Click here to close now.


Linux Containers Authors: Flint Brenton, Jennifer Gill, Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, Tim Hinds

Related Topics: Linux Containers, Mobile IoT

Linux Containers: Article

OSDL Mobile Linux Initiative

The Linux Platform and the explo$ive mobile market

The global mobile phone market is enjoying explosive growth. With annual unit sales in the hundreds of millions, Gartner analysts estimate that by 2009 the worldwide installed based will top 2.6 billion mobile handsets. For the Linux and Open Source segment of the IT industry, such numbers are tantalizing, orders of magnitude beyond shipments and even the installed base for servers, and far greater in volume than the worldwide desktop market. For the Linux software and related hardware markets, mobile phones are an opportunity to "break out" and enjoy greater market share in client devices, complementing the already important presence of Linux in the voice and data communications infrastructure.

Linux on the Move
In 2004 and 2005, Linux made strong gains as a mobile phone OS. In 2005, OEMs in the Asian marketplace shipped 10 million-15 million phones with almost two dozen phone models based on Linux. Top-brand OEMs LG, Motorola, NEC, Panasonic, and Samsung have a strong commitment to the Open Source OS; so do emerging Chinese brands like Datang, e28, Haier, Huawei, and ZTE.

In the July 2005 issue of LinuxWorld Magazine, I wrote an article describing why device OEMs, large and small, are choosing Linux as the strategic platform for their smart phones. That article focused on the mix of technical and economic motivators. This article looks at the challenges that still face Linux in attaining even greater ubiquity and design-wins in this dynamic global marketplace. It also introduces OSDL's newest effort, the Mobile Linux Initiative (MLI), describing how MLI members are striving to fill key gaps in the mobile Linux software stack.

Marketshare Gap
For all of the technical and economic benefits that Linux offers mobile device OEMs, Linux phones today account for less than 5% of the total market. In the fastest growing smart phone segment (85%/year according to Gartner), Linux enjoys a stronger position - 25% in Q2 2005 - far ahead of Windows Mobile, PalmOS, or RIM (but behind the SymbianOS). Mid-tier Linux phones are also making inroads into Japan's giant NTT DoCoMo network, with Panasonic and NEC shipping as many as five million mid-tier "feature phones". Panasonic's December 2005 announcement of its intention to focus on high-end phones based on Linux bodes well for the platform in Japan, where Linux phone share could climb to 15%-20% by 2007.

Technical Challenges
Experienced handset makers like Motorola, NEC, and Panasonic have clearly demonstrated that Linux-based mobile telephony is a reality. However, these companies and other established OEMs, as well as new entrants in the handset market, want the process of building Linux-based handsets to be easier, with faster time-to-market and better price-performance. In particular, they want to reduce the hardware BOM (Bill of Materials) burden needed to support a Linux-based phone stack, and to optimize the performance of key technologies.

As a result, at its most recent face-to-face meeting in Tokyo, OSDL's MLI agreed to focus on the following technical areas:

  • Development Tools
  • I/O and Networking
  • Memory Management
  • Multimedia
  • Performance
  • Power Management
  • Security
  • Storage
On one hand, GNU tools like GCC and GDB have formed the basis for all types of embedded development for the last decade. In the last two years, the Open Source Eclipse Project has emerged as the IDE framework of choice, and dozens of vendors now build their cross-development suites as derived Eclipse plug-ins. On the other hand, while GNU and Eclipse are "good enough," handset developers want more. They require smaller code to fit into limited RAM and flash and they want faster code to meet performance goals on clock-scaled mobile ARM processors. They want more intuitive debugging interfaces and standard hardware bridges to target devices that lack network connections and can have multiple symmetric and asymmetric cores (MCUs, DSPs, etc.). They want to be able to mix native C and C++ Linux coding with Java application development. And they want phone-specific tools that address Flash memory programming, performance analysis, baseband development, and handheld device simulation.

I/O and Networking
It's a fact of OEM life that the processors and peripherals deployed in handsets aren't the same as those found in enterprise equipment. As such, many SoCs (systems-on-chip) devices don't appear in the standard Linux architecture trees (even if CPU their cores do) and the peripherals on those chips lack publicly available drivers. Integrated serial, IrDA, USB, I2S, I2C, SPI/SSP, LCD, DMA, display, interrupt and memory controllers need reliable and readily available support, in Open Source, for CPUs like Intel's XScale, Texas Instruments' OMAP and Motorola's MX processors.

Handset-based networking presents its own additional challenges. Besides having access to MAC-level drivers for "normal" Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, they also need off-the-shelf interfaces for wireless voice networking: CDMA, GPRS, and other WAN chipsets present unique driver and stack requirements, and off-the-shelf call stack implementations today are proprietary and offer limited, poor, or no support for Linux.

Another "exotic" area is the need to bridge unexpected heterogeneous media types. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-enabled phones may need to route voice streams to/from baseband and Bluetooth cordless phones in the home or Wi-Fi LANs for VoIP calling. They may have to route IP network traffic from a desktop computer connected via IP-over-USB to any of several wireless data channels. I even recall a simple customer request for IP-over-USB turning into a requirement for full-blown support for NFS over USB!

