TI offers scalable thread-aware RTOS spanning full MCU portfolio

-December 06, 2012

Texas Instruments has announced TI-RTOS, a complete RTOS (real-time operating system) targeting its entire MCU portfolio. Based on a preemptive multithreading kernel, the new RTOS and associated ecosystem is intended to deliver a full complement of thread-aware software components required for production-quality real-time embedded system designs based on TI MCUs. The new RTOS integrates the SYS/BIOS kernel with a thread-aware update to the TI Wares foundation software pacage, NDK (Network Development Kit) TCP/IP stack, and additional services and features.

Figure 1. TI-RTOS integrates a preemptive multithreading kernel with communications stacks, software drivers, and instrumentation for TI MCU-based embedded designs.

According to Jim Reinhart, software development manager, TI MCUs, as many as 80% of TI customers use a bare-metal solution for embedded designs. For many of these developers, concerns such as latency, memory, and eventual cost of ownership remain as barriers for adopting a standard solution. Reinhart says TI-RTOS is intended to reduce these barriers - enabling developers to spend less time on essential but non-differentiating software mechanisms and begin earlier in the development cycle to add unique value to their embedded system designs.

To help accelerate development, TI-RTOS integrates essential embedded-software components including:
  • Deterministic, real-time multitasking kernel (SYS/BIOS)
  • TCP/IP stack, including network applications
  • USB, EMAC, MMC/SD host and device stacks and class drivers
  • FAT-compatible file system fully integrated with C RTS file I/O functions
  • Ethernet, USB, UART, I2C and SD device drivers
  • Low overhead core-to-core communication mechanism for dual-core devices
TI has also built in mechanisms to address developers' concerns about performance and footprint size. In the past, high-precision designs have required an RTOS specialist able to tune the system to meet tight requirements. To address these concerns, TI has adapted its Grace GUI technology used for graphically configuring MSP430 MCU peripherals to the challenge of configuring TI-RTOS software components.

Figure 2. TI adapted its Grace technology to offer a point-and-click GUI solution for configuration RTOS components.

In TI-RTOS, Grace-based configuration tools allow developers who are not RTOS experts to use a point-and-click GUI to configure the kernel and associated components to meet their specific requirements for overall functionality and memory footprint. This high degree of scalability allows developers to configure TI-RTOS to meet footprint requirements as low as 2-3 KB for a basic interrupt-driven kernel to 150-200 KB for a full configuration with all network functionality and instrumentation enabled.

According to TI, TI-RTOS joins popular software systems such as FreeRTOS in helping developers start at a higher level in systems development. Beyond those RTOS's, however, TI says that TI-RTOS gains an advantage in TI's ability to deliver ongoing support through the same support mechanisms TI MCU customers use today. Developers can leverage TI's existing developers network and ISV community to acquire additional components including other communications stacks.

Furthermore, because it is synchronized with the TI MCU technology roadmap, TI-RTOS ensures scalability to multiple generations of silicon - offering an extended lifecycle for developers' value-added software. As a standard platform, TI-RTOS simplifies migration of software across current MCUs.

So, for example, engineers can move functions between dual core devices to optimize performance by using the same TI-RTOS kernel on both the ARM and C28x DSP cores. For software running on different cores in a multi-core system, the use of single TI-RTOS software platform means that software uses the same services including IPC mechanisms - allowing message passing between different threads whether the threads are running on the same or different cores.

TI-RTOS works with existing TI development tools including the Eclipse-based TI Code Composer Studio IDE - augmented with additional TI-RTOS-specific debug and analysis tools. Developers can also use TI-RTOS with existing TI evaluation boards and development kits. TI-RTOS support is available for free through the TI Design Network, forums, and wikis.

Offered with no up-front or run-time license fees, TI-RTOS is available today on select devices, including ARM Cortex-M4 MCUs and C2000 dual core C28x + ARM Cortex-M3 MCUs. It will be offered soon on MSP430 MCUs, as well as other C2000 and ARM-based MCUs - eventually to processor families beyond its MCU portfolio.

TI-RTOS is available for free download at www.ti.com/ti-rtos-pr-pf.

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