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MontaVista Linux 6 is based on OpenEmbedded Technologies

Very interesting news from MontaVista yesterday as they announced MontaVista Linux 6.  It turns out they are using bitbake, which is the core of the OpenEmbedded build system.  Along with the adoption of OpenEmbedded in many leading Embedded Linux efforts (Beagleboard, Gumstix, Bug Labs, etc), this is a resounding affirmation that the OpenEmbedded way of building distributions is worthy of consideration.  It is a well known fact that OpenEmbedded has some deficiencies: a steep learning curve, the testing/quality efforts could be improved, and the organisational aspects of the project are somewhat lacking.  That said, OpenEmbedded is still the most effective tool for building Embedded Linux distributions that I’ve found yet, and is a very viable solution if you are willing to spend some time to learn it, or hire a consultant to get your project set up and work through the rough spots.  MontaVista is attempting to address these difficulties with their MVL6 commercial offering.

Below are few a notes from watching a few videos on the MV web site:

  • Discussion with Jim Ready
    • around 2006 things changed
    • Semiconductor vendors now porting Linux to all their CPUs, so MV has moved up the stack
    • MVL6 first embedded linux distro produced in post-victory phase (Linux has won)
    • very friendly with other open source pieces (I assume OpenEmbedded)
    • enable open source
    • The decision the use Linux is the right decision technically.  What is the right business decision to accompany the technical decision?
  • MVL6 Demonstration
    • toolchains pre-packaged
    • sources are all downloaded from MV servers
  • Interview with Joe Green
    • manager of developer tools team
    • MLV6 is new approach
    • previous editions were consistent for all targets
    • MLV6 more flexible model.  Market specific distros depending on market.
    • source driven product.  Previous products based on binary RPMs.  MLV6 is a lot easier to build the whole environment.  Very customized/fine-tuned distro.
    • key problems MLV6 solves
      • Complete starting point for target hardware
      • complete build system, so you have total control vs pre-canned distribution that sets all the rules
    • Integration platform based on Bitbake.  Working closely with community.  Enhanced in a number of ways.  Customers have the option of bringing in software developed by the OpenEmbedded community and bringing it into their project.
    • Gives you a system that you can configure at almost any level.
    • Enhancements to make it easy to make changes, as well as provide a pre-built starting point.
    • Features to control sources, and environment so the host environment does not contaminate your build.
    • Essentially hardening, and commercializing the bitbake and openembedded projects.
    • Why MVL6 vs roll-your-own.
      • Qualified starting point
      • Support.  Community or Semi-conductor vendor support is hit or miss.
      • Consistent environment accross multiple systems.
      • Includes devrocket graphical tools

Overall, this seems like a very good approach.  I’m glad they are not re-inventing the wheel, but instead have chosen to build on top of a proven open source solution, and leverage the work that is being done by a very active community of OpenEmbedded developers.  The OpenEmbedded project currently has 61 developers (not all are active), and weekly contribution rate is very good.  This type of effort would be very difficult to match by any but the largest commercial organizations.  This should be a win-win situation for all involved.  As a common base technology, the Bitbake and OpenEmbedded projects should improve due to MV’s involvement.  Through the MVL6 product, the OpenEmbedded project and way of doing things will get a lot more exposure and there will be a lot more developers who understand how it works.  Developers who are familiar with the OpenEmbedded build system will be able to apply their knowlege to a greater number of projects.   And developers building products will have more options for getting the support and techology they need.