Embedded Linux: Prototype to Production

Linux is the default environment for most software developers and is becoming increasingly popular for embedded solutions. However, one of Linux’s greatest strengths, and to some extent its biggest challenge, is that it comes in so many flavors and varieties—each well suited to a particular use case.

While everyone recognizes the strength of enterprise Linux distributions like Red Hat, SUSE, and Ubuntu for general-purpose IT use cases, they are generally not suitable for embedded uses. Compared to general computing, embedded solutions have a lot more constraints and have higher reliability and security requirements, lower resource availability, and support needs that often span five to 10 years or more.

In response, many organizations attempt to fork an existing community distribution and create their own customized embedded Linux. This is often referred to as roll-your-own (RYO) Linux. While the initial costs of this approach are very low, the resources for support and maintenance spike in later years, as the expertise of the RYO must be maintained in-house.

Commercially supported embedded Linux is the primary alternative to RYO. Not only are the long-term support and maintenance costs much lower, but the technical, business, and legal risks of commercially supported embedded Linux are much lower as well. Commercial vendors can also provide full development life-cycle services, including platform, services, maintenance, and support, which increases productivity and reduces the overhead of maintaining your own, unique, embedded Linux distribution.

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