The Zephyr Project leverages the key benefits of open-source software—continuous development and
improved security—to provide users with a flexible and configurable real-time operating system.
NXP provides several evaluation and prototyping platforms which support Zephyr OS.
Why Open-Source Software?
was coined by Christine Peterson, cofounder and past president of the Foresight Institute
in 1998 as a replacement for the common term at the time of “free software”.
The clean definition of
open-source software is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify and enhance.
The connections to “free” still exist when we ask the question, “why open-source software (OSS)?”,
where many times the answer starts with “it’s free.” While OSS is never truly free, it can have a
lower total cost of ownership (TCO) when compared to alternatives. OSS will have a lower up-front
cost, where the cost is shifted from licensing to customization and implementation. Ultimately,
with OSS, you are not paying for the right to use the software. But the value of OSS comes from
multiple fronts including quality, security, stability, and most importantly, allowing you to
focus on your high value-add.
“There are a lot of people around the world working in technologies that share a lot of common
parts, and sharing our knowledge enables faster, more innovative solutions because we aren't
forced to redo what has been done before. It also enables us to review past work and propose
alternative solutions. This allows us to get to the point where we can start adding value as
fast as possible.”
Xabier Marquiegui, of Aingura
“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow,” comes into practice in a healthy open-source project,
Linus’s Law. The project benefits
from top quality developers around the world contributing to and advancing the project. The number
of contributors can be much larger than any one organization can apply to a project. This
multiplying effect benefits all involved with the project and helps to produce higher quality
Bugs found in open-source software are usually fixed quickly because many people have access via
the community, which translates to faster response rates. This community approach also improves
security, as the code is open to inspection and evaluated by the community of developers that have
access to it. While security is a moving target, a large and healthy open-source community remains
agile in responding to bugs and security vulnerabilities by quickly releasing fixes.
Open-source software provides stability that is appealing to a long-term project because the
development and advancement of the project is performed in the open and publicly distributed.
Users relying on open-source software for critical applications can actively engage with the
project to help support and maintain their required functionality.
Potentially the most important reason for considering open-source software is that it allows you
to focus on the high value you provide for your application while leveraging the common modules
and shared knowledge of the open-source project. The community contributes to the open-source
software and provides the common base that all users can leverage for interesting and innovative
Vestas Wind Systems A/S – Success with Zephyr + NXP
Why the Zephyr Project?
The Zephyr Project has been one of the fastest growing RTOSes, with ambitious
goals established in their charter for connected and constrained devices; but it is more than just an RTOS. It is an
open-source and open-governance project with a full and growing ecosystem of drivers,
communication stacks, hardware abstractions, low-power OS services, build system and application
components that allow for the rapid creation of innovative applications.
“Finally, low power embedded devices with the power of a full-blown OS.”
Klaas Arnout, CEO, Basalte
The growth of Zephyr is credited to the large and growing community supporting the project. Their
cooperation advances the state of the project through pull requests, testing, bug reports,
triaging and RFCs. The project recently celebrated its second
Long Term Support release
(LTS2). At the time of the LTS2 release, there were 1384 unique contributors with the project
supporting 400 boards and 12 different architectures.
Zephyr is scalable and open-source. Learn more the
Zephyr Project and NXP's
For a project to stay healthy, in addition to the number of individuals engaged in Zephyr Project,
it also requires financial resources to fund various operational aspects. This funding comes from
the financial commitment of the Platinum and Silver members. As a founding Platinum Member of the
Zephyr Project, NXP is joined by multiple Platinum and Silver members and the large community of
contributors to help ensure that the project is healthy and vibrant.
“Google believes in building secure products for all of our users, and we joined forces with
Zephyr to develop a secure real time operating system. The Zephyr Project has built a strong
community of experts, and we are working with all of the participating organizations to improve
the state of the RTOS our products depend on.”
Barna Ibrahim, Strategic Partnership Principal, Chrome OS, Google
These contributors and project members help run the project to ensure a feature rich, stable and
quality code base. Multiple working groups (WG) meet on a regular basis, continually working to
ensure that the code base is stable and of the highest quality. These groups include:
Release Readiness WG which manages the incoming bug reports to ensure that they are properly
prioritized and assigned for resolution in a timely manner, and to drive the Zephyr release
Security WG which helps drive the security architecture within Zephyr while also handling security
Safety WG which strives to establish a functional safety certifiable code base that can be used for
safety critical applications
- API WG which provides a forum for stabilizing and refining the Zephyr public APIs
For a full list of current working groups see
GitHub Zephyr Project RTOS.
“We find that the Zephyr Project combines the benefits of a secure and reliable, vendor-backed
RTOS with a friendly and diverse - not to mention extremely active - open-source community
unrivalled by any other RTOS on the market. The open-governance model encourages participation
and commitment from makers and professionals alike, leading to the best technical solutions.
Zephyr allowed us to quickly prototype and validate our hardware design while utilizing the rich
set of peripherals present in the NXP Kinetis series, allowing us to get to market faster.”
Henrik Brix Andersen, Lead Embedded Software Engineer, Vestas Wind Systems A/S
All the components provided by the Zephyr project plus the support available from the community,
enables you to
reuse and leverage code
and reduces your product development time. Ultimately these components provided by the Zephyr
Project allow you to focus on the real value-add: your actual application.
As an active member in the Zephyr Project, I regularly engage with the community and constantly
hear them discuss the benefits of Zephyr. Here are a few additional voices who have come forward
as I prepared this article.
“I found that the Zephyr OS structure is similar to the Linux® structure. With
previous experience developing Linux drivers, we were able to make our own implementation for
the missing ADC driver. We then contributed our code to the main Zephyr OS project, which was a
very interesting experience to take part in something big and useful.”
Andrei Auchynnikau, Senior Embedded Developer, Iomico LLC
“Perpetually reusing-open-source projects, especially for standard protocols, has several
benefits. It allows me to make changes as needed, contribute fixes and enhancements upstream,
and share the maintenance and enhancement workload with others holding compatible goals.”
Gregory Shue, Sr. Software/Firmware Engineer, Legrand
We invite you to have a closer look at the Zephyr Project using the links below. Happy coding!