Novell's openSUSE does ARM Linux
Commercial Linux distributor Novell today announced that the openSUSE Project, which drives the development variant of its Linux, will support the creation and packaging of various Linuxes for ARM processors using the openSUSE Build Service version 1.6.
According to Novell, the support for building application stacks and Linux distros for 32-bit ARM RISC processors was donated to the openSUSE community by German software company DataSoft GmbH. DataSoft has created a set of applications, called 5e, for network operators and content providers that is stacked atop the openSUSE distro.
(More about DataSoft here, if you are curious. The company has been around for 30 years and has created some of the technology underpinning distributed industrial computing networks, digital telephone systems, and digital television networks in Germany.)
ARM processors are used in myriad mobile phones, PDAs, and other kinds of embedded computers and electronic devices and are manufactured by a number of different suppliers.
The Open Build Service launched in April 2006 as AutoBuild and was just for packaging up applications for the openSUSE distro. It was extended by January 2008 to be able to package up distributions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and its CentOS distros and their applications as well. When the build service went to the 1.0 release last July, the ability to crank out Ubuntu distros was added. But all of these distros were being packaged up for 32-bit x86 and 64-bit x64 machines.
With today's announcement, developers can create RPM or Debian packages based on the ARM variants of various Linuxes. Novell cited Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora as ARM-compatible Linuxes in its poorly worded announcement, but it also slammed openSUSE in the list too. But it is important to not confuse the ability of the Open Build Service to package up Linux distros for ARM chips with openSUSE actually running on ARM chips.
Novell does not support ARM processors with its Linuxes, and has no intention of doing so, even with Linux making some headway on netbooks early on last year. (Linux on netbooks has been slammed by the usual Windows onslaught since then, of course. You can argue causes and effects amongst yourselves). The build service can take packages and compile them for ARM chips, of course.
The Open Build Service 1.6 also supports the creation of openSUSE appliance images for deployment in Xen or ESX Server hypervisors as well as the traditional LiveCD and USB images.
The openSUSE community also announced today that the Linux Foundation's Linux Developer Network, which is where LF's AppChecker application for creating portable Linux applications runs. ®
But will it do .....
But will it do "first-generation" ARM targets?
This architecture is no longer encumbered by patents, nor is it particularly encumbered today by the price of memory (32 bits for a register-to-register MOV was always seen as a bit on the wasteful side, but it's nothing compared to the code bloat in Windows). So it's a prime candidate to be cloned by a far-East manufacturer, as long as a suitable software stack can be put together.
Compiling for ARM isn't anything new or exciting
Every open source OS and their dog can support ARM as a bulid target, and have done for many years. The fact that a specific distro has broadened its horizons away from x86 doesn't really say much.
What are the actual *platforms* this build can run on?
It's all very well saying 'ooh, it runs on ARM! That's used for everything smaller than a laptop!' but I guarantee you that you won't be running this on your PDA or your smartphone or your washing machine out of the box.
I think that Linux on ARM has a lot of potential. The obvious one is laptops, where power is at a premium. Data centers is another, where the cost of cooling is a large concern.