The Benefits of Red Hat Enterprise Linux for Real Time

To deliver the best of predictability on real-time workloads, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux for Real Time provides state-of-art on determinism for the bullet-proof RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) platform. The availability of this product raises some questions, like: Do I need a real-time operating system? Or What are the benefits and drawbacks of running the RHEL for Real Time? This article aims to clarify how to leverage the success of your business using a real-time operating system, and what kind of workloads or type of industry can benefit from RT.

Introduction

Linux is the best choice for High-Performance Computing (HPC) due to the years of Linux kernel optimization focused on delivering high average throughput for a vast number of different workloads. Being optimized for throughput means that the algorithms for processing data are geared towards processing the most amount of data in the least amount of time. Examples of throughput-oriented operations are transferring megabytes/second over a network connection or the amount of data read from or written to a storage medium. These optimizations are the basis for the success of RHEL on servers and HPC environments.

Nevertheless, these optimizations for high throughput can cause drawbacks on other specific workloads. For example, the RHEL kernel uses a busy loop wait approach to avoid the scheduling overhead on some mutual exclusion methods, like spin locks and read/write locks. While busy waiting to enter in a critical section of code, the task waiting delays the scheduling of other potentially higher priority tasks in the same CPU. As a result, the higher priority task can not be scheduled and executed until the waiting task has completed, causing a delay on the high priority task’s response.

Although this delay is acceptable for the majority of common workloads, it is not acceptable for the class of tasks where correctness depends on meeting timing deadlines. This class of tasks, often classified as real-time tasks, has strict timing constraints where an answer must be delivered within a certain time period, and a late answer means it is wrong or fails.

For example, processing a 30 frames per second video requires the ability to deliver one frame every 33 milliseconds. If the system fails to deliver a frame every 33 milliseconds, the video processing will not be only late, but also wrong. It is natural to think then that real-time means delivering a quick response to an event and assume that real-time can be achieved only by making the system run faster. This assumption is a misconception, however. For instance, if the above-mentioned system can run fast enough to deliver a frame every 16.6 ms (60 frames per seconds), the video will be reproduced twice as fast. A faster response is not the expected behavior for processing this video, so the system will deliver not only early results but also wrong results. Hence, real-time systems are those that deliver a predictable timing behavior instead of just trying to deliver faster results.

To provide an enterprise environment for real-time workloads on Linux, Red Hat provides the RHEL for Real Time product. RHEL for Real Time is composed of the RHEL kernel optimized for determinism, along with a set of integrated tuning tools to provide the state-of-art of determinism on Linux. The deterministic timing behavior depends on both an application’s determinism using its own algorithms and on the Linux kernel determinism in managing the systems shared resources.

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