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[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.