Wind River Turns 30: Looking Back and Moving Forward


2011 marks Wind River’s 30th anniversary. The big 3-0…it’s a major landmark moment in anyone’s book. This year, we’ll be taking time to honor this milestone with a retrospective of Wind River’s history and also a series of employee stories.  In my many years with the company, Wind River always impressed on me the concept of  being bigger than just a single product or technology. There is an underlying spirit within our teams that constantly reaches for more, for some greater innovation. While many customers know Wind River for the VxWorks real-time operating system, it was always part of the vision to provide more value. In the early days, this entailed providing a TCP/IP stack and GDB for debugging. Later, additional value came from strong IDE support through Tornado and Workbench. Lately, it has been by providing a choice of operating systems, real-time or open source/Linux.

A standout example that exemplified the vision of providing a more complete solution was when we embarked on creating a truly embedded hypervisor. In 2004, it had already become clear to us that virtualization would play an important role in embedded designs at some point in the future. In early 2005, Paul Borman who worked for me in the CTO Office created a very impressive prototype, called eCPU, that ran VxWorks and Linux on a single CPU and we learned a lot from that effort. When Johan Fornaeus came on board in 2006 through an acquisition (he was co-founder of Interpeak and before that, one of the co-designers of the Enea/OSE operating system), I had him leading a small nimble task force team to develop a hypervisor really suited for the embedded space. I felt we made a real breakthrough. This was not a repackaged operating system pretending to be something it was not designed for, but instead a truly unique approach to virtualization and separation. Over the next couple years, this small team created a scalable product with an extremely tight footprint, incredible performance, while at the same time being full featured for the common architectures such as Intel, Power, ARM and MIPS.

Back in those days, it was not clear to us when and how important multi-OS systems would be in the future, but today it is hard to imagine how to deal with these new complex systems without a hypervisor for embedded virtualization. Looking at my team’s achievement now, I still marvel at how the Wind River Hypervisor brings together multi-core and our various operating systems. Why choose between operating systems with different characteristics when you can mix them in one system? Throw in a networking stack optimized for multi-core and tools that can debug and find performance bottlenecks and you get a very capable foundation on which our customers can innovate.

By constantly looking to the future, Wind River continues to evolve and further build on its expertise. The ongoing push to innovate may have created interesting and complex challenges along the way. However, it has also resulted in celebrations and breakthroughs, and it’s undoubtedly a big reason why so many of us continue to stay on the ride.