Linux vs QNX: 6 Considerations When Safety Certifying Embedded
Safety-certification of an embedded device can take a year or more and cost millions of dollars. Yet as many as 60% of products that companies attempt to safety certify fail to receive the desired stamp of approval. The losses are significant.
At BlackBerry® QNX®, we’re changing that statistic for our customers with a near-100% success rate for certification in industries as diverse as medical devices, robotics, heavy equipment, automobiles, trucking and rail. As you develop your next product, keep these six points in mind to lower the risk, cost and time of safety certification.
1. Pre-Certified Solutions
Your choice of real-time operating system (RTOS) can have an oversized effect on your ability to safety-certify an embedded device. The safety-certification process is considerably more complex, expensive and time-consuming with an open source OS than with a pre-certified commercial OS.
Look for an embedded OS that is pre-certified by a third-party auditing organization to the same safety standard needed for your product whether IEC 61508 (industrial), IEC 61511, EN 50128 (rail), IEC 62304 (medical) or ISO 26262 (automotive).
2. SOUP and Code Traceability
While Linux may be sufficient for prototyping embedded devices, software of unknown provenance (SOUP) can add time and complexity to the certification process. Open source software such as Linux encourages contributions from a broad base of developers with no requirements that they continually demonstrate a culture of safety.
Look for a foundational software platform from a vendor with a demonstrated safety culture, documentation to help you use the platform to design safe products, and a system for tracing all code and updates back to source origins and specific commits.
3. Monolithic OS versus Microkernel OS
Although monolithic OS architectures such as Linux are widespread, they provide little or no protection between processes, potentially resulting in priority functions failing to get timely access to the processor. When device or process failure isn’t an option, this disadvantage can become prohibitive.
Look for a deterministic microkernel OS, so that different functions can each run in separate and isolated memory-protected spaces and high-priority functions will get the memory and processor access they need to deliver on time – every time.
4. POSIX Compliance
A POSIX-compliant real-time operating system (RTOS) can greatly simplify your migration from a Linux-based prototype to a production system that requires safety certification. With a POSIX-compliant RTOS, you can easily port your Linux code and won’t have to start over.
Look for a RTOS that complies with the POSIX PSE52 Realtime Controller 1003.13-2003 System product standard. Plus verify that the platform uses the same tools as Linux, such as the GNU Compiler Collection (gcc), so that your developers can work in a familiar environment.
There can be no safety without security. As the amount of software in embedded systems grows, so does your attack surface, making your equipment more vulnerable to a cyber-attack. Each poorly constructed line of code represents a potential vulnerability that can be exploited.
Look for a software vendor that understands the importance of building in security from the start and provides layered security options to help you build a solution that delivers both performance and security.
6. Engineering Services, Support and Documentation
The community-development model of open source software can make it difficult for developers to get the help they need, when they need it. Waiting for a bug fix from an open source community can hinder your company’s competitive and financial position. And if the solution is an upgrade or patch, that introduces additional complexities for safety certification and potentially more issues. A commercial OS vendor can provide valuable guidance to help you navigate the safety certification process.
Look for a software vendor that provides easy access to quality documentation, excellent customer support and an OS licensing support system that demonstrates the provenance of all its source code. In addition, see if they provide engineering services and have a proven track-record of helping their clients achieve safety certifications.
Learn about BlackBerry QNX Solutions
BlackBerry QNX pre-certified solutions – QNX OS for Safety, QNX OS for Medical, QNX Hypervisor for Safety – can help simplify compliance with industry safety standards and lower ongoing maintenance efforts and costs. Our engineering services team has a proven track record of guiding our customers through safety certification, while ensuring product launch dates are met. See our complete list of certifications or learn more about BlackBerry Safety Services at https://blackberry.qnx.com/en/professional-services/safety-services