back to article Debian Project holds Sparc port's hand, switches off life support

Following years of waning popularity, the Debian GNU/Linux Project has dropped support for the Sparc architecture, effective immediately. "As Sparc isn't exactly the most alive architecture anymore," Debian maintainer Joerg Jaspert wrote in a mailing list post last week, "not in [Debian 8.x] jessie and unlikely to be in [ …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    The Sparc community are more than welcome to pick up the bat and run with it. Take the last version of Debian to support Sparc, fork it, then maintain it.

    Good luck with it, and I mean that.

    1. asdf

      >The Sparc community

      long way to say Oracle

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        I think it's mainly Fujitsu. And RIKEN. Domo arigato!

  2. iOS6 user

    Using Linux on USparc make sense only on quite old hardware. Using Linux on T series hosts IMO dies not make any sense as Solaris is far more advanced than any Linux distribution.

    Ergo: meaning of this move is NULL.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      True, and yet

      Not surprising that the end of the road has come for SPARC. But there is a lot to be said for having something, anything, that prevents Linux from becoming an x86 monoculture. I guess that "thing" is now Atom.

      I still have fond memories of all the Sun hardware I ever ran. Well except for the roadrunner. Sigh. I'm getting too old for this stuff.

      1. thames

        Re: True, and yet

        @Ann O'Nymous - "there is a lot to be said for having something, anything, that prevents Linux from becoming an x86 monoculture. I guess that "thing" is now Atom."

        I think you mean ARM, not Atom. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more Linux instances currently running on ARM in the form of Android than all other Linux versions put together on x86. In addition, many server vendors plan on introducing 64 bit arm servers in the near future.

        MIPS seems to be making a come-back as well, particularly in China. Power is making an attempt to spread out as well.

        SPARC on the other hand has become so marginalised lately that there simply isn't a lot of interest from third party developers to support it, and Linux is all about third parties. Furthermore, the user community is so small that Oracle can't afford to fragment it between two different operating systems. Since most users are legacy customers with support contracts, Oracle has to continue to support Solaris anyway, which really leaves them with no choice about Linux. The same logic applies to Fujitsu.

        Debian supports lots of different architectures, but that support is demand driven. Given the lack of demand for old versions of SPARC, this day had to come eventually.

      2. iOS6 user

        Re: True, and yet

        > But there is a lot to be said for having something, anything, that prevents Linux from becoming an x86 monoculture. I guess that "thing" is now Atom.

        What you mean preventing? by not donating some M7 HW for Debian Developers?

        Despite throwing money n the wind It does not make sense because with such HW donation it would be necessary to "donate" almost all Solaris code ans software technologies on which Sun and Oracle spend billions of dollars.

  3. Tim99 Silver badge


    BSD on Sparc:-

    FreeBSD: Sparc 64

    OpenBSD: Sparc 32

    OpenBSD: Sparc 64

    NetBSD: Sparc 32

    NetBSD: Sparc 64

    Icon: the only BSD (distantly) derived one El Reg has: >>==============>

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Alternatives?

      And there is OpenSolaris in its various guises. Wonder if Linux was ever really popular on SPARC.

      1. Mark Morgan Lloyd

        Re: Alternatives?

        Sun had very little interest in Linux on larger systems, at least until it could be run in a virtualised environment. They wanted to sell Solaris, and made sure that customers bought Solaris by- in part- making sure that it was the only way to get things like environmental monitoring; this is, of course, exactly what IBM does on its bigger iron.

        Oracle seem to have little interest in their own Linux targeting SPARC. From their POV, the desktop is x86 and the backend is Solaris.

        OpenSolaris (or whatever it's called these days) is available for SPARC in the form of OpenSXCE. Unfortunately the developer of this has strong political opinions, which results in his website being hacked to oblivion on a regular basis. A great pity, since he's done some good work.

        As far as "real computers" go, i.e. things that can hold lots of discs, lots of Gb RAM, and lots of CPUs, there's no real alternative to x86 and x86-64. Itanium's dead and was dropped by Debian a year or so ago, MIPS is good for small stuff but it's unclear whether China really does have the balls to push it, and ARM has never really penetrated that part of the industry.

