Executive Summary

By 2025, nearly 30% of the world’s data will require real-time processing, driving the demand for industrial PCs, edge servers, PLCs, robots, and drones with real-time capabilities. The Linux kernel, enhanced with the PREEMPT_RT patch, is emerging as a valuable solution for providing real-time performance. This guide explores the use of real-time Linux in various sectors, debunking common misconceptions, and outlining the technical and practical considerations for adoption.


Real-time Linux provides industrial-grade performance to meet stringent latency requirements. This guide is structured to help executives and engineering managers evaluate the adoption of real-time Linux. It begins with basic concepts and misconceptions, delves into the technicalities of preemption and the PREEMPT_RT patches, discusses silicon optimizations, and concludes with tuning and technical assessments.

Common Misconceptions

  1. A Real-time System Only Requires a Real-time Kernel
    • A real-time kernel alone does not ensure real-time behavior. The entire system stack, from hardware to applications, must support deterministic processing.
  2. Real-time Equals Optimized Performance
    • Real-time systems prioritize deterministic responses over optimized performance. They often exhibit lower overall performance compared to general-purpose schedulers.
  3. Real-time is Always Necessary
    • Real-time capabilities are not always needed. The necessity depends on the consequences of missing a deadline and whether those deadlines are critical.

Real-time Linux Definitions

Real-time systems depend on both logical correctness and the timing of computations. Failure to meet timing constraints results in system failure. Real-time operating systems provide bounded response times to events, ensuring deterministic processing.

Target Verticals and Applications

Real-time Linux is crucial in various industries, including:

  • Healthcare: Life-support equipment requires real-time processing to prevent catastrophic failures.
  • Automotive: Real-time systems are essential for safety-critical functions like braking systems.

Additional applications include process automation, discrete automation, telecommunications, and aviation.

Real-time Linux in the Industrial Sector

Industry 4.0 marks the digital transformation of industrial companies, moving from dedicated hardware to software-defined systems. Real-time Linux, with PREEMPT_RT patches, enables this transformation by providing deterministic processing and flexibility.

Bridging the Gap with Real-time Linux

Traditional industrial platforms use isolated, proprietary networks. Real-time Linux facilitates the shift to open standards and modern IT solutions, promoting connectivity and flexibility.

The Automation Pyramid

The transition to Industry 4.0 involves digitizing and modernizing infrastructure to enhance visibility, transparency, and control over manufacturing processes. Real-time Linux can bridge the gap between traditional systems and modern, software-defined operations.

Real-time Linux in Telecommunications

Real-time Linux enhances telecom infrastructure by ensuring ultra-low latency and high security, crucial for 5G networks. Virtualized Radio Access Networks (vRAN) and solutions like FlexRAN leverage real-time Linux to build efficient and high-performing network architectures.

Meeting the Transformation Needs of 5G Networks

Real-time Linux supports the evolution of telecom networks, enabling optimal resource utilization and flexible deployment of network functions. This combination sets the stage for transformative advancements in telecommunications.

Technical Deep Dive

The technical aspects of real-time Linux involve kernel preemption, scheduling policies, and tuning for performance. The PREEMPT_RT patch is key to achieving deterministic response times. Silicon optimizations and configurations ensure real-time performance across the entire system stack.


Adopting real-time Linux involves understanding its capabilities, limitations, and the necessary system-wide optimizations. By leveraging real-time Linux, industries can achieve the required performance for latency-sensitive applications, paving the way for future innovations and enhanced operational efficiency.

For more information, please read the attached PDF file.


An amateur radio operator, Royal Signals veteran, jack of all trades and master of none.

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