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Introducing Eclipse ThreadX

Tuesday, November 21, 2023 - 11:00 by Mike Milinkovich

TL;DR – Get Engaged!

What We’re Announcing

Every once in a while, a new open source initiative comes along which is truly an industry changing event. Today, Microsoft announced that Azure RTOS, including all of its components, is going to be made available as the Eclipse ThreadX open source project. This new project is exactly what the highly fragmented embedded software market has needed for a very long time. ThreadX is going to be the world’s first open source real time operating system which is:

  1. Mature and scalable technology. ThreadX has been developed for over 20 years, is currently running on over 12 billion devices around the world, and is highly regarded as a high-performance, highly deterministic, real time operating system.
  2. Made available under a permissive open source license. ThreadX is going to be licensed under the MIT license, which provides highly permissive license terms for users and adopters.
  3. Governed under a vendor-neutral open source foundation. ThreadX is going to be governed by the Eclipse Foundation and its development process. This will guarantee a vendor-neutral governance model to manage the evolution and sustainability of ThreadX for the benefit of the entire industry.

  4. Certified for functional safety and security. ThreadX is IEC 61508, IEC 62304, ISO 26262, and EN 50128 conformance certified by SGS-TÜV Saar. ThreadX has also achieved EAL4+ Common Criteria security certification. These certifications are a big differentiator, and are unprecedented in the industry. They are a game changer, as there are currently no open source RTOS’s which have them. 

While there are other open source RTOS’s out there, none have all of the four attributes listed above. We are optimistic that, because of these attributes, ThreadX is going to rapidly expand its adoption in a wide range of use cases including aerospace, automotive, IoT, medical, transportation, automation, and consumer wearables. 

Next Steps

In addition to the project, we are also announcing the creation of an interest group focused on developing an industry-supported, sustainable funding model for ThreadX. We are excited that AMD, Cypherbridge, Microsoft, NXP, PX5, Renesas, ST Microelectronics, Silicon Labs, and Witekio (an Avnet company) have all committed to supporting this conversation. We highly encourage every company with an interest in embedded technology to join to help create the future. 

The ThreadX interest group’s sole focus will be on establishing a working group focused on the following:

  1. Consolidate the project: There is going to be a great deal of focus on getting ThreadX moved under Eclipse Foundation governance as quickly as possible. This will involve transferring and re-licensing the code and documentation, and assigning the trademarks over the next few weeks. In parallel, we are looking for developers who have experience with the ThreadX code base to get involved as key resources from Cypherbridge, PX5, and Witekio have already done. The intent is to have the first release of ThreadX under Eclipse Foundation governance completed by the end of January 2024.
  2. Preserve the certifications: As I mentioned above, the safety and security certifications are a key differentiator for ThreadX. Maintaining those certifications while under open source governance is going to be a key factor in the evolution of ThreadX as an open source project. Fortunately, the Eclipse Foundation has been thinking about and staffing for this capability for a long time as our IoT and Software Defined Vehicle communities have similar requirements. Our intent is to develop best practices for the ThreadX community and, if required, modify and enhance our Eclipse Foundation Development Process to support the additional process requirements necessary to support safety and security. The documentation which will enable downstream adopters of ThreadX to certify their products will be made available under open licenses. This will significantly shorten the lifecycle of safety-certified products based on Eclipse ThreadX.
  3. Build the community: ThreadX represents an amazing opportunity to build an open source embedded software developer community. There will be a great deal of focus on nurturing new contributions, driving adoption via developer advocacy, and creating cross-pollination with our other communities within the Eclipse Foundation such as IoT and SDV, all while preserving the processes required for the certifications which differentiate ThreadX.
  4. Promote the brand: Returning to the original ThreadX name is purposefully intended to assure the many current adopters of this technology that this is and will remain the RTOS that they trust for their products. The new mission will be to associate the ThreadX brand with vendor-neutral governance, communicate clear market positioning, and establish compatibility programs that will provide value to current and future adopters.
  5. Grow the ecosystem: With over 10 billion devices deployed using ThreadX, it is clear that this is an important and mature technology. To ensure a sustainable future for ThreadX we need to obtain the support, participation, and contributions of all ecosystem participants: silicon/SBC manufacturers, embedded system integrators, and tool vendors. We highly encourage every company with an interest in embedded technology to join the interest group to help define and secure the future of ThreadX.

Eclipse ThreadX presents the industry with a game-changing opportunity. Having a performant, mature, safety and security certified, permissively-licensed, open source RTOS under vendor-neutral governance will enable new business and product opportunities around the world. We are very excited to work with the community to make ThreadX a huge success.