path: root/c-user/preface.rst
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.. SPDX-License-Identifier: CC-BY-SA-4.0

.. Copyright (C) 1988, 2008 On-Line Applications Research Corporation (OAR)


In recent years, the cost required to develop a software product has increased
significantly while the target hardware costs have decreased.  Now a larger
portion of money is expended in developing, using, and maintaining software.
The trend in computing costs is the complete dominance of software over
hardware costs.  Because of this, it is necessary that formal disciplines be
established to increase the probability that software is characterized by a
high degree of correctness, maintainability, and portability.  In addition,
these disciplines must promote practices that aid in the consistent and orderly
development of a software system within schedule and budgetary constraints.  To
be effective, these disciplines must adopt standards which channel individual
software efforts toward a common goal.

The push for standards in the software development field has been met with
various degrees of success.  The Microprocessor Operating Systems Interfaces
(MOSI) effort has experienced only limited success.  As popular as the UNIX
operating system has grown, the attempt to develop a standard interface
definition to allow portable application development has only recently begun to
produce the results needed in this area.  Unfortunately, very little effort has
been expended to provide standards addressing the needs of the real-time
community.  Several organizations have addressed this need during recent years.

The Real Time Executive Interface Definition (RTEID) was developed by Motorola
with technical input from Software Components Group.  RTEID was adopted by the
VMEbus International Trade Association (VITA) as a baseline draft for their
proposed standard multiprocessor, real-time executive interface, Open Real-Time
Kernel Interface Definition (ORKID).  These two groups are currently working
together with the IEEE P1003.4 committee to insure that the functionality of
their proposed standards is adopted as the real-time extensions to POSIX.

This emerging standard defines an interface for the development of real-time
software to ease the writing of real-time application programs that are
directly portable across multiple real-time executive implementations.  This
interface includes both the source code interfaces and run-time behavior as
seen by a real-time application.  It does not include the details of how a
kernel implements these functions.  The standard's goal is to serve as a
complete definition of external interfaces so that application code that
conforms to these interfaces will execute properly in all real-time executive
environments.  With the use of a standards compliant executive, routines that
acquire memory blocks, create and manage message queues, establish and use
semaphores, and send and receive signals need not be redeveloped for a
different real-time environment as long as the new environment is compliant
with the standard.  Software developers need only concentrate on the hardware
dependencies of the real-time system.  Furthermore, most hardware dependencies
for real-time applications can be localized to the device drivers.

A compliant executive provides simple and flexible real-time multiprocessing.
It easily lends itself to both tightly-coupled and loosely-coupled
configurations (depending on the system hardware configuration).  Objects such
as tasks, queues, events, signals, semaphores, and memory blocks can be
designated as global objects and accessed by any task regardless of which
processor the object and the accessing task reside.

The acceptance of a standard for real-time executives will produce the same
advantages enjoyed from the push for UNIX standardization by AT&T's System V
Interface Definition and IEEE's POSIX efforts.  A compliant multiprocessing
executive will allow close coupling between UNIX systems and real-time
executives to provide the many benefits of the UNIX development environment to
be applied to real-time software development.  Together they provide the
necessary laboratory environment to implement real-time, distributed, embedded
systems using a wide variety of computer architectures.

A study was completed in 1988, within the Research, Development, and
Engineering Center, U.S. Army Missile Command, which compared the various
aspects of the Ada programming language as they related to the application of
Ada code in distributed and/or multiple processing systems.  Several critical
conclusions were derived from the study.  These conclusions have a major impact
on the way the Army develops application software for embedded
applications. These impacts apply to both in-house software development and
contractor developed software.

A conclusion of the analysis, which has been previously recognized by other
agencies attempting to utilize Ada in a distributed or multiprocessing
environment, is that the Ada programming language does not adequately support
multiprocessing.  Ada does provide a mechanism for multi-tasking, however, this
capability exists only for a single processor system.  The language also does
not have inherent capabilities to access global named variables, flags or
program code.  These critical features are essential in order for data to be
shared between processors.  However, these drawbacks do have workarounds which
are sometimes awkward and defeat the intent of software maintainability and
portability goals.

Another conclusion drawn from the analysis, was that the run time executives
being delivered with the Ada compilers were too slow and inefficient to be used
in modern missile systems.  A run time executive is the core part of the run
time system code, or operating system code, that controls task scheduling,
input/output management and memory management.  Traditionally, whenever
efficient executive (also known as kernel) code was required by the
application, the user developed in-house software.  This software was usually
written in assembly language for optimization.

Because of this shortcoming in the Ada programming language, software
developers in research and development and contractors for project managed
systems, are mandated by technology to purchase and utilize off-the-shelf third
party kernel code.  The contractor, and eventually the Government, must pay a
licensing fee for every copy of the kernel code used in an embedded system.

The main drawback to this development environment is that the Government does
not own, nor has the right to modify code contained within the kernel.  V&V
techniques in this situation are more difficult than if the complete source
code were available. Responsibility for system failures due to faulty software
is yet another area to be resolved under this environment.

The Guidance and Control Directorate began a software development effort to
address these problems.  A project to develop an experimental run time kernel
was begun that will eliminate the major drawbacks of the Ada programming
language mentioned above. The Real Time Executive for Multiprocessor Systems
(RTEMS) provides full capabilities for management of tasks, interrupts, time,
and multiple processors in addition to those features typical of generic
operating systems.  The code is Government owned, so no licensing fees are
necessary.  RTEMS has been implemented in both the Ada and C programming
languages.  It has been ported to the following processor families:

- Adapteva Epiphany

- Altera NIOS II

- Analog Devices Blackfin

- Atmel AVR


- Freescale (formerly Motorola) MC68xxx

- Freescale (formerly Motorola) MC683xx

- Freescale (formerly Motorola) ColdFire

- Intel i386 and above

- Lattice Semiconductor LM32

- NEC V850


- Moxie Processor

- OpenRISC

- PowerPC

- Renesas (formerly Hitachi) SuperH

- Renesas (formerly Hitachi) H8/300

- Renesas M32C

- SPARC v7, v8, and V9

Since almost all of RTEMS is written in a high level language, ports to
additional processor families require minimal effort.

RTEMS multiprocessor support is capable of handling either homogeneous or
heterogeneous systems.  The kernel automatically compensates for architectural
differences (byte swapping, etc.) between processors.  This allows a much
easier transition from one processor family to another without a major system

Since the proposed standards are still in draft form, RTEMS cannot and does not
claim compliance.  However, the status of the standard is being carefully
monitored to guarantee that RTEMS provides the functionality specified in the
standard.  Once approved, RTEMS will be made compliant.

This document is a detailed users guide for a functionally compliant real-time
multiprocessor executive.  It describes the user interface and run-time
behavior of Release of the C interface to RTEMS.