Download and Go – Open Industrial Linux for Factory Automation

It can seem like there is a Linux distribution for just about anything: carrier-grade Linux distros for telecom, OpenWRT for small routers, Automotive-Grade Linux for cars, and so on. Manufacturers’ convergence of operations and information technology (OT and IT) and time-sensitive networking (TSN) are so new, however, that no suitable Linux distribution has existed until now. This week NXP announced the open-source OpenIL project, a community-built industrial Linux distribution advancing the state of the art in manufacturing technology. This industrial Linux distro supports TSN, including per-stream policing, and time-aware shaping of network traffic.

NXP finds that industrial OEMs have algorithms for control and monitoring running on a real-time operating system (RTOS) and systems connected by legacy industrial networking protocols. These OEMs see the value in an open-source operating system, the trend toward Linux, the value of OT-IT convergence, and TSN’s capabilities, but they still need real-time operation to execute their algorithms. OpenIL meets these requirements and provides a robust foundation so OEMs can focus on new and proprietary technology instead of baseline capability.

OpenIL’s baseline capabilities include IT infrastructure software such as networking stacks, web servers (useful for configuration management), scripting tools, and system utilities commonly part of Linux distros. Although a new distro, OpenIL relies on the buildroot project. Developers can, therefore, tailor their firmware to fit the flash memory available on their design, adding or removing applications as their design requires. OpenIL also supports the Ubuntu filesystem structure, making the distro more familiar to developers and allowing it to support SELinux, Linux’s standard security enhancements.

At the same time, OpenIL has a real-time scheduler and the Xenomai real-time extensions to Linux. These transform Linux from an IT-oriented OS to an RTOS with a complete set of IT features and facilitate porting software from an RTOS like VxWorks or pSOS, both of which Xenomai emulates.

Developers also get immediate access to TSN. They need not write drivers for the NXP TSN switch, we have handled that. To configure TSN settings, all that is required is updating an XML file. Standard netconf tools simplify configuring IT and OT networks. To synchronize real-time devices on the network, OpenIL implements the generalized precision time protocol (gPTP) with the linuxptp daemon.

In addition to pioneering TSN support in an open-source Linux distribution, OpenIL also stands out for its support for NXP’s trust architecture. Our trust architecture helps ensure the integrity of systems throughout their lifecycle: commissioning, boot up, run time, and decommissioning. This support includes Open Portable Trusted Execution Environment (OP-TEE). A TEE can be thought of as the operating system for our trust architecture. Designers can also use OpenIL to connect devices to the Internet of Things and implement edge-computing services like AWS Greengrass.

In summary, OpenIL compiles the technologies I’ve discussed this past year—security, TSN and Industry 4.0, and edge computing—into a single Linux distribution. It makes these technologies, many of which depend on unique features of our processors, accessible and easy to use for designers so they can focus on their own added value.

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Joseph Byrne
Joseph Byrne
Joe Byrne is a senior strategic marketing manager for NXP's Digital Networking Group. Prior to joining NXP, Byrne was a senior analyst at The Linley Group, where he focused on communications and semiconductors, providing strategic guidance on product decisions to senior semiconductor executives. Prior to working at The Linley Group, he was a principal analyst at Gartner, leading the firm's coverage of wired communications semiconductors. There, he advised semiconductor suppliers on strategy, marketing and investing. Byrne started his career at SMOS Systems after graduating with a bachelor of science in engineering from Duke University. He spent three years at SMOS as part of the R&D engineering team working on 32-bit RISC microcontrollers. He then returned to school for an MBA, which he received with high distinction from the University of Michigan. He worked with Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group for a year before going on to work at Gartner, where he spent the next nine years until going to work for The Linley Group in 2005.

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