The embedded industry standardise on ARM, ECLIPSE and GNU

Posted by Magnus Unemyr on Jan 19, 2015 4:17:00 PM



ARM is taking a stronger and stronger grip on the embedded market, and is now the de-facto standard microcontroller architecture. This trend has been strengthened a lot since the introduction of the low-cost Cortex-M0 and Cortex-M3 cores, and continues with the powerful Cortex-M4 and Cortex-M7 cores for high-end microcontrollers. And of course, for DSP and application processor type of applications, Cortex-R and Cortex-A is being increasingly used.

An equally strong paradigm shift is happening in the embedded tools industry, where the GNU C/C++ compiler and debugger tools (gcc, gdb, binutils, etc.) are quickly emerging as a standard tool solution as well. This trend is valid with both smaller companies who appreciate the better return on investment compared to traditional proprietary tools, as well as multinational corporations who value a tool-chain that exist for almost all CPU architectures in common use, on all relevant host operating systems. Furthermore, the GNU tools helps avoid a proprietary lock-in and offers second source suppliers and support should the need arise. These benefits are not possible with proprietary tools.

This trend is strengthened further with ECLIPSE as the de-facto standard embedded C/C++ IDE, with its supremely powerful feature-set, a flexible plug-in architecture, and cross-platform operating system support.

The emerging trend where ARM, the GNU tools and the ECLIPSE IDE is quickly becoming the de-facto standard for embedded tools is likely to continue at an accelerated speed in the next couple of years. Commercially polished ECLIPSE IDE's, like Atollic TrueSTUDIO, provides a very compelling tool solution indeed.

The combination of AGE (ARM, GNU and ECLIPSE) provides a standardized set of technologies, that will benefit embedded developers who will get reduced training costs and better tools at lower prices.

With AGE, embedded developers get a well-known platform with a minimum of migration problems when moving from one project to another. This is particularly useful for developers who start to use the free low-end IDE's offered by chipvendors, as a commercial high-end tool based on Eclipse and GNU provides a supremely smooth upgrade path (due to the Eclipse->Eclipse and GCC->GCC migration) that is not possible if upgrading to a proprietary compiler and IDE.

It is my belief that embedded developers will do well by adding experience from the GNU tools and the Eclipse IDE to their resumés, as this will be a requrired expertise in the years to come.

Topics: ECLIPSE, ARM Cortex, GNU tools (GCC/GDB)