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on 8 March 2023

Canonical enables Ubuntu on Microchip’s PolarFire® SoC FPGA Icicle Kit RISC-V board

March 8, 2023: Canonical published the optimised Ubuntu release for the first RISC-V based SoC FPGA – Microchip’s PolarFire® SoC FPGA Icicle Kit, expanding support for the RISC-V open source community. 

RISC-V, a new paradigm for open source hardware

Open standards and collaboration are strategic to both hardware and software across industries and geographies. In the last decade, open source and open standards have reshaped our world. RISC-V is the most prolific and open Instruction Set Architecture in history, which has led the hardware community to embrace open standards and collaboration at this level.

This open Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) is enabling a new era of processor innovation through open-standard collaboration with rapid industry-wide adoption. To become the industry standard ISA across computing, the RISC-V ISA enables software and hardware design freedom on architecture. The architecture can be applied to a broad range of processors, from low-end microcontrollers to high-end server-grade processors. 

The world’s first RISC-V based SoC FPGA introduced by Microchip

Microchip Technology Inc. is a leading provider of microcontroller, mixed-signal, analog and Flash-IP solutions, providing low-risk product development, lower total system cost and faster time to market for thousands of diverse customer applications worldwide. Microchip offers outstanding technical support along with dependable delivery and quality.

The PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle kit is a development platform that enables evaluation of the five-core Linux capable RISC-V microprocessor subsystem, innovative Linux, and real-time execution, low-power capabilities, and the rich set of peripherals of the PolarFire SoC FPGA. PolarFire SoC is ideally suited for secure, reliable and, power-efficient high-data processing across a wide range of applications, including imaging, AI/ML, industrial automation, IoT, wireline access networks, aerospace, and defense & automotive.

Open source initiatives are backed by Canonical

While RISC-V enables stable reference architectures and hardware, running stable software on new boards can still be challenging. The cornerstone of the necessary software is the underlying Operating System (OS), which provides reliability and stability. This demand makes development on Linux even more attractive since Linux is the most popular OS for developers and hobbyists across kernels, drivers, and distributions.

At Canonical, we believe that open source is the best way to accelerate innovation. It motivates us to enable a wide range of open source communities under the Ubuntu umbrella. However, open source software comes with its own set of challenges. 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 great potentials 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 natural choice. 

Microchip and Canonical bring Ubuntu to the PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle Kit

“Collaborating with Canonical as part of the Mi-V RISC-V Ecosystem initiative has added Microchip’s PolarFire SoC FPGA support in Ubuntu,” said Cyril Jean, Associate Director FPGA Systems Architecture at Microchip. “Ubuntu’s package manager, along with the wealth of supported packages, simplifies user application development and provides a familiar environment that bridges the gap between desktop and embedded Linux making it seamless to work on PolarFire SoC FPGAs.”

The availability of Ubuntu running on the PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle Kit comes as the result of the joint work between Canonical and Microchip’s engineering teams. Canonical’s team is porting Ubuntu to the PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle Kit, backed by the Microchip engineering team, as part of a long-term collaboration between the two companies.

Ubuntu, backed by Canonical, provides a commercial-grade Linux distribution that is also free to use by innovators and developers. ”The realm of what’s possible for developers on RISC-V has just expanded by pairing Ubuntu, the most popular Linux OS, with the PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle Kit from Microchip.   I predict that the RISC-V + FPGA + Ubuntu bundle will be at the top of developer’s shopping list this year.”” said Cindy Goldberg, Vice President of Silicon Alliance at Canonical. 

Ubuntu on PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle Kit is available now

An Ubuntu image is now available for Microchip’s PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle Kit, and more work is expected to include new features and a port to the latest Ubuntu releases. 

Microchip’s PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle Kit is supported by Ubuntu 22.04.2. Download the latest Ubuntu images for Microchip’s PolarFire SoC FPGA Icicle Kit here.

For guidance and discussion on the images and the best ways to install them, please check and contribute to the installation instruction so everyone can benefit from your experience. 

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