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Apr 8, 2021

"More freedom of choice"

Interview with Heiko Wilke, Senior Product Manager Embedded PC at Beckhoff, on TwinCAT/BSD

Published in A&D 03/2021, publisher: publish-industry Verlag, www.publish-industry.net

The interview was conducted by Christian Vilsbeck, A&D.

With TwinCAT/BSD, Beckhoff is making a high-performance alternative to Windows operating systems available to its customers. In an interview with A&D, Heiko Wilke, Senior Product Manager Embedded PC at Beckhoff, explains why this step was necessary and what developments are planned for the FreeBSD variant.

Was FreeBSD necessary from the security aspect, because Windows CE and Windows Embedded are no longer justifiable?

Heiko Wilke: As Microsoft will be ceasing support for Windows CE in the foreseeable future, it was naturally important to develop a sustainable successor system. From the security aspect, an up-to-date operating system whose development is actively ongoing is indispensable. That's why we offer long-term updates for TwinCAT/BSD and support for our devices in order to guarantee our customers investment security.

Heiko Wilke, Senior Product Manager Embedded PC at Beckhoff Automation.
Heiko Wilke, Senior Product Manager Embedded PC at Beckhoff Automation.

TwinCAT/BSD supports ARM and Intel Xeon CPUs. Will the system with its advantages such as higher data integrity "creep" into the Windows-based IPCs from Beckhoff?

Heiko Wilke: I don't think "creep" is the right word. We are offering TwinCAT/BSD on the one hand not only as a successor to Windows CE systems, but also as a general alternative to Windows-based systems, if that's what the customers prefer. Future ARM-based controllers from Beckhoff, for example, will be offered only with TwinCAT/BSD. In the case of x86-64 CPUs, the customer can still choose between Windows and TwinCAT/BSD. Ultimately it's up to the customer to choose the operating system and it depends on the respective application.

Are all functions of MATLAB/Simulink, Motion Control to Vision also available in the mid-term for TwinCAT/BSD?

Heiko Wilke: We are working on also porting all so-called runtime products to TwinCAT/BSD, if technically possible. These include MATLAB/Simulink, Motion Control and Vision. Of course, the engineering products will still only be available for Windows, as in most cases these are integrated in Visual Studio, which is only supported by Windows. That is comparable with previous Windows CE systems, for which only runtime functions are available too. However, we are concerned here with the full TwinCAT runtime, as is also used in the large Windows operating systems. The functionality, especially with regard to multi-core support – including the TwinCAT core isolation function – is thus at the same level as customers are used to with the "large" Windows.

What further steps are planned for TwinCAT/BSD?

Heiko Wilke: TwinCAT/BSD will be extended further as a platform for Beckhoff. In addition to porting the existing TwinCAT runtime functions, we will also be able to offer new functions. These include the possibility to run container applications – for example Docker Container – in parallel with the TwinCAT real-time. Moreover, we want to simplify the device management via the existing website so that customers can diagnose and configure a device locally or remotely via an HTML 5 web browser.

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