Chapter 2. eCos Overview

eCos is an open source, configurable, portable, and royalty-free embedded real-time operating system. The following text expands on these core aspects that define eCos.

eCos is provided as an open source runtime system supported by the GNU open source development tools. Developers have full and unfettered access to all aspects of the runtime system. No parts of it are proprietary or hidden, and you are at liberty to examine, add to, and modify the code as you deem necessary. These rights are granted to you and protected by the GNU Public License (GPL). An exception clause has been added to the eCos license which limits the circumstances in which the license applies to other code when used in conjunction with eCos. This exception grants you the right to freely develop and distribute applications based on eCos. You are not expected or required to make your embedded applications or any additional components that you develop freely available so long as they are not derived from eCos code. We of course welcome all contributions back to eCos such as board ports, device drivers and other components, as this helps the growth and development of eCos, and is of benefit to the entire eCos community. See Chapter 3 for more details.

One of the key technological innovations in eCos is the configuration system. The configuration system allows the application writer to impose their requirements on the run-time components, both in terms of their functionality and implementation, whereas traditionally the operating system has constrained the application's own implementation. Essentially, this enables eCos developers to create their own application-specific operating system and makes eCos suitable for a wide range of embedded uses. Configuration also ensures that the resource footprint of eCos is minimized as all unnecessary functionality and features are removed. The configuration system also presents eCos as a component architecture. This provides a standardized mechanism for component suppliers to extend the functionality of eCos and allows applications to be built from a wide set of optional configurable run-time components. Components can be provided from a variety of sources including: the standard eCos release; commercial third party developers or open source contributors.

The royalty-free nature of eCos means that you can develop and deploy your application using the standard eCos release without incurring any royalty charges. In addition, there are no up-front license charges for the eCos runtime source code and associated tools. We provide, without charge, everything necessary for basic embedded applications development.

eCos is designed to be portable to a wide range of target architectures and target platforms including 16, 32, and 64 bit architectures, MPUs, MCUs and DSPs. The eCos kernel, libraries and runtime components are layered on the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL), and thus will run on any target once the HAL and relevant device drivers have been ported to the target's processor architecture and board. Currently eCos supports a large range of different target architectures:

including many of the popular variants of these architectures and evaluation boards.

eCos has been designed to support applications with real-time requirements, providing features such as full preemptability, minimal interrupt latencies, and all the necessary synchronization primitives, scheduling policies, and interrupt handling mechanisms needed for these type of applications. eCos also provides all the functionality required for general embedded application support including device drivers, memory management, exception handling, C, math libraries, etc. In addition to runtime support, the eCos system includes all the tools necessary to develop embedded applications, including eCos software configuration and build tools, and GNU based compilers, assemblers, linkers, debuggers, and simulators.

To get the most out of eCos you should visit the eCos open source developers site:

The site is dedicated to the eCos developer community and contains a rich set of resources including news, FAQ, online documentation, installation guide, discussion and announcement mailing lists, and runtime and development tools downloads. The site also supports anonymous CVS and WEBCVS access to provide direct access to the latest eCos source base.

eCos is released as open source software because we believe that this is the most effective software development model, and that it provides the greatest benefit to the embedded developer community as a whole. As part of this endeavor, we seek the input and participation of eCos developers in its continuing evolution. Participation can take many forms including:

Our long term aim is to make eCos a rich and ubiquitous standard infrastructure for the development of deeply embedded applications. This will be achieved with the assistance of the eCos developer community cooperating to improve eCos for all. We would like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to the many eCos developers who have already contributed feedback, ideas, patches, and code that have augmented and improved this release.

The eCos Maintainers