Virtualization on Microcontrollers: Page 6 of 6

October 15, 2018 //By Stefaan Sonck Thiebaut, OpenSynergy
Virtualization on Microcontrollers
Embedded virtualization is a key technology for the future of automotive. Virtualization makes it possible to allocate the resources of a processor to multiple safely separated applications and operating systems. This is an effective approach to redesign the vehicle electronics architecture, take full advantage of the performance of processors and address the growing complexity of software-defined functions.

Virtualization is also a step towards more modular software updates. Unlike AUTOSAR OS-Applications, virtual machines can be built independently, and the respective binary code can be updated independently on the target.

What is the advantage over non-hypervisor methods?

The use of virtualization technology brings numerous advantages for the integration of software systems in the vehicle:

  1. Virtualization makes it simpler to provide freedom from interference by enforcing temporal and spatial separation.
  2. Virtualization allows independently developed software partitions to run on the same ECU. The software partitions may use different software stacks.
  3. Virtualization allows consolidation of software from multiple legacy ECUs into a newer, more powerful ECU.
  4. New functions, and the introduction of multi- and many-core systems increase software complexity. Analyzing real-time behavior becomes more difficult. Because the hypervisor enforces strict timing protection, temporal interference between software components in different virtual machines is avoided, allowing for an easier understanding of the system decomposed to partitions at the function level.
  5. Virtualization allows for new workflows in software development where different suppliers can develop software for different virtual machines in parallel, thus allowing OEMs a more flexible approach as well as reducing hardware costs.
  6. Having independent and modular software updates can lead to a significant reduction in the effort needed to re-qualify software partitions, especially when the changes are small.


Embedded virtualization, already in production on application processors, in vehicle domains such as connectivity and infotainment, is now coming to microcontrollers and real-time processors.  This technology will enable the integration of more complex software functions on domain controllers that cannot only use application processors.  Some upcoming generations of microcontrollers, such as the ones based on the ARMv8-R architecture, have built-in hardware extensions to make virtualization easier and more effective.  The software technology will be available as these new processors hit the market.

About the autor:

PhD Stefaan Sonck Thiebaut is responsible for the overall product development and technical direction of OpenSynergy as CEO. The co-founder of the company is a mechanical engineer, graduated from Stanford University (USA) and brings more than 20 years of software development experience to the company. 


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