Real-time properties of Linux

Regular Linux is not a real-time operating system. Profinet have rather strict timing constraints. For example a Simatic PLC (with default settings) will send an alarm if no incoming Profinet frame is received for 7-8 ms. So it is important that Linux is responsive enough.

There are a few methods that can be used to improve the Linux responsiveness. The most important is to use FIFO scheduling and to isolate the application on a separate CPU core.


Select the FIFO Linux kernel scheduling option. This is done by passing -DUSE_SCHED_FIFO=ON command line argument to cmake.

Run the application on a separate processor core

It is possible to tell the Linux kernel not to put any processes on a specific processor core. This assumes that you have more than one core in your CPU. Check it using:

cat /proc/cpuinfo

By setting the isolcpus=2 Linux boot command, the kernel will not put any processes on CPU core number 2 automatically. This option is typically set from the boot loader.

The best way to check which CPU cores that are currently isolated:

cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/isolated

To see which kernel command line options that have been used:

cat /proc/cmdline

Put your Profinet application on the isolated CPU core. It is done using:

taskset -c 2 pn_dev

where -c 2 tells which CPU core to use.

Real-time patches

By applying the real-time patches (PREEMPT_RT) the real-time properties can be improved.

For more details, see:

It is important to write you application so that it can use the benefits of the real-time patches. This includes running in a separate thread and setting the priorities properly.

For the real-time patches to have an effect on p-net, set the USE_SCHED_FIFO cmake option.

Increase application cycle time

For testing, you can increase the cycle time from the PLC in order to reduce the time-out problems. Also the allowed number of missed frames can be increased in the PLC settings.