I just got a heads up that two very interesting changes were just put back to the OpenSolaris code base, related to the Intel Atom Processor:
- Performance counters for Atom.
- Support for the MOVBE instruction. A technical note I read on Intel's website states: "The Intel Atom Processor supports the MOVBE instruction which allows swapping the high and low bits of a long value during a move." This sounds particularly useful for embedded devices where Atom is supposed to be applied, if a peripheral needs a different byte order.
So the OpenSolaris kernel now has the requisite fiddly bits to not only run on an Intel Atom processor-based platform (these were actually done months ago) but also the necessary support to optimize software and drivers for Atom.
This raises some good questions:
- So why does OpenSolaris need Atom support to begin with?
- Isn't Solaris a big iron OS?
- Won't it have too large a footprint for a smaller device like a netbook or a MID?
In fact, Solaris runs in some form or another in a lot of embedded applications, and has for some years. There is absolutely nothing strange to think that this wouldn't continue. And, if Atom is successful at being used in embedded applications, it seems natural to enable Solaris to run on it.
And further, there is absolutely nothing about the Solaris footprint to prevent it from fitting on a small pretty dang small device. One of the OpenSolaris open source distros is Milax, which is a stripped down version appropriate to very small systems. According to this writing, their web site says they only need 256KB 256MB of memory to run, which is pretty darn small. (Edited to correct the memory)
But why give the ability to optimize software and drivers? Well, clearly if you want to do something of a serious nature on small devices, you need all the necessary tools.
It will be very interesting to see future developments in this space. Who do you think will build the first Atom-based Solaris or OpenSolaris embedded device?