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Applying TRENTOS® to the real world

Sebastian Eckl, Senior Software Engineer at HENSOLDT Cyber

What is the future of embedded systems regarding security? As former isolated systems are exposed to new forms of threats, security aspects play a bigger role in the design process. HENSOLDT Cyber and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) are cooperating in order to teach future embedded software engineers how to build a secure system right from the beginning with seL4® with the help of TRENTOS® – and implement their know how in their future projects in the real world.

What is the future of security in designing embedded systems?

Driven by the increased demands introduced by paradigms like IoT or edge computing, future embedded systems will require a much higher degree of interconnectedness. Therefore, the existing principle of providing security by designing physically separated hardware instances has to be revised, as these former isolated systems will now be exposed to a new form of threats. As a consequence, considering security aspects during design and development will play an integral role for future embedded software engineers.

TRENTOS – Secure IT right from the start

With TRENTOS, HENSOLDT Cyber therefore addresses secure IT right from the start, by building upon the proven seL4 ecosystem and consequently relying on trusted open-source software components. It also alleviates the entry to the quite complex area of developing secure embedded systems by abstraction, letting developers fully focus on creating secure applications without having to worry about lower-level details of the underlying architecture. From an instructor’s perspective, TRENTOS is therefore perfectly suited for teaching students the general principles of secure system design, by at the same time allowing them to use the respective functionality in an implicit fashion.

Why is it important for students to know TRENTOS?

In close cooperation with Prof. Baumgarten and the Chair of Operating Systems, HENSOLDT Cyber has therefore been offering the practical course “seL4 & TRENTOS to interested students at the renowned Technical University of Munich (TUM). The course provides an introduction to the fundamental aspects of TRENTOS, a novel seL4 microkernel based secure embedded operating system developed by HENSOLDT Cyber, and demonstrates its application in a practical manner.

Creating a real-world use case

The aforementioned proposal is reflected in the course structure, which is split into a lecture part that covers the required theoretical background and a practical part that teaches the students how to create their very first TRENTOS application on top of the popular Raspberry Pi platform. Within a subsequent team project phase, the students must then apply their knowledge to a selected real-world use-case.

Within the winter term 2020, they were mainly focusing on the topic TRENTOS device driver development, exemplarily integrating two SPI-based peripherals (covering the topics networking and storage), as can be seen in the pictures below.

As part of the upcoming summer term 2021, the students shall now learn how to apply TRENTOS to two prominent trends in the area of embedded systems development – autonomous driving and industry 4.0.

 Which insights will the students benefit from?

Course participants will learn to couple the operating system side with a corresponding open-source simulator environment, which e.g., allows for controlling a virtual car or a virtual robotic arm from within TRENTOS. By combining the operating system side with a respective application domain, the students will receive valuable insights regarding the development of secure embedded (operating) systems and its particular challenges.

Equipped with state-of-the-art know-how, students will therefore get prepared for potential future career paths in the area of embedded systems development. In return, HENSOLDT Cyber will be provided with essential feedback required for building up the future TRENTOS community. The project results shall thereby be reused in an open-source fashion, providing a starting point for prospective TRENTOS first-time users.

About Sebastian Eckl

Sebastian Eckl joined HENSOLDT Cyber's TRENTOS development team as a Senior Software Engineer in 2020. Prior to that, he worked as a Research Associate at TUM, where he focused on teaching L4 microkernel based operating systems for several years. At the TUM Chair of Operating Systems, led by Prof. Baumgarten, he is currently working on his doctoral thesis dealing with migration-supported dynamic reconfiguration in distributed embedded real-time systems.


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