I must admit that I'm generally more focused on the actual “doing” side of things rather than the business-level “who is doing what to/with who” end of the stick. I'm not saying that this is a good or bad thing — it's just the way I'm wired. Thus, when I see an announcement about a group of companies forming an alliance, I may be vaguely interested, but I typically don't get overly excited, unless something catches my eye…
Which leads us to today's announcement that a group of like-minded companies have formed the Embedded Tools Alliance (ETA). The reason this particular announcement attracted my attention is that I know one of the players — Jacob Beningo, who is the founder of the Beningo Embedded Group. In addition to presenting numerous papers at the Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) over the years, Jacob has kindly sat on a number of panels hosted by yours truly. This is, of course, one of the reasons for attending conferences in the first place: meeting one's peers and networking furiously.
So, what is the ETA and why have these companies formed it? Well, as we all know to our cost, the embedded developers' toolbox is complex and involves many components: the IDE (Integrated Development Environment), compilers, debuggers, trace tools, test tools, debug and flash programming hardware, the target operating system, and the target middleware, to name but a few. Choosing the right components is enormously complex and prompts a huge number of questions, each of which takes time to answer and poses risk to the project's success:
Do they work on the same host OS? Which versions need to be used? How should they be configured? Do they interoperate correctly? Do they work together to produce an optimal result? Have they been validated? Has the combination of these components been validated or certified?
Just to add to the fun and frivolity, the embedded marketplace is fragmented with a huge number of suppliers. Some large, vertically-integrated companies try to offer every component required, but the members of the ETA feel that this approach may stagnate innovation, limit choice, and prevent users from choosing best-in-class solutions that address the specific needs of their projects.