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Board At Desk (B@D) and forthcoming challenges

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B@D released on May 31st

 

During ELC 2017, CIP project members introduced the beta version of what is being called Board At Desk – Single Developer (B@D), an effort by the CIP testing team to integrate LAVAv2 and KernelCI into a Debian-based virtual machine allowing Kernel hackers and maintainers to test any Linux Kernel on a board directly connected to a laptop. For CIP developers, the focus is the CIP Kernel, based on Linux 4.4 LTS and the reference boards designated by the CIP TSC (Technical Steering Committee). This May 31st 2017 the CIP testing team released the first fully working version of this virtual machine, labelled as B@D v0.9.1. Read about what comes with it and how to use it in the Release Announcement.B@D v0.9.1

In this first release the CIP testing team has tried to satisfy the requirements of as many developers as possible who could use B@D.  In order to reduce the complexity of setting up the environment to use the tools, Vagrant was the selected technology. VirtualBox has been chosen as the initial virtualisation technology in order to also support the needs of those who use Windows to create Linux systems. We are looking forward to incorporating KVM into the equation as soon as possible, thus improving the experience of those using Linux to produce Linux based systems.

 

Detailed step by step documentation to deploy and configure B@D, connect to the Beaglebone Black, and test the CIP Kernel is also provided. The CIP testing team has put significant effort into making the toolset easy to deploy and configure so that users can focus on testing rather than worrying too much about the tooling.

 

I would like to publicly thank all developers that have made this release possible, particularly my colleagues at Codethink Don Brown, Robert Marshall, Christos Karamitsos, Ben Hutchings and Lachlan Mackenzie.

 

CIP at Open Source Summit Japan 2017

 

If you are attending Open Source Summit Japan pass by the CIP booth to see how easy it is to use B@D to test a Kernel in a BeagleBone Black. Renesas is currently working towards making sure B@D also supports Renesas RZ/G1M. There will be additional demos at the CIP booth from Hitachi, Siemens, Toshiba and Plat’Home.

 

CIP is also organising an open Workshop session. You can propose topics for it or simply join us. It will take place at the OSSJ venue the day before the OSSJ starts, that is May 30th. Please check this wiki page if you are interested in attending, proposing topics or contacting. There will also be a talk on Friday 2nd June about the latest CIP news.

 

Forthcoming actions on the testing front

 

Now that we have the tool, our next step is to start setting up the CIP testing project following an architecture design that does not rely on a centralised testing service.

 

If we can guarantee that several developers are using the same testing tool to test a specific Kernel feature on a CIP kernel, using the same test in a cloned environment, the resulting output should be identical, which can be confirmed by sharing the results, among other measures. Several assumptions will need to be made like the creation of a similar chain of trust and transparency that any Open Source project has when it comes to code development. Other measures will need to be considered towards reproducibility and traceability of any test result.

 

In summary, we would like to translate the idea of treating testing like coding in an open environment such as CIP. You can read more about it in the CIP testing project landing page.

 

The described approach has a low risk, in my opinion. If we face scalability issues, a centralised service can be created so the investment can be rapidly adapted. But the bigger benefit of this approach will be cost since the required initial investment is limited. The project will grow organically, compared to a centralised testing service, limiting the financial risk too.

 

The current plan is to present some results at ELCE, which will take place in Prague in October 2017.

Civil Infrastructure Project – Year One Update + Whitepaper Release

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We’ve launched the Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) project just over a year ago, and since then, we have made a lot of progress in making Linux usable in industrial grade environments such as power plants, railway systems, and so on. The followings outlines the achievements since the inception of the project.

