Building Debian For RISC-V Currently Relies Upon Nine HiFive Unmatched Boards

Written by Michael Larabel in Debian on 31 July 2023 at 06:12 AM EDT. 31 Comments
RISC-V is now an official Debian architecture for the Debian 13 "Trixie" release to happen in about two years time. Over the weekend a brief status update was issued surrounding this newest CPU architecture to be supported by the Debian GNU/Linux team. Arguably most interesting is how they are currently building out the Debian RISC-V packages.

Manuel Fernandez Montecelo on the behalf of the Debian RISC-V porters shared some updates around the Debian packaging for RISC-V. The Debian Sid and Experimental archives for RISC-V remain mostly empty right now as work is underway to fill them up.

What I found to be most interesting is that for the build daemons for Debian on RISC-V they have resorted to using nine SiFive HiFive Unmatched boards. This is basically their best solution for the moment with the RISC-V 64-bit hardware they have access to.

SiFive more than a year ago shifted their production focus for what will eventually be their next-generation development board. But for now the HiFive Unmatched remains one of the most performant, readily available (albeit expensive) options around with their U740 SoC and 16GB of DDR4 memory and having a PCIe slot and NVMe M.2 storage. Though the HiFive Unmatched performance with the u740 doesn't come close to modern x86_64 CPUs.

Though with the Debian mailing list announcement it was mentioned:
"The current build daemons consist in 9 HiFive Unmatched boards, graciously hosted at OSUOSL and MAN-DA.

While this should be sufficient to keep up with the port, we are aware that the build time for some packages is quite important. We are actively working on acquiring next generation RISC-V hardware, it is however challenging to get hardware that matches the requirements, especially being supported by the mainline Linux kernel. However, we are optimistic that it will happen before the release of Trixie, and we already have identified a few promising candidates."

It will be interesting to see what hardware they manage to procure in the next two years and how performant RISC-V development boards become in this time. The HiFive Unmatched was great when it launched but I am certainly eager to see what development board SiFive will be able to roll-out next.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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