Trustworthy Systems

Virtualizing embedded systems — why bother?


Gernot Heiser




Platform virtualization, which supports the co-existence of multiple operating-systems environments on a single physical platform, is now commonplace in server computing, as it can provide similar isolation as separate physical servers, but with improved resource utilisation.

In the embedded space, virtualization is a new development, which is likely to become more widespread in the next few years. Unlike the server word, where virtualized systems typically run multiple copies of the same (or similar) operating systems, most uses of virtualization in the embedded space are heterogenous, combining different classes of operating systems: an RTOS for traditional embedded real-time programming, and a fully-featured (“rich”) operating system to support complex applications such as user interfaces.

We provide a number of examples of present or likely use cases of virtualization in embedded systems, and explain the motivation and benefits, as well as some of the differences to server-style virtualization.

BibTeX Entry

    address          = {Dan Diego, CA, USA},
    author           = {Heiser, Gernot},
    booktitle        = {Design Automation Conference (DAC)},
    isbn             = {978-1-4503-0636-2},
    keywords         = {virtualization, embedded systems, real-time systems, consumer electronics, automotive, medical,
    month            = jun,
    pages            = {901--905},
    paperurl         = {},
    title            = {Virtualizing Embedded Systems --- Why Bother?},
    year             = {2011}