Mastering the Art of DevOps for Embedded Systems: Standardizing the Developer Experience

Organizations developing systems for the intelligent edge face enormous costs to develop, test, and deploy these systems. DevOps practices can greatly improve efficiency and collaboration among developers, but its adoption is especially hard in this domain. The sheer number of technologies involved, spanning real-time embedded systems, reliable communication over unpredictable links, and centralized administration in elastic cloud infrastructure requires diverse expertise across many specialized teams and tools. In this blog post, we’ll review some ways teams can improve on developer efficiencies. By standardizing tools, processes, and the developer experience, embedded systems teams can benefit from automation, ease of use, consistency, and the reuse of valuable resources, configurations, components, and code.

Automation Enables Embedded DevOps

Automation plays a vital role in the successful implementation of DevOps practices. By automating repetitive tasks, developers can save time and effort while improving consistency and predictability, allowing them to focus on high-value activities. Automated testing and deployment processes enable continuous delivery and integration, helping teams release software updates faster without compromising quality.

Embedded developers know this, of course, but it can be difficult to find tools that solve embedded-specific challenges while fitting nicely into automated workflows. Embedded compilers may only be available in specific runtime environments, for example, and the broad system requirements may impose multiple, possibly conflicting, constraints in a single project.

Automation tools such as Jenkins are designed to help automate pipelines for building and deploying to streamline this process, but they also require configuration and maintenance that consumes valuable developer bandwidth. This  is especially true in projects that need to support tooling in multiple runtime environments, because each environment may need to be maintained separately.

With an automation platform that supports all the diverse tooling required for their project, embedded development teams can achieve continuous integration, automated testing, and automatic deployment to all necessary environments, leading to faster and more reliable releases.

Standardizing Tools and Processes

A well-suited automation platform provides a foundation upon which tools and processes can be standardized, offering several benefits for embedded systems development. It simplifies onboarding for new team members, ensures consistency in development practices, and encourages collaboration by providing a common ground for everyone involved.

Standardizing on a continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) platform helps to streamline the build, test, and deployment process. By selecting tools that integrate well with the embedded systems development workflow, developers can automate repetitive tasks, such as compiling code, running tests, and deploying software to target platforms.

Given the diversity of intelligent edge systems, simply accessing testing and production systems can be challenging. Development hardware for embedded systems can be scarce, often requires manual configuration within a broader test harness, and may be isolated in specialized labs. Embedded teams need to ensure they have tooling that provides reliable access to testing and production systems from automated pipelines.

For cloud infrastructure and other more accessible environments, adoption of infrastructure as code (IaC) practices enables the automation of environment setups and configurations. By defining the infrastructure requirements in code, developers can easily provision and manage target platforms, reducing setup and configuration time.

Consistency and Ease of Use

Ensuring that tools, processes, and environments are easy to use and consistent for all team members is important for all development teams, and particularly so for embedded teams because they use so many specialized tools. Developers need a seamless, intuitive experience to maximize productivity, which can be achieved by adopting tools that have a user-friendly interface and provide clear documentation.

For developers, “user-friendly” often has multiple meanings. They might want an intuitive GUI for ad hoc and occasional use, a flexible CLI for use from scripts and orchestration tools, and a powerful API for programmatic use.

Standardizing the development environment and creating reproducible builds is also important. By leveraging technologies such as containerization with tools like Docker and Kubernetes, developers can create consistent and isolated environments across different stages of the software development lifecycle. This helps in avoiding configuration discrepancies, reducing the chances of errors, and improving collaboration among team members.

Reusing Resources, Configurations, Components, and Code

With so many specialized teams and tools in embedded development projects, duplicated effort is a real concern. Standardizing on a common DevOps platform provides a central location where valuable resources, configurations, components, and code can be shared and reused when appropriate. Future projects often leverage similar hardware platforms, for example, and business logic can be packaged into shareable components. By creating a repository of reusable assets, developers can leverage existing solutions, reducing development time, and minimizing the risk of errors.

Additionally, implementing modular design principles and developing libraries and frameworks can help create a catalog of reusable components. This reduces redundancy, eases maintenance efforts, and enables faster development cycles.

Achieving DevSecOps with Embedded Systems

Mastering the art of DevOps for embedded systems brings significant benefits to development teams. By standardizing tools, processes, and the developer experience, developers can improve efficiency, collaboration, and overall productivity. The focus on automation, ease of use, consistency, and reuse of resources, configurations, components, and code enables teams to deliver high-quality software more efficiently, meeting the demands of modern development for the intelligent edge.

Wind River Studio Developer is a full-featured DevOps platform for intelligent edge development, purpose-built to solve the challenges that prevent embedded systems teams from adopting DevOps. Contact us today to learn how Wind River Studio Pipelines helps organizations reduce development costs and accelerate time to market by standardizing tools, processes, and the developer experience.


About the author

Jon Jarboe is a Senior Product Marketing Line Manager at Wind River