Last month, Linaro announced the formation of the LITE (Linaro IoT and Embedded) group to bring together an ARM ecosystem focused on IoT. This is an extension of the enabling work already being done by Linaro in other areas — Mobile, Enterprise, Networking and Home. My colleague, Russ Doty, wrote a pretty good blog about LITE last week here.
For an ecosystem to be successful, the sum of its parts needs to be greater than what could be achieved separately. For the mobile segment, the ARM ecosystem is one of the greatest success stories with a multitude of companies providing the customers options at each layer of the solution stack. Each company focuses on delivering the best performing component that can be easily combined with components from other vendors to create a best-in-class solution. This starts with ARM defining the architecture, a reference design, and providing the core IP. The chip designers can design their own components or use the ones available from other vendors to create a SoC (System on Chip). These SoCs are manufactured by 3rd party fabs using processes optimized for the ARM ecosystem. This results in better, faster, and cheaper solutions than what could be achieved by the participating companies separately.
The ecosystem needs to have sufficient critical mass so that it offers a complete and validated solution stack for customers. This also allows the participating companies to differentiate themselves against other vendors in the ecosystem. LITE makes a good start by having a collection of software (Red Hat, Canonical), Silicon (NXP, TI, ST, Spreadtrum) and Platform (ZTE) companies. The ecosystem also needs to be able to offer choices to customers for the various use cases and deployment scenarios. For software, LITE could offer Zephyr for Cortex-M based microcontrollers, Ubuntu for quick prototyping, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux® for industrial IoT solutions that can be deployed and managed at scale.
LITE benefits from ARM architecture’s market share lead in the IoT device market, but each solution is custom built and can’t be reused across vendors. LITE has its work cut out to get the various vendors to adopt common development methodologies and deliver repeatable solutions. LITE also has gaps in areas like middleware, PaaS/SaaS, integrators etc. that need to be filled before end-to-end solutions can be delivered. Considering LITE is only a month old, expect to see more partners joining in coming months, especially the vendors that are part of other Linaro work groups. Once LITE reaches critical mass, it should become a significant IoT force in coming years.