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Transforming the IoT Edge with Arm’s Project Cassini

Homepage Transforming the IoT Edge with Arm’s Project Cassini

Project Cassini by Arm is a program designed to align the industry around standards, and enable interoperability, innovation and differentiation for partners (particularly those focused on the edge) to develop and shift their products.

Arm describes Project Cassini as an “open, collaborative, standards-based initiative to deliver a seamless cloud-native software experience for devices based on Arm Cortex-A processors”

Thanks to Project Cassini, IoT manufacturers and device vendors can access Arm SystemReady and PSA Certified silicon and development boards, as well as OS Linux support from right across the Arm ecosystem.

The key to Arm Project Cassini is the twin notions of Standards, provided by SystemReady and Security represented by PSA Certified and Parsec.

Project Cassini is an Arm led industry initiative to transform the IoT Edge with an active and growing community of Arm partners who build and integrate silicon, systems, and software for the edge, and we are very pleased to be working with Witekio and Avnet to improve the cloud-native software experience for the entire IoT ecosystem - Thomas Lorenser, Director IoT Segment at Arm.

Arm SystemReady is a compliance certification program that ensures software works across a diverse range of Arm-powered hardware. It sets a standard for a wide variety of devices, including IoT and IoT edge devices, and means that there are always a minimum set of features, a unified interface between firmware and OS, and open APIs for platform security services.

Project Cassini sets the standard for device security with Platform Security Architecture (PSA). The PSA framework, guides developers to secure devices from the ground up.

The PSA certification program provides assurance that best practices are in place. Layered on top of PSA, is a program that extends the reach of hardware-based security to the cloud-native world. Parsec, Platform Abstraction for Security project provides a common API for security functions that abstracts the various system security primitives available today.

With PSA + Parsec, you’re well on your way to securing your devices for a connected world.

What is in it for the IoT industry and Arm ecosystem? 

To develop IoT and edge technology to its full potential, it must scale to a pace of development and deployment much greater than what we see today.

Embedded software, cloud services, hardware design, connectivity, machine learning, security – there is a long list of challenges to tackle in delivering these systems, and many have been slow to improve due to complexity, fragmentation, or other issues.  

This is exactly why Arm developed Project Cassini: to build an ecosystem that will tackle key friction points in realizing a cloud-native software experience across a secure Arm edge ecosystem.

70 partners including Silicon Partners, ODMs, OEMs, ISVs, and end-users are now part of the initiative to unlock the edge computing opportunity. 

Arm’s strategy was built around its ecosystem. Arm maintained the IP for the chip but worked with a wide range of silicon vendors and manufacturers to transform that IP into Silicon products that are widely sold in the market.

This earned Arm upfront licensing revenues as well as ongoing royalty payments from partners, while providing those same partners the flexibility to adapt the Arm IP to their own ends. 

From a business perspective, this allowed Arm to develop a diversified revenue stream and become the leader in the mobile and low-power chip domain. However, it posed a challenge when it came to delivering a standard package for silicon vendors to build upon and for software developers to work with.  

With Project Cassini, Arm seeks to establish a standard to simplify and accelerate time to market. It’s akin to a ‘best of both worlds’ approach that should benefit the Arm ecosystem, the silicon vendors, and the device manufacturers who rely on Arm chips for their IoT and edge infrastructure devices. 

What are the benefits for IoT device vendors?

IoT device designers and manufacturers have long appreciated chips based on the Arm architecture for their low-power consumption and for the flexibility that Arm offers by virtue of its availability on a variety of hardware.

Yet for all the advantages, there have been some drawbacks, most notably when it comes to the specific Linux distribution running on the Arm-based hardware.

Typically, device makers have selected the Arm-based silicon, but that choice has also locked them into a particular Linux distribution, typically Yocto.

With SystemReady certified silicon, however, it will be possible for developers to deploy whatever Linux distribution they prefer.

What’s more, as a device evolves over time and perhaps moves to a different hardware, where that hardware is also SystemReady certified it will not be necessary to adapt the software layer to a new Linux OS.

Device vendors should find they have more flexibility to develop the software and applications that they want as well as shift to different silicon in the future with few to no compatibility issues.

This SystemReady approach can be clearly understood by comparing the traditional boot process on a non-SystemReady certified NXP i.MX8 EVK to a SystemReady boot process on the same i.MX8 EVK that has been SystemReady certified.

As the diagram demonstrates, the traditional boot process moves from ROM, through the imx-boot and Arm Trusted Firmware to U-Boot, at which point the Linux kernel is loaded.

However, with the SystemReady boot process, an extensible firmware interface layer is added between the Arm Trusted Firmware and the Linux OS.

By aligning with the UEFI standard and relying on the GNU Project GRUB boot loader, any version and distribution of Linux can sit at the top of the boot process and run without issues. If the UEFI standard is maintained, the SystemReady approach ensures greater flexibility and perfect compatibility.

Significantly, thanks to the UEFI standard and the inclusion of the UEFI API, the UEFI binary can be any Linux kernel but also a bare-metal application or even another bootloader.  

Finally, there is the potential to reduce the time to market significantly by buying Project Cassini compliant and certified silicon off the shelf.

With the modules already compliant, manufacturers can save time in the development process and redeploy financial and human resources where they can be leveraged to the best effect.  

Witekio – The Trusted Partner for Software Customization on Cassini

With Project Cassini advancing rapidly and a host of industry partners having their boards, chips, and devices certified, it’s clear that Arm’s move is going to have a significant impact on the IoT and edge device market.

Witekio is perfectly positioned to help device designers, manufacturers, and developers build on Project Cassini compliant and SystemReady certified foundations and deploy the embedded software and operating systems that are crucial to the successful release of a new product, or the necessary evolution of an existing product.

With Project Cassini advancing rapidly and a host of industry partners having their boards, chips, and devices certified, it’s clear that Arm’s move is going to have a significant impact on the IoT and edge device market. 

Witekio is perfectly positioned to help device designers, manufacturers, and developers build on Project Cassini compliant and SystemReady certified foundations and deploy the embedded software and operating systems that are crucial to the successful release of a new product, or the necessary evolution of an existing product. 

With decades of expertise in embedded and low-level software development and with longstanding relationships with both Arm and the silicon vendors that have joined with Arm in driving Project Cassini forward, Witekio is a trusted partner that can help you to take full advantage of the flexibility, compatibility, and speedy time to market that Cassini offers.

Reach out to Witekio today to discuss your Arm-based project and learn how we can help you transform your ideas into reality.
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- Copywriter
25 May 2022