Why POSIX for embedded systems?

A common problem with realtime application development is that each realtime OS tends to come equipped with its own proprietary API. In the absence of industry standards, this isn't an unusual state for a competitive marketplace to evolve into, since surveys of the realtime marketplace regularly show heavy use of in-house proprietary operating systems. POSIX represents a chance to unify this marketplace.

Among the many POSIX standards, those of most interest to embedded systems developers are:

  • 1003.1—defines the API for process management, device I/O, filesystem I/O, and basic IPC. This encompasses what might be described as the base functionality of a UNIX OS, serving as a useful standard for many applications. From a C-language programming perspective, ANSI X3J11 C is assumed as a starting point, and then the various aspects of managing processes, files, and tty devices are detailed beyond what ANSI C specifies.
  • Realtime Extensions—defines a set of realtime extensions to the base 1003.1 standard. These extensions consist of semaphores, prioritized process scheduling, realtime extensions to signals, high-resolution timer control, enhanced IPC primitives, synchronous and asynchronous I/O, and a recommendation for realtime contiguous file support.
  • Threads—further extends the POSIX environment to include the creation and management of multiple threads of execution within a given address space.
  • Additional Realtime Extensions—defines further extensions to the realtime standard. Facilities such as attaching interrupt handlers are described.
  • Application Environment Profiles—defines several AEPs (Realtime AEP, Embedded Systems AEP, etc.) of the POSIX environment to suit different embedded capability sets. These profiles represent embedded OSs with/without filesystems and other capabilities.
For information about the many POSIX drafts and standards, see the IEEE website at http://www.ieee.org/ .

Apart from any bandwagon motive for adopting industry standards, there are several specific advantages to applying the POSIX standard to the embedded realtime marketplace.