Enabling Shorter Time to Market and Reduced Development Cost
An interview with Express Logic, Inc., the company that offers the ThreadX® RTOS , a system highly regarded as best suited for embedded application development for systems requiring real time response. Mr. John Carbone, Vice President of Marketing, of the company was interviewed. We also asked about the development platform for Renesas’ high-performance MPU RZ/A1H.
Software Solution Highly Praised by Embedded Developers
— This series introduces partner companies that support Renesas customers with their product development. Would you start off by giving us an outline of your company?
John: Express Logic, Inc., is a privately held software company based in San Diego, California. Founded in 1996, Express Logic’s mission is to provide quality software solutions for deeply embedded applications. Our customers are manufacturing companies who make electronic products, produce them in high volume at low cost, and wish to get them to market quickly.
— I understand you provide software solutions for embedded applications. Would you tell us about your software?
John: A portion of the software contained in an embedded system is fairly standard across a variety of applications and is commonly called a real-time operating system or RTOS. The RTOS is the software that controls the microprocessor that’s at the heart of an embedded device. Application software provides the product-specific functionality that makes the product perform its intended function. The RTOS provides the application software with scheduling, interrupt servicing, and resource management functions. More and more development companies are electing to buy a commercial RTOS off-the-shelf rather than relying on in-house programming resources to design, develop and support proprietary RTOS software for their products. These embedded developers represent the market for Express Logic, which offers them faster time to market, lower cost, and higher performance for their embedded products. In addition to the RTOS, many embedded products today require networking, file system, graphics, and USB capabilities. Express Logic offers software products that complement its RTOS with these capabilities, making developers’ jobs easier.
All software developers require development tools in order to create and validate their computer programs. Development tools typically include components such as a text editor, high-level language compiler, program linker, and a debugger. An IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, combines a collection of such tools into one package, with a graphical user interface that makes the tools easy to use. Many companies offer tools and IDEs for embedded developers to use, and those developers using ThreadX® as their RTOS may use any of the many commercial and open-source tools that are available. Beyond the tools typically available in these IDEs, Express Logic offers TraceX®, GUIX Studio™, and Certification Pack™ to help developers bring products to market more quickly and successfully.
— I hear that ThreadX has won high appraisal from developers and is a very popular RTOS.
John: ThreadX is implemented as a C library. It is compact because only the features used by the application are brought into the final image, and the minimum footprint in only about 2KB for the CISC processor. Furthermore, we are proud of its high speed and great performance compared to other RTOSes (see Figure 1). The software is highly valued by developers worldwide, and is used in over 2 billion electronic products for medical, consumer, and industrial applications.
Over 2 billion deployed embedded products currently use ThreadX, Express Logic’s RTOS, making ThreadX one of the most widely used RTOSes in the world.
— You offer RTOS and a variety of other embedded software middleware. Would you give us a brief explanation of each product?
John: Express Logic has developed and introduced to market the following embedded software products:
- ThreadX® – a real-time operating system (RTOS) designed to be small, fast, and royalty-free. ThreadX is intended for deeply embedded applications where efficiency and small size are important, and where low cost is essential.
- TraceX® - a real-time program analysis tool that provides a graphical view of system operation over a period of time. Like a logic analyzer for software, TraceX uncovers system anomalies and enables the developer to gain a greater insight into the operation of his/her programs.
- NetX™ Duo – a full TCP/IPv4/IPv6 networking dual-stack for embedded applications. NetX Duo was developed in-house from scratch, expressly suited for the needs of embedded systems. NetX Duo is intended for embedded products that need fast network processing in a small footprint.
- FileX® – a full MS-DOS compatible file system for embedded applications that need data storage capability. FileX is intended for those applications needing fast access to data, MS-DOS compatibility, and a small footprint.
- USBX™ – a full host/device USB support suite, including 1.0, 1.1, 2.0 and OTG capabilities. Designed to be small in size, fully integrated with ThreadX, and provided in full source code form.
