Creating freedom by eliminating vendor lock-in - AgBRAIN

Creating freedom by eliminating vendor lock-in

Assisting AgBRAIN in their move to a fully upstream baseline



The investment required to move away from the hardware vendor's board support package (BSP) always begins by looking insurmountable at first. However once the risks associated with insufficient testing and absence of maintenance become apparent then gaining control over the software platform should turn into a priority. The complexity varies depending on how far from the mainline Linux kernel and user-space components have diverged in the vendor's BSP.

Due to their desire to reuse existing source code from other operating systems, develop only the minimum viable set of features, or rely on third-party hardware and software providers, vendors often end up releasing their hardware with a less than ideal software. Switching is only feasible because of the robust free and open source software (FOSS) projects that sustain the majority of systems based on Linux today.

The reasons for taking control over the software platform reads like a business priority list: ownership, security, quality concerns, product lifecycle, transparency, and support confidence.

For over 10 years, Agritechnical Basic Research for Advanced Innovation GmbH (AgBRAIN) has been trailblazing the agricultural industry, by shaping the rapid introduction of electronic components into agricultural engineering with all its facets, from automated work steps to data recording and evaluation. Ensuring a long product lifecycle with extensive support has been a key component in AgBRAIN's success.

Lower cost by going upstream

Having previously adopted and recognized the benefits of Open Source technologies, AgBRAIN turned to Collabora for consulting services around switching from a proprietary to a fully upstream software stack.

Working alongside AgBRAIN's engineering team, Collabora implemented and submitted upstream support for the multimedia capture pipeline which was previously only available in the vendor's out-of-tree kernel. One big task was to transition from a proprietary graphics processing unit (GPU) driver to a relatively new upstream, reverse-engineering driver. Collabora also upstreamed to Linux drivers for several other components. That work eliminated the performance differences between the mainline kernel and the vendor kernel. Collabora then correctly fixed core kernel issues upstream that had been worked around in the vendor kernel, in particular related to memory allocation. This allowed AgBRAIN, and we hope others, to migrate their product to the upstream Linux kernel, benefiting from the latest developments, stability updates, and security fixes that are constantly contributed to Linux.

Looking ahead

By contracting with Collabora, AgBRAIN was able to successfully switch from a vendor proprietary (outdated, unreliable, non-maintained) BSP, to a fully upstream baseline. Collabora addressed gaps existing in FOSS projects (bugs, missing features, and missing drivers) to meet their requirements. From there they were able to focus on value-add software in confidence knowing that the community will help maintain all their common denominator software in the baseline.

Guidance and Support

An integral part of Collabora is to remain available to answer customers’ questions. Collabora aims to eliminate concerns regarding FOSS adoption, especially when coming from poor experiences with vendor specific software. With relationships established over many years, Collabora develops a deep understanding of its customers' needs. It enables Collabora to be there every step of the way to bring products to market successfully based on free and open source software (FOSS).

"Pioneering organizations like AgBRAIN propel innovation in Open Source software. Their contributions charted a path for others to follow."Guy Lunardi, VP Business Development, Collabora
AgBRAIN, Linux, Mesa, Wayland

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