seems to be the best kept secret in the open source world... It's not just for your toaster. ;-)

............
by gumby on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 08:38 UTC

super nice!

NetBSD embedded ?
by RoccoD on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 08:38 UTC

Just as JonP i'd like to know what te target market for wasabi's embedded NetBSD is. When we talk about embedded, most people talk about hard real-time. VxWorks is positioned as a hard realtime OS (Video processing, copiers, path-finders), to my knowledge NetBSD cannot provide that.

wasabi
by bud on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 13:38 UTC

waaaassaaaaaaaa bbbiiii !!!

sorry, had to do that!

Re: Wasabi
by John Blink on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 13:58 UTC

WAAsaBII

Damn you beat me to it. ;)

WaaSAAAAAAAbi ;)

and to put it in context I think NetBSD is cool because it can play on my Amiga 500.

RE: Wasabi
by Tyr on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 14:18 UTC

and to put it in context I think NetBSD is cool because it can play on my Amiga 500

Only if youve seriously modded it, from the website : " Due to the MMU requirement, it will not run on A500, A600, A1000, A1200, A2000, A4000/EC030, CDTV or CD32 out of the box. You must install a CPU board on them to run NetBSD ... minimum RAM requirement is about 8 MB FASTMEM, the minimum hard disk space needed is about 75 MB".

Re: Wasabi
by John Blink on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 14:47 UTC

okay I made that up.

Interview
by Roberto J Dohnert on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 14:48 UTC

Very cool interview

no ?s about iSCSI
by lamo on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 16:15 UTC

Seems you did not ask about one of thier most promising technologies...

I am
by andreas_dr on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 17:07 UTC

very interessted in NetBSD...

I am going to try it on my old Mac soon, maybe it can do the job of a router...

Great work guys ;-)
Keep on rocking

nice!
by red hatter on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 17:16 UTC

This was a very nice interview, but a bit short. We want more juicy details! :-) It's great to see original, unique content on OSNews. I'm glad that people are creating real, money-making business models with open source software. It's very encouraging.

His points about Linux and the GPL are valid, especially to some commercial hardware vendors. However, I wonder if NetBSD can really stay competitive with Linux, as its scalability up and down improves at an increasing rate.

Market
by Will on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 17:26 UTC

I'm a layman in the area, but while there is no doubt demand for hard real time embedded applications, I bet there are many more with less stringent requirements.

With the ready availablity of cheap hardware, and large memory spaces, NetBSD can now be a better fit for a lot of applications, particularly custom small lot projects vs wide scale consumer products where saving $2 in parts is worth the time and money.

It would be interesting to see how small the kernel would get with only a single disk driver, serial driver, VM, scheduler, and FFS. Dump the TCP/IP stack and fall back on good 'ol XMODEM. What more do you need?

I'd dump the VM, but I think that would be far to much work.

1 MB or 400 KB?
by runtime on Thu 3rd Apr 2003 18:00 UTC

On the Wasabi web site, they claim a memory "footprint as small as 400KB." So where did the 1 MB number mentioned in this interview come from? The 400 KB number even claims to include kernel and userland. Maybe 400 KB is the "on disk" size and 1 MB is the runtime RAM size.

http://www.wasabisystems.com/embedded/page5.html

How small can embedded Linux or Windows CE get?

NetBSD already has Java support
by Anonymous on Fri 4th Apr 2003 00:00 UTC

Java support for NetBSD already exists. They have Linux versions that run under emulation and there are also native ports for 1.2.2 and 1.3.1 from the BSD Java Porting team.
Unfortunately this is currently only for i386, but powerpc is soon to come. Many people don't seem to be aware of this.

RE: NetBSD already has Java support
by Eugenia on Fri 4th Apr 2003 00:05 UTC

>Java support for NetBSD already exists.

Obviously, you did not understand the question then. We are talking about EMBEDDED systems here. You can't possibly be thinking that they include both the Linux emulation plus the normal Java packages for a device!! That would need about 64-92 MB of RAM, while we are talking about devices that have up to 0.5-4 MB of RAM. There are special, NATIVE and trimmed versions of Java for embedded systems (and not the desktop versions, running under *emulation*). The stuff you describe only work for the desktop/workstation market, not for Wasabi's business.

Embedded systems
by WattsM on Fri 4th Apr 2003 08:47 UTC

The idea that even a 1M kernel is huge for embedded systems these days is, well, getting archaic. Companies like Micromint are still selling 8051-based microcontrollers with 64K RAM, sure--but they're not even running operating systems, generally, just dedicated applications. Even current generation Z80 chips like the eZ80F9x have a 16M linear address space. When you're talking about even moderately complex applications, NetBSD's requirements for a kernel aren't outrageous.

NetBSD rules
by Niels on Fri 4th Apr 2003 09:42 UTC

I love NetBSD : it's the most elegant Unix I know of. It's a shame it's not better known. I can install it in approx. 20 minutes, X included. Never been able to do that with Linux ! (but Linux has some drivers that are not available on NBSD, alas...)
But, for RT and embedded, I would prefer something like QNX...