- GUIX™ - a comprehensive toolkit and framework for the development and deployment of a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for embedded systems. GUIX Studio™ is a companion host-based tool for WYSIWYG GUI development, with pre-built widgets and automatic code generation and PC-prototyping capabilities.
- Certification Pack™ - a 100% turnkey package of validation materials and code suitable for use in meeting safety-critical regulatory standards in aviation, medical, and industrial markets.
- TUV Certification - ThreadX has been certified by TUV-Saar for compliance with IEC 61508 and IEC 62304, at SIL 4 and Safety Class C, respectively.
Huge Advantage for Renesas MCU/MPU Users
— Now, tell us about the advantages of your embedded software. What benefits can Renesas MCU/MPU users expect from your software?
John: Express Logic’s development tools consist of our ThreadX RTOS, middleware for graphics, networking, USB, and file system, and our TraceX graphical real-time event analysis tool. These tools, along with Express Logic’s excellent commercial support, provide developers working with Renesas MCUs/MPUs with quality, field-proven, production-ready software that helps them develop and bring products to market quickly and successfully.
Developers choosing Express Logic products will enjoy benefits including faster time to market, higher performance, and lower overall cost.
— When developing embedded systems today, shortening Time to Market, which significantly affects product value in the market, is one of the most important issues to address.
John: Industry studies have shown that the use of Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS in an embedded system project has a higher likelihood of completion on time, or ahead of schedule, compared to alternate solutions. This is a key factor in Time to Market.
— Tell us the details of the industry studies to which you are referring.
John: Embedded Market Forecasters (EMF) of Natick MA, polls embedded developers annually. Studies (on the 2012 version) revealed that 70% of projects applying ThreadX had progressed on, or were completed ahead of schedule. It ranked above the other four RTOSes on the market. Development according to or ahead of schedule for the second, third, fourth and fifth ranking RTOSes was 60%, 57%, 53% and 49%, respectively.
And the results are combined with other data from the survey to produce an ROI analysis for embedded development projects. These results also proved that ThreadX had significantly lower development costs than other RTOSes. The reason for this is that ThreadX reduces cost in all phases of product development. Let me elaborate on this. In the development process, ThreadX enables one to rapidly complete projects. ThreadX can reduce manufacturing process costs because it is 100% royalty-free. And it can also reduce support costs, based on its two billion deployments, giving ThreadX a greater level of field-proven reliability than less widely deployed RTOS solutions.
Please see our news release for the Embedded Market Forecasters (EMF) studies that I just spoke about.
— ThreadX significantly contributes to the reduction of development cost as well. I have understood that ThreadX is "royalty free". May I ask you to tell me about the business model of your company?
John: Express Logic licenses our IP with full source code development and production licenses. Each license specifies the particular Express Logic software product being licensed, and the Microprocessor on which it will be used. It also specifies the development location, and the number of users. Finally, it specifies the end-product or products that the licensee is developing and producing. Our pricing is a one-time fee, which is based on the number of end-product models to be produced. Licenses start at $12,500, including full source code and royalty-free production rights. Technical support is available at an annual fee of 20% of the original license fee.
Accelerating RZ/A1H Development
— I fully understand ThreadX has a huge value for Renesas’ MCU/MPU users. I hear that you also have a joint project with Renesas. Can you tell us about it?
John: Together with Renesas, Express Logic has developed a unique software development platform for RZ/A1H development called the X-Ware Platform™ (see Figure 2). This platform provides developers with a comprehensive suite of software modules for:
- TCP/IP Networking in IPv4 or IPv6
- USB Host/Device/OTG
- File System
- Graphical User Interface (GUI) development
- Graphical real-time event trace
These modules are combined with all required peripheral device drivers, fully integrated, and ported for use on the Renesas RZ/A1H-based RSK development board.
— That is a very interesting development platform. It will enable high-efficiency development with RZ/A1H. I look forward to solutions provided in cooperation with your company and Renesas.