January 3, 2023
Ed modeling with the Ampere Altra Platform in the FreeBSD Foundation’s Kitchener office.

The FreeBSD Project has been working with Ampere Computing for several years, making sure that FreeBSD is well supported on Ampere CPUs, and using Ampere servers for building FreeBSD/arm64 package sets. Ampere recently provided the project with a pair of Ampere Altra systems, initially for platform bring-up and later to support performance improvements in FreeBSD.

Oh no! The Altra does not fit in our donated rack space. We’re going to move it to a suitable home in another facility.

We brought one of the Altras to the FreeBSD Foundation’s development office in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, for hands-on development. The second one went to the project’s donated datacenter space. Unfortunately it turns out our racks are not deep enough to fit!

The Ampere Mt. Collins platform fits in the Kitchener test rack.

We first powered it up with a FreeBSD snapshot image. Unfortunately our first experience was a kernel panic! Andrew Turner found the problem and had the fix ready in short order. The fix was committed in https://cgit.freebsd.org/src/commit/?id=e3917bb256dea63945b5bef7fe2b792a280fcafe, and we moved onto further bring-up tasks.

Panic Resolved
First signs of life – we had a panic on boot.
Looking at htop – that’s a lot of cores!

We’re continuing with FreeBSD development on the Altra, currently working on development and integration of AArch64 support for FreeBSD’s native hypervisor, bhyve. Next steps include FreeBSD performance optimization for high core counts, and bolstering our package building capacity.

Thanks again to Ampere for their support of FreeBSD over the years, and stay tuned for further updates!