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Evaluation of Open-Source Hard Real Time Software PackagesReliable software is, at times, hard to find. No piece of software can be guaranteed to work in every situation that may arise during its use here at Glenn Research Center or in space. The job of the Software Assurance (SA) group in the Risk Management Office is to rigorously test the software in an effort to ensure it matches the contract specifications. In some cases the SA team also researches new alternatives for selected software packages. This testing and research is an integral part of the department of Safety and Mission Assurance. Real Time operation in reference to a computer system is a particular style of handing the timing and manner with which inputs and outputs are handled. A real time system executes these commands and appropriate processing within a defined timing constraint. Within this definition there are two other classifications of real time systems: hard and soft. A soft real time system is one in which if the particular timing constraints are not rigidly met there will be no critical results. On the other hand, a hard real time system is one in which if the timing constraints are not met the results could be catastrophic. An example of a soft real time system is a DVD decoder. If the particular piece of data from the input is not decoded and displayed to the screen at exactly the correct moment nothing critical will become of it, the user may not even notice it. However, a hard real time system is needed to control the timing of fuel injections or steering on the Space Shuttle; a delay of even a fraction of a second could be catastrophic in such a complex system. The current real time system employed by most NASA projects is Wind River's VxWorks operating system. This is a proprietary operating system that can be configured to work with many of NASA s needs and it provides very accurate and reliable hard real time performance. The down side is that since it is a proprietary operating system it is also costly to implement. The prospect of replacing this somewhat costly implementation is the focus of one of the SA group s current research projects. The explosion of open source software in the last ten years has led to the development of a multitude of software solutions which were once only produced by major corporations. The benefits of these open projects include faster release and bug patching cycles as well as inexpensive if not free software solutions. The main packages for hard real time solutions under Linux are Real Time Application Interface (RTAI) and two varieties of Real Time Linux (RTL), RTLFree and RTLPro. During my time here at NASA I have been testing various hard real time solutions operating as layers on the Linux Operating System. All testing is being run on an Intel SBC 2590 which is a common embedded hardware platform. The test plan was provided to me by the Software Assurance group at the start of my internship and my job has been to test the systems by developing and executing the test cases on the hardware. These tests are constructed so that the Software Assurance group can get hard test data for a comparison between the open source and proprietary implementations of hard real time solutions.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Mattei, Nicholas S.
(Kentucky Univ. KY, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2004
Publication Information
Publication: Research Symposium I
Subject Category
Computer Programming And Software
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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