Introducing ACRN™: A Big Little Hypervisor for IoT Development
By Imad Sousou
IoT developers face mounting demands as connected devices are increasingly expected to support a range of hardware resources, operating systems, and software tools/applications. As we’ve seen in other market segments, virtualization is key to meeting these broad needs.
However, existing solutions don’t offer the right size and flexibility for IoT. Data center hypervisor code is too big, doesn’t offer safety-critical capabilities, and requires too much overhead for embedded development. Proprietary solutions are typically expensive and make it difficult to deliver long-term product support. Clearly the need for a reference open source hypervisor that meets the unique embedded development needs exists.
That’s why I am so excited to see ACRN™ announced today as a project by the Linux Foundation with significant code contributions from Intel. As I explained in my Embedded Linux Conference 2018 keynote this morning, ACRN is different than anything currently in market, by design. It provides a flexible, lightweight hypervisor, built with real-time and safety-criticality in mind, optimized to streamline embedded development through an open source, scalable reference platform.
Maybe the biggest news with ACRN’s hypervisor is that it’s small. Around 25,000 lines of code, small. This solution offers a lightweight code base designed for resource constrained devices. Equally important, I believe, it targets complex embedded systems requiring various levels of safety-criticality.
Rich virtualization of I/O mediators allows resource sharing to maximize the potential for IoT devices. Additionally, ACRN is built to address the need for real-time responses, with low latency and high adaptability. Together, these features encourage SoC consolidation to help reduce both development and materials cost. ACRN intends to further optimize safety considerations by isolating safety-critical workloads from other tasks.
Intel’s experience and leadership in virtualization technology was key to ACRN development. The project is now fully open source and code is available at www.github.com/projectACRN. We believe this approach will foster collaboration among industry leaders in embedded hypervisors, accelerating feature development and speeding the maturity of this important technology. Open source has the added benefits of helping ensure code transparency and compatibility and providing a high-quality reference stack, which in turn can allow faster time to market, as well as development and long-term support, as well as maintenance cost savings.
Because it’s built to virtualize embedded IoT development functions (think camera, audio, graphics, and others). ACRN is ideal for a broad range of IoT uses, such as automotive, industrial, and retail. We expect more companies to join in the coming weeks.
I invite you to visit www.projectacrn.org to learn more about ACRN, download the code, and join the community discussion.
I look forward to hearing about your experience developing with ACRN.