  • Organized a scheme to maintain the Linux Kernel for 10+ years, including appointing of CIP super long term support (SLTS) kernel, Ben Hutchings.
  • Established v4.4 as the first CIP SLTS Kernel.
  • Identified the reference hardware platform we will target to maintain; Beaglebone Black and Renesas RZ/G1M.
  • Building up a concept of “Base Layer”, which consists of the Linux kernel and very basic components that would be used in the industrial grade system environment.
  • Started a test framework project, Board @ Desk, that will enable anyone to test the CIP Kernel in their environment and share the test result, that will result in a reduction to the testing effort among those who use CIP Kernel for their system.

CIP has been delivering a measurable amount of output over the last year or so.

Today, we are very pleased to inform all of you that CIP recently added even more value to our industry; investing in the Real Time Linux Project, the first formal release of Board @ Desk, and our Whitepaper publication.

  1. Investment in Real-Time Project

Again, our work is to develop a software “Base Layer” to support mission critical systems like power plants and train systems, etc. Those systems require hard, real-real time capability, so it is very critical for us that the Real Time patches be integrated into the mainline kernel sometime in the near future.  To make that happen, CIP decided to take action.

Today, we would like to announce that CIP has become a Gold Member of the Real Time Linux Project hosted at the Linux Foundation.  To be very clear, by becoming a member of Real Time Linux Project, we are not paying money only and are letting someone else do the work, but we will be making a real commitment to the mainlining of the Real Time patch set, ensuring it will happen.

CIP members will not only be contributing to the upstream Kernel, but will also make sure to maintain it so the industry can rely on the use the kernel for their real business.  To do so, CIP member, Daniel Wagner, Siemens, has become the maintainer of -rt series of CIP Kernel.

  1. Formal Release of Board @ Desk

One of the pain-points for the industry has been testing.  We all do testing. In many cases, we all do very similar (if not exactly the same) testing at each company separately, yet testing has been the area which there has not been much collaboration among the open source community up until some years ago.

Recently, we’ve seen this situation changing. Testing has become one of the hot areas of open source collaboration. LTSI launched a testing project 3-4 years ago, called JTA, and the project has now become the origin of an independent project called Fuego, maintained by Tim Bird.  It has also become a source of a testing framework used by Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), called CIAT. Linaro has developed LAVA and is supporting the Linux Kernel community through the kernelci.org project.

For CIP developers, we would like to take this opportunity to announce the release of “Board @ Desk”, an instance of LAVA and KernelCI integrated by Codethink for CIP that should allow a customised and easy to deploy instance of the kernelci.org and LAVA projects that should allow developers to test Linux kernels on boards connected to their own development machines using the tooling used by one of the most successful Open Source and distributed testing projects, kernelci.org.

With this effort, the CIP project is trying to create a first step towards “trusted testing” within CIP for every member and the CIP kernel maintainer.

  1. New Publication

Finally, we have an announcement regarding our new publication.

CIP is a very engineering-centric project in nature. Our main focus is not a sexy and innovative technology, but rather more conservative maintenance work to establish a foundation for the systems that have to run our society for many, many years.

Buildings

Thus, as already mentioned, it has been just over a year since CIP has been started and delivered a measurable amount of output, yet we have not reached out much to the developers to whom CIP can be valuable.  This whitepaper provides the information developers need to understand who we are and what we are doing, and what value our activities can have for them.

We will be distributing the hard copy of the white paper at our booth at Open Source Summit Japan, May 31st through June 2nd. If you are participating in the event, please make sure to come to our booth to pick up the white paper (both English and Japanese versions are available)

You can also download the whitepaper from here.
(Japanese version is also available here)

We are looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible at Open Source Summit Japan!

[Member Blog] Why Codethink is a founding member of the Civil Infrastructure Platform, a Linux Foundation initiative

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by Agustin Benito Bethencourt, Codethink

On April 4th 2016 a new Linux Foundation initiative called the Civil Infrastructure Platform was announced. CIP aims to share efforts around building a Linux-based commodity platform for industrial grade products that need to be maintained for anything between 25 and 50 years – in some cases even longer. Codethink is one of the founding members.

