Canonical launches Real-time Ubuntu on Intel Core processors

Canonical launches Real-time Ubuntu on Intel Core processors

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Canonical Ltd. and Intel Corp. today announced a technical collaboration focused on a new, enterprise-focused release of Ubuntu that launched earlier this year.

The release is known as Real-time Ubuntu. It’s designed to power medical devices, factory automation equipment and other sensitive systems that must operate with a high degree of reliability. As part of its new collaboration with Intel, Canonical this morning made Real-Time Ubuntu generally available on the Intel Core portfolio of central processing units.

“Canonical’s collaboration with Intel allows us to provide a reliable and secure framework for developers and manufacturers, ensuring the longevity and success of their devices in the field,” said Cindy Goldberg, vice president of silicon alliances at Canonical.

In a standard operating system, the amount of time it takes to carry out a computing task varies based on the situation. A calculation that takes two seconds in some cases may take three seconds in others. That doesn’t pose an issue for most workloads, but can represent a major challenge in certain scenarios.

There are cases where it’s vital for a digital system to complete a task within a predetermined time period. For example, if a robot arm picks up a box the wrong way, the robot’s onboard computer might have two seconds to figure out a way of preventing the box from falling. Guaranteeing that the task will be completed in under two seconds every time is difficult for standard operating systems.

The real-time version of Ubuntu at the center of Canonical’s partnership with Intel addresses that challenge. Launched in February, it features a feature called PREEMPT_RT. The feature turns Ubuntu into a so-called RTOS, a type of specialized operating system designed to power time-sensitive systems such as robotic arms.

An RTOS can ensure that important computing tasks are always carried out in the same amount of time without any unexpected delays. According to Canonical, Ubuntu achieves that using a computing technique called preemption. 

If a computing task must be completed within two seconds but the server assigned to carry it out is busy performing another calculation, processing may be delayed. Preemption allows the real-time version of Ubuntu to interrupt its current workload and immediately start working on the new, more urgent computing task. This avoids unexpected computing delays.

The Intel Core processor line on which Real-time Ubuntu is now available includes several features designed to support time-sensitive workloads. One of the main highlights is a technology called Time Coordinated Computing, or TCC. It’s specifically designed to power the important, latency-sensitive workloads that Real-time Ubuntu targets.

Intel’s TCC technology makes it easier for operating systems to ensure that important computing tasks are carried out on time. According to Intel, the technology gives time-sensitive workloads priority access to cache, memory and networking resources. TCC also minimizes the disruption to workloads that an operating system must interrupt to prioritize a more pressing task.

Canonical and Intel are partnering with hardware makers to ensure organizations will have easy access to devices that support Real-time Ubuntu. According to the companies, customers of such devices will receive up to 10 years’ worth of software updates.

Image: Canonical

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