The Edge of Real-Time Connectivity: Wind River’s Commitment to TSN Leadership

Traditional Ethernet (IEEE 802.3) had no concept of time regarding data delivery, and thus it was not possible to ensure that all real-time data arrived at its destination on time – especially as data loads increased. Deterministic system behavior thus could not be achieved. The IEEE 802.1 Working Group initiated the development of Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) standards in the early 2010s to address this problem and, in 2012, a task group (802.1 TSN TG) was formed to develop standards for TSN. The task group included representatives from various industries and aimed to enhance Ethernet for real-time and deterministic communication.

The TSN task group defined a set of standards to support various aspects of time-sensitive networking, including time synchronization, scheduling, and traffic shaping – ensuring interoperability and compatibility across different vendors’ equipment. TSN guarantees minimal network latency and jitter and provides for bounded end-to-end delay and guaranteed message delivery time, even during a flood of network traffic – where time-sensitive and non-time-sensitive data are sent over the same network. Some of the standards are still evolving, as the demands of modern intelligent edge systems are addressed.

Wind River Leadership

To meet these demands, support of TSN within a high-performance Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS) is table stakes. The Wind River VxWorks RTOS and its hypervisor capability – offered through Helix Virtualization Platform (HVP) have been supporting TSN since the early inception of the standards. Indeed, Wind River has been involved in TSN plug fest activity in North America and Europe – events where manufacturers and developers gather to test the interoperability and compatibility of their TSN implementations. These events are important for the advancement and widespread adoption of TSN technology.

Wind River remains committed to advancing the adoption of TSN – both in our industry collaborations with leading organizations in Aerospace and Defense, Automotive, Industrial Automation and Control and Telecommunications, as well as with leading System on Chip (SoC) manufacturers – as they grapple with the various TSN standards and their evolution. Our continued investment, thought leadership, and the resulting TSN capabilities of VxWorks and HVP demonstrate this.

VxWorks and Helix Virtualization Platform – Multiple releases per year

As part of Wind River’s customer commitment to enable the adoption of the latest technological advances within their real-time systems, we invest in the R&D needed to deliver two releases of VxWorks and HVP every year. This release cadence – more than any other vendor, equips customers to keep pace with evolving technology, solve today’s software problems – such as rapid AI/ML integration, scaling with silicon advancements in high-performance compute, cost-effective safety certification, strong cybersecurity posture, and then, of course, TSN implementation. In short, the more frequent the release cadence, the more competitive our customers can be.

Our recent March 2024 release saw TSN support in our HVP Cert product (Safety-certifiable version of HVP) – specifically supporting VxWorks TSN capability within a virtual machine, running in pass-through mode, on Intel i225 and NXP S32G3 – with nanosecond jitter performance – on par with native VxWorks. This is important for ensuring the high performance needed for TSN capability within mixed criticality systems – such as in Aerospace & Defense and Automotive. We will continue to build out our processor support for this important capability.

We also enhanced our support for associated standards: IEEE1588, IEEE802.1AS (time synchronization), IEEE 802.1Qbv (traffic scheduling) and IEEE 802.1Qbu (frame preemption), and we will continue to maintain these standards across the hardware and add new hardware.

Our TSN capabilities are supported on hardware from vendors including: Aptiv, Intel, NXP, Renesas, Texas Instruments, and AMD.

Safety certified

Mission-critical systems must ensure that they continue to operate correctly, even when components fail, or errors occur. Various standards exist to define requirements and guidelines for designing, implementing, and maintaining safety systems to mitigate the risk of hazards and accidents. With the adoption of TSN, there are clear intersections with functional safety:

  • Deterministic Communication: Critical safety-related data must be transmitted within specified time constraints – essential for real-time monitoring and control of safety-critical processes.
  • Redundancy and Fault Tolerance: This ensures that systems can continue to operate safely even in the event of failure. TSN can complement these efforts by providing redundant communication paths and failover mechanisms, enhancing the reliability of safety-critical systems.
  • Certification and Compliance: Integrating TSN into safety-critical applications necessitates adherence to relevant standards and validation processes to guarantee the reliability and effectiveness of the overall system.

In terms of safety certification, as the incumbent RTOS supplier to the Aerospace & Defense market, Wind River is committed to safety certifying our TSN capabilities as we continue to invest heavily in this area. Similar commitment and investment apply to Automotive and Industrial Automation.

Supporting TSN across industries

As the world’s most widely deployed RTOS, VxWorks supports our customers in key industries in their journey to implement TSN.

In Aerospace and Defense systems, real-time communication is crucial for mission-critical applications such as flight control systems, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations, battlefield communications, and weapon systems. VxWorks/HVP TSN capability allows for the convergence of different types of traffic, including control, monitoring, and multimedia data, onto a single Ethernet network. This simplifies network infrastructure, reduces latency, and enhances efficiency – where space and weight constraints are critical. Additionally, the time synchronization, traffic shaping, and fault tolerance mechanisms serve to enhance the robustness and reliability of Ethernet networks in harsh environments. Being open standards-based ensures interoperability between different vendors’ equipment and this facilitates the integration of TSN into existing aerospace and defense systems.

For Industrial Automation, VxWorks/HVP capabilities facilitate synchronized control systems, enabling precise coordination of robots, machines, and sensors. This ensures efficient production processes and enhances overall system reliability.

TSN plays a crucial role in the automotive industry, where the capabilities enabled by VxWorks/HVP ensure the timely exchange of critical data, enhancing vehicle safety and performance. This is important in areas such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving.

​​​​​​​The way forward

The adoption of TSN is poised to accelerate. Realizing its full potential requires collaboration across industries, standardization bodies, and technology providers. In doing so, there are on-going challenges:

  • Interoperability – Ensuring seamless interoperability among TSN-compliant devices and systems.
  • Security – As TSN networks become more interconnected, robust security measures are essential for continued protection against cyber threats and ensure data integrity.
  • Standardization – Continued standards collaboration and recommendations on the most relevant standards are crucial to fostering widespread adoption and accelerating innovation in TSN technologies.

TSN represents a paradigm shift in the world of networking, offering unparalleled capabilities for real-time systems communication and synchronization. By harnessing the power of TSN, industries can unlock new levels of efficiency, reliability, and innovation, shaping the future of intelligent edge systems. Wind River is and will remain at the forefront of this technology.

About the author

Alan Stranaghan is a Senior Product Marketing Line Manager at Wind River