Different types of embedded
by petrilli on Fri 4th Apr 2003 13:46 UTC

There is more than one type of embedded market sphere. While there is a enormous market for the kind of kernels that fit on a 8-bit PIC-style CPU, most of those are really more "libraries" than full blown operating systems. This is the kind of thing you see in your toaster, or a microwave, or controlling some little toy. In these markets, you're trying to save every penny because your production volume is in the millions.

The next market is "hard real-time control systems," where your primary concern is response intervals, and these are often run on PPC/i386 platforms with things like QNX and VxWorks for hard-response times. This isn't the NetBSD space.

The NetBSD space is for that other huge set of devices---print servers, NAS, routers, gateways, etc.k, that need more power, but aren't concerned with hard real-time responses. They just need soft real-time. They also need more functionality, and often run things like 486 CPUs, or other processor platforms that are more "commidity" based. The money saved here is in memory and ancillery chips.

comments
by sam on Fri 4th Apr 2003 16:40 UTC

>>>>The money saved here is in memory and ancillery chips.

Not necessarily --- because QNX and VxWorks have even smaller footprints. So if NetBSD can do it with a 486, QNX/Vxworks can do it with a 386. If NetBSD needs 4 Meg of RAM, QNX/Vxworks can do it with 2 Meg of RAM.

And pricing for QNX/VxWorks are all over the place --- most of the disposible ink-jet printers (where the price of ink refill is greater than the printer itself) runs on vxworks ---- per unit royalty for QNX/VxWorks can be less than $1 per ink-jet printer or more than thousands of dollars per MRI machines in hospitals.

So there are always the probably that the cost of per unit royalty for QNX/VxWorks to be less than the cost of increased hardware requirement if NetBSD is used.

QNX / VxWorks
by Frank on Fri 4th Apr 2003 20:13 UTC

QNX is undoubtedly a very elegant microkernel based embedded RTOS.

Interestingly enough, however, if you are doing an application that requires a TCP/IP stack (most of those of interest to NetBSD users) both Wind and QNX use the NetBSD stack (that should say something right there). However, they are both earlier than the current NetBSD version. So, once you add that functionality to your design, the foot print is only marginally different. Certainly not enough to make much difference in the cost of components.

Also, once you get to older "obsolete" chip designs in the x86 world(like 386/486) the cost of the chip is relatively flat due to lower volumes and may actually be higher than a more modern implementation of a low end celeron with plenty of resources for any of these OS choices.

There are several ink jet/laser printer companies (well known and large) using NetBSD for their embedded OS today.

Go NetBSD!

Embedded Linux
by runtime on Fri 4th Apr 2003 20:31 UTC

In case any one is still reading this, I found some rough numbers of Embedded Linux's memory footprint. The following is from Red Hat's web site comparing Embedded Linux and their eCos embedded OS, so they have an interest to "play nice" with both OSes being compared. :-)

http://www.redhat.com/embedded/technologies/ecos/

Linux currently scales from a minimal size of around 500 kilobytes of kernel and 1.5MB of RAM, all before taking into consideration application and service requirements.

eCos provides the basic runtime infrastructure necessary to support devices with memory footprints in the 10's to 100's of kilobytes, or with real-time requirements.

comments
by sam on Fri 4th Apr 2003 22:47 UTC

>>>>Interestingly enough, however, if you are doing an application that requires a TCP/IP stack (most of those of interest to NetBSD users) both Wind and QNX use the NetBSD stack (that should say something right there).

Not necessarily. The newest QNX comes with 3 different tcp/ip stack. While the standard QNX tcp/ip stack is the full bsd tcp/ip stack (which everybody else also provides), QNX also come with a very small embedded tcp/ip stack and a ip6 stack.

And that's only their standard OEM stacks. There are also tons of 3rd party companies that have built even smaller (or even bigger/more functional/more cutting edge) QNX ip stacks for the Cisco's and Motorola's. The same is also true for vxworks and lynx --- they have to --- because telecom is their biggest customers.

>>>So, once you add that functionality to your design, the foot print is only marginally different. Certainly not enough to make much difference in the cost of components.

Just look at the different QNX shells. They have a full-sized korn shell, a fat embedded shell, an embedded shell and a micro-embedded shell. That's the difference between the commercial embedded OS and embedded netbsd/linux --- the pros have the 15-20 years of experience in miniaturizing every single part of their OS. Little things like that quickly adds up to saving a lot of footprint.

>>>There are several ink jet/laser printer companies (well known and large) using NetBSD for their embedded OS today.

Those Ricoh laser printers are usually isolated projects.

http://www.netbsd.org/gallery/products.html

Whereas Vxworks basically cornered HP/Minota/Kyocera range of office products.

http://www.windriver.com/windword/html/oem_choose.html

re: comments
by Anonymous on Sun 6th Apr 2003 06:25 UTC

[snip]

>>>> Those Ricoh laser printers are usually isolated projects.

....

>>>> Whereas Vxworks basically cornered HP/Minota/Kyocera range of office products.



Yes. But will VxWorks corner the printer market *forever*?

Wasabi looks to have a growth market ahead of it.