Canonical has confirmed official RISC-V support for its popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, initially through a partnership with SiFive to release operating system images for its HiFive Unleashed and Unmatched high-performance single-board computers (SBCs).
The SiFive HiFive Unleashed and Unmatched boards are Linux-capable high-performance RISC-V devices based around SiFive's in-house system-on-chip designs and offering desktop-class performance — though, admittedly, the former requires a high-priced expansion board to get desktop-class connectivity.
Now, the company has partnered with Canonical so anyone working on a HiFive Unleashed or newer Unmatched board will have a fully-supported Linux distribution ready-to-go: Ubuntu.
"At Canonical, we believe that open source is the best way to accelerate innovation. This motivates us to enable a wide range of open source communities under the Ubuntu umbrella," the company claims in its statement on the partnership. "Open source software comes with its own set of challenges. Yes, the code can be accessed easily, but there is a gap when it comes to commercial deployments."
"Canonical aims to position Ubuntu as not just the reference OS for innovators and developers, but also as the vehicle to enable them to take their products to market faster by letting them focus on their core application, without having to worry about the stability of the underlying frameworks. RISC-V has a lot of potential and is becoming a competitive ISA in multiple markets. With this premise in mind, porting Ubuntu to RISC-V to become the reference OS for early adopters was a no-brainer."
"As SiFive brings best-in-class RISC-V cores to market, upstream OS and toolchains support ready for silicon availability is a very important part of the software ecosystem," adds Yunsup Lee, chief technology officer and co-founder of SiFive. "Developers rely on critical components such as Ubuntu to develop and test their software and products."
"Collaboration is at the heart of successful, strategic, and lasting industry adoption," opines Calista Redmond, RISC-V chief executive. "The RISC-V community and our industry benefit from the contribution and collaboration that Canonical and SiFive have brought to RISC-V. Congratulations on this amazing milestone together!"
Canonical has released three pre-installed images of Ubuntu Server: Those with the latest HiFive Unmatched board can run Ubuntu 21.04 now, with support due to arrive in the next point release of the Ubuntu 20.04 Long Term Support (LTS) variant; the HiFive Unleashed, meanwhile, is supported in both Ubuntu 21.04 and the current Ubuntu 20.04.2 LTS release.
All three images are available to download now, free of charge, from the Ubuntu website. Those without SiFive hardware, meanwhile, can still experiment with the RISC-V port of Ubuntu Linux using the QEMU emulator.