Memory Management
Mobile device memory management has its own unique, non-standard requirements. These include non-contiguous physical memory; heterogeneous memory types like volatile DRAM, battery-backed RAM, NAND and NOR Flash; application and OS execute in place; strong protection of base software, and field upgradable downloads of both platform and application software. Another key memory management concern is out-of-memory handling. In enterprise Linux systems, low memory invokes a "reaper" that terminates "stale" processes to free up RAM; criteria for reaping in a phone must disallow disruption of phone service or other compromisd handset performance.

For smart phones and many mid-tier phones, OEMs need to port or fully reimplement complex audio and video capabilities to a Linux platform. Barriers to building next-generation multimedia start with the lack of a unified multimedia framework for Linux (which competing platforms have), and also include the lack of Linux-based DRM software, as well as issues surrounding patent-bearing media formats. Eschewing DRM and using patent-free open media formats isn't a realistic alternative for device OEMs.

For both the GPRS interface, and for other capabilities like multi-media, Linux still needs to move in the direction of RTOS-like responsiveness. Linux must meet deadlines and switch context adroitly in systems where clocks can slow to conserve battery power from 400MHz peak performance down to 40MHz (or even 0MHz) and back in response to policies and hardware events.

The current generation of ARM-based phone chipsets also feature silicon crammed with peripherals. SoC peripherals and secondary cores can be highly stateful with hard-to-program shared memory interfaces connecting them. These channels constitute a troublesome performance bottleneck.

Real-time and Radio Interfaces
In today's crop of Linux-based smart phones, the GPRS interface resides in an encapsulated "modem" containing a dedicated CPU core, a DSP, and RF hardware to support baseband communications. Offloading the radio function makes it easier to build a smart phone, but raises the cost by adding significant components to an already heavy BOM. While smart phones offer OEMs sufficient margins to bear this cost, the need for a self-contained modem limits Linux's ability to cover the broader market that includes feature phones and entry-level devices.

Theoretically, OEMs could remove the modem and expose the baseband interface to Linux, but doing so also exposes hard real-time requirements at the edge of the Linux response curve.

Power Management
Mobile device manufacturers today face a mind-boggling set of choices among Linux power and energy management schemes. OEMs can look to the desktop where notebook-centric ACPI and legacy apmd dominate (and indeed occupy most discussion of Linux power management on the kernel mailing list). For non-x86/IA-32 hardware, OEMs can turn to ARM's own energy management framework IEM (Intelligent Enery Management), or work with the various power management schemes present on silicon from over 200 ARM licenses (e.g., XScale or OMAP). There also exist unique and more divergent energy conservation protocols from MIPS, its licensees, from FreeScale for its CPU lines, from IBM for the Power architecture, from Renesas and Hitachi, and so on across the silicon supplier universe. OEMs can also build on software paradigms like MontaVista's DPM.

While choice is a good thing, too much choice leads to fragmentation, with OEMs seeking either an extension of existing schemes to address the heldheld space, or the establishment of an "umbrella" paradigm that bridges desktop, laptop, and handheld.

More Stories By Bill Weinberg

Bill Weinberg brings over 18 years embedded and open systems experience
to his role as Open Source Architecture Specialist and Linux Evangelist
at the Open Source Development Labs, where he supports initiatives for
meeting developer and end-user requirements for Carrier-Grade, Data
Center and Desktop Linux.

Prior to the OSDL, Bill was a founding team-member at MontaVista
Software, and helped establish Linux as a favored platform for next-
generation intelligent embedded device development. In the course of
his career, Bill also worked at Lynx Real-Time Systems, Acer Computer,
and Microtec Research.

Today Bill is known for his writing and speaking on topics that include
Linux business issues, Open Source licensing, embedded application
porting/migration, and handheld applications. He pens columns in
LinuxUser and Developer, and Embedded Computing Design, and is a
contributor to periodicals like E.E.Times, Linux Journal and Elektronik.
Bill is also a featured speaker at conferences like Linux World, Real-
time Computing, and Embedded Systems.

More info at

Comments (2) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

Most Recent Comments
SYS-CON Belgium News Desk 02/21/06 02:19:44 PM EST

The global mobile phone market is enjoying explosive growth. With annual unit sales in the hundreds of millions, Gartner analysts estimate that by 2009 the worldwide installed based will top 2.6 billion mobile handsets. For the Linux and Open Source segment of the IT industry, such numbers are tantalizing, orders of magnitude beyond shipments and even the installed base for servers, and far greater in volume than the worldwide desktop market. For the Linux software and related hardware markets, mobile phones are an opportunity to 'break out' and enjoy greater market share in client devices, complementing the already important presence of Linux in the voice and data communications infrastructure.

SYS-CON India News Desk 02/21/06 01:37:33 PM EST

The global mobile phone market is enjoying explosive growth. With annual unit sales in the hundreds of millions, Gartner analysts estimate that by 2009 the worldwide installed based will top 2.6 billion mobile handsets. For the Linux and Open Source segment of the IT industry, such numbers are tantalizing, orders of magnitude beyond shipments and even the installed base for servers, and far greater in volume than the worldwide desktop market. For the Linux software and related hardware markets, mobile phones are an opportunity to 'break out' and enjoy greater market share in client devices, complementing the already important presence of Linux in the voice and data communications infrastructure.

@ThingsExpo Stories
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk was on IBM Cloudant, Apache CouchDB, and ...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound cha...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).