Real-time Operating Systems: A Basic Selection Guide

June 20th, 2017 by

Does the process of choosing a real-time operating system seem daunting? Have you tried and chosen the wrong system by any chance? Unless you are a tech geek, the arduous terminologies and system codes can be your greatest challenge. An RTOS should be chosen based on performance and your programming team’s familiarity with it. But the RTOS market is varied, ranging from commercial to internally developed to open source. To make the right choice for your business, consider these 5 criteria.

1. Reliability

A reliable real-time operating system is built using top-notch component and construction techniques. This applies to both hardware and software designs. While the quality of hardware design is typically self-evident, the software design must also adhere to quality design standards and use of proven software components that have been used in many embedded systems successfully.


2. Performance

Runtime performance in an RTOS is determined by context switching, interrupt latency and some metric of the kernel. In real-time applications like medical centers, the system must respond promptly and behave correctly. “Real time” means that the system should respond to demands at the right time or within a set timeframe. An ideal real-time operating system ought to be very deterministic and predictable.

3. Functionality

Ensure that the real-time operating system you choose contains your preferred capabilities. For instance, the kernel should support the fundamental multi-tasking model with workable scheduling options, event handling, and synchronization of tasks. An operating system is a set of alternatives that provides extensive functionality options. However, a few functionality elements will stand out based on your area of application; make sure that the features that are necessary to your business are up to your required quality standards.

3. Development tools

A set of reliable development tools such as a compiler, performance profiler, and debugger help to shorten the debugging and development periods. They also improve coding reliability. All commercial real-time operating systems contain a set of tools that optimize and analyze the RTOS behavior. Open source RTOSs do not contain this feature.

4. Cost

Cost is a significant consideration that cannot be overlooked. There are numerous RTOS vendors who offer different packages. Some operating systems include the real-time kernel and an output/input manager, language interface libraries, cross-platform compilers, a file system, windowing systems, and debuggers. Real-time operating system costs range from $50 to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the vendor and features you choose.


Gaining an in-depth understanding of your operating system requirements ensures that you will choose a real-time operating system that will benefit your business. Carefully consider the criteria above, along with your vendor’s level of experience and understanding of the OS, to make the right decision on your real-time operating system.


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