Open Kernel Labs Announces OKL4 Commercial L4 Microkernel

Open Kernel Labs (OK), a global provider of operating systems and virtualization technology, announces the availability of OKL4, its commercial version of the L4 microkernel. OK’s software enables the development of more reliable, trustworthy and affordable embedded mobile and consumer devices.

OK is a spin-off of National ICT Australia (NICTA) – Australia’s prestigious Center of Excellence for Information and Communications Technology. OKL4 is the result of research work from National ICT Australia Limited (NICTA) and its Embedded, Real Time, Operating System Program.

Today, consumer product developers face many challenges in delivering robust, secure and cost-effective products. These products frequently run a high-level operating system (OS) plus proprietary application code and a real-time operating system (RTOS).

Virtualization technology provides secure partitioning protecting the real-time part of the system from a malfunctioning or compromised high-level OS. Virtualization can also encapsulate components that are under the GPL open-source license protecting valuable company IP from the obligation to publish source code. In addition, OKL4 supports high-performance communication and resource sharing between subsystems, an essential feature given the highly-integrated nature of embedded systems.

OKL4 is based on an extremely small, open source, microkernel that efficiently manages hardware resources. This is the only code that executes in privileged processor mode. OKL4′s virtualization support lets customers run multiple operating systems, in user mode, on the same processor core. At the same time, a native programming environment supports the development of subsystems without a guest OS, dramatically reducing the amount of code on which such a subsystem depends.

The OKL4 microkernel and virtualization technology is currently being used by major manufacturers of wireless devices and chipsets.

“OKL4 offers embedded systems developers a proven and economical approach to building trusted systems,” said Steve Subar, CEO and Co-Founder of OK. “Our current microkernel technology offers design flexibility and outstanding performance. In addition, with our technology roadmap we are on track to achieve unprecedented levels of security and correctness assurance.”

Key OKL4 Product Features and Benefits
OKL4 provides the required features for next-generation medium- to high-end embedded systems including virtualization and protection of subsystems from faulty or malicious components, whether they are part of the shipped device or installed by end users. In addition, OKL4 features:

  • Fine-grained, light-weight protection domains that support encapsulating application programs, system services, device drivers or library modules in order to improve the robustness of the overall system.
  • High-performance cross-domain communication and controlled sharing of memory, which supports high-bandwidth, low-latency communication between subsystems including the efficient sharing of devices. This enables the use of lightweight components with hardware-enforced interfaces — the key to managing growing software complexity.
  • A minimal trusted computing base (TCB). Security-critical subsystems, such as crypto services, can be structured to depend on less than 20,000 lines of system code. This dramatically reduces their vulnerability to compromises that leverage bugs in the system.

The combination of virtualization, high-performance, low-latency communication, and minimal trusted computing base is unique in the industry, and maximizes the design space for embedded-system developers.

Professional Services
OK provides customer-specific development, system architecture, porting, training and support for the OKL4 microkernel operating system and related technologies.

OK consulting engagements have included OKL4 integration with third-party software; ports to customer platforms, and ports of the microkernel to proprietary processor architectures. Recent engagements include operating systems research for Ericsson and the deployment of OKL4 on Qualcomm’s Mobile Station Modem chipsets.

Pricing and Availability
OKL4 is available today and will continue to be available through an open source (BSD) license. The open source community has access to OKL4 source code and related technologies including a sophisticated build system; cross-compilation tools for a number of popular architectures; sample projects and configurations for a number of popular platforms for getting started, and additional tools designed specifically for getting the optimum use of OKL4.

The commercial edition of OKL4 includes a customer service and customer support package that provides OKL4 customization; processor architecture porting, and support and training for OKL4 and related technologies.

OKL4 is currently available for ARM v4/v5 and x86 processors, with support for MIPS processors to be released shortly. Support for additional processors will be announced in the future. Presently supported guest operating systems include Wombat, OK’s high-performance virtualized Linux (2.6.10) and a number of RTOSes, including eCos. Today, open source developers can download OKL4 or OKL4 plus Wombat.

About Open Kernel Labs
Open Kernel Labs’ (OK) technology leadership in embedded operating systems and virtualization technology enables the development of reliable, trustworthy and affordable devices. OK’s open-source microkernel operating system, OKL4, offers the highest proven performance combined with strong protection and security features in order to provide developers with a robust, open-source platform for building secure, differentiated embedded applications.

NICTA is a national research institute with a charter to build Australia’s pre-eminent Centre of Excellence for information and communications technology (ICT). NICTA is building capabilities in ICT research, research training and commercialisation in the ICT sector for the generation of national benefit. National ICT Australia is funded by the Australian Government as represented by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, and the Australian Research Council through Backing Australia’s Ability and the ICT Centre of Excellence program.

NICTA was established and is supported by its members: The Australian Capital Territory Government; The Australian National University; NSW Department of State and Regional Development; and The University of New South Wales. NICTA is also supported by its partners: The University of Sydney; University of Melbourne; the Victorian Government; the Queensland Government; Griffith University; Queensland University of Technology; and The University of Queensland.