Industrial grade use cases

In order to describe why this initiative is relevant let me go over the use cases that motivate companies like Siemens, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Renesas to share efforts.

During the Open Source Leadership Summit, Noriaki Fukuyasu (Linux Foundation) and myself, based on the experience of Siemens, Hitachi and Toshiba, described the development life cycle in industrial grade use cases. For example, a railway management system is as follows:

  • Analysis + design + development: 3 – 6 years
  • Customizations and extensions: 2 – 4 years
  • The certification process and other authorizations take a year.
  • Each new release or update has to go through further certifications and authorizations that take between 3 and 6 months.
  • The system is expected to work for between 25 and 50 years.

So on average, an industrial grade product might take 5 to 7 years from conception to deployment. This is coherent with our experience in other industries like automotive, where life cycles are also quite long despite the expected lifetime being shorter.

A key part of the life cycle is maintenance. Due to its length, the associated risks are high. The certification processes to introduce significant changes in any already deployed systems are painful and expensive. In addition, the capacity to simulate a production environment is, in general, limited. This is true in other cases like energy production plans, for instance.

Open Source principles in the Civil Infrastructure industry

It’s obvious that Open Source could have a dramatic impact in this industry. By sharing efforts, corporations can commoditise a significant portion of the base system focusing on differentiation factors, increasing control through transparency and the quality of that starting point over time. Collaboration with upstream will bring even higher impact benefits.

Two immediate challenges come to mind when thinking about Open Source in this industry:

  • Development of processes and practices to produce software for safety critical environments.
  • Bridging the gap between the Open Source approach for software maintenance and the approach currently taken when building large-scale platform projects. For instance, how can approaches oriented to update any specific Open Source software component to the latest upstream stable version be compatible with any typical industry SDLC?

 

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Civil Infrastructure Platform Announces First Super Long Term Support Kernel at Embedded Linux Conference Europe

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Today in Berlin, the members of Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) made available the details of the first release of the open source project’s super long term support (SLTS) kernel.

Development will begin shortly on SLTS kernel version 4.4. Until the announcement of the next version of the SLTS kernel, which the CIP community anticipates will happen in two to three years, feature backports from the upstream Linux kernel may be merged with the CIP kernel. The CIP community plans to maintain 4.4 for security and bug fixes for more than 10 years.

CIP launched in the spring of 2016 to address the needs of organizations in industries such as power generation and distribution, water, oil and gas, transportation, building automation and more for reliable and secure Linux-based embedded systems that can be sustained over a period of 10 to as many as 60 years. The project’s goal is to provide an open source base layer of industrial-grade software that permits the use and implementation of software building blocks that meet these requirements.

CIP will collaborate with other open source projects, including the Linaro Stable Kernel (LSK), Long Term Support Initiative (LTSI), Eclipse LTS and others.

For additional details about CIP kernel development, please visit https://wiki.linuxfoundation.org/civilinfrastructureplatform/start.

Ben Hutchings becomes first maintainer for Civil Infrastructure Platform’s super long term support base layer

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The Civil Infrastructure Platform (CIP) aims to establish a “base layer” of industrial-grade software using the Linux kernel and other open source projects. This base layer will be available for use by developers creating software building blocks that meet safety, security, reliability and other requirements that are critical to industrial and civil infrastructure projects.

The initial focus of CIP is to develop a super long term supported (SLTS) base layer and maintenance infrastructure and to develop domain-specific enhancements. To achieve these development goals, CIP needs an experienced maintainer for SLTS.

We’re pleased to announce today at LinuxCon North America that Ben Hutchings will work with the CIP to provide this support. Ben, an employee of CIP member Codethink Ltd.,  has extensive experience in long term support for the kernel and other open source software working with the Debian and the Debian-LTS project. For the CIP, he will take responsibility for SLTS kernel development and its maintenance, such as bug fixes, security fixes and feature backports from upstream projects. He will also provide consultation to developers contributing to CIP base layer development.