  4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Lies, damned lies

    Statistics. (Popcon only counts Debian users with an internet connection who explicitly opt in. Numbers in the easily accessible website may be larger than they appear.)

    AMD64 (any 64 bit x86) is way in the lead. I am suprised to see i386 (32-bit x86 with x>=3) in second place. armel (arms slightly simpler than Pi v1) is third with powerpc right behind. Armhf (Pi V2, lots of cell phones and tiny 'desktops') is further down than I expected (I think Rasbian doesn't get counted). Next comes 'unknown', but I have no idea where to buy one. Plenty more choices available including 68k and Itanic. (Popcon has not been ported to Lunix (yet) so 6502 doesn't show up :-)

    1. MattPi

      Re: Lies, damned lies

      " I am suprised to see i386 (32-bit x86 with x>=3)"

      Probably VMs and not physical hardware.

  5. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    No surprise there

    The only viable modern desktop is x64, although there's possibilities of some of the ARM kit (if it increases in power) or MIPS (If the Loongson chip becomes a bit more powerful and economic to purchase) in the future. It does not help that the supporting ARM chipsets in many tablets, etc, is still extremely proprietary.

    There's been an entertaining thread on an OpenBSD mailing list recently about the feasibility of running non x86/x64 kit as your main desktop. Everyone else's opinion is the same as the one I'd come to : it's not viable. The fastest non Intel kit out there is a old PowerMac, and even that's slow - also note that the dual core PPC is not supported by all OS. The fastest usable Sparc64 kit is the Sun Blade 150 and that's bloody slow. The Blade 1000/2000/1500/2500 series are slow, power hungry, quite noisy and an FCAL controller makes storage annoying. Anything newer is *really* noisy.

    SGI kit is waaay too slow, albeit pretty.

    It's a real pity, because in addition to non Intel kit being neat, it's useful to be able to prove your software on different endian architectures.

    1. Mark Morgan Lloyd

      Re: No surprise there

      > SGI kit is waaay too slow, albeit pretty.

      SGI gave up on pretty, non-x86 kit a decade or so ago.

      > It's a real pity, because in addition to non Intel kit being neat, it's useful to be able to prove

      > your software on different endian architectures.

      Not just that, but with different alignment requirements etc. Back when compiling stuff on ARM tended to be slow, I was able to report a number of bugs that affected (variants of) the architecture to the Free Pascal Compiler (FPC) developers becuase I could demonstrate and test them quickly on SPARC.

    2. disorder

      Re: No surprise there

      I have to almost completely agree. There's no exotic toys to drift down and play with anymore; I ran an Ultra 10 (debian) server for not much less than ten years. It was not powerful (especially not with ohgod sparcv7 binaries). But it satisfied my can't-walk-on-the-same-path gene long after I had any programming reason to be curious about it, and it had the decency not to ever reboot, or die without asking. I replaced it with something more (but not) normal that fit under a 30W envelope.

      Its bigger friends, Ultra 60 (Solaris), B1000 (HPUX aaah), Octane (Irix, and my god so heavy. At least the ppc mac came with an alu case). None of which have been up to it (really) for a long time, especially when used in combination with a wall energy meter. These are dinosaurs, majestic and grand; but extinct. And it's sad these different flavours have gone.

      Why linux on any of these (Solaris worked reasonably politely for a long time, as well as having some ideas of its own); but naturally it was more expeditious to get software running. I think that idea itself is not-so gradually (systemd) floating away, because why wouldn't it, by 2015.

      ARM of course didn't politely die (as of yet). I'd say the Pi 2 probably /could/ handle being a desktop, which is itself quite a weak statement even if technically you can get other SFF ARM PC's if you try unrealistically hard. Yet even then it's more like macguvyer'ing something cheap to rough it with, not evidence of the paleocene mouse inheriting the earth. But then, it wouldn't be exotic either.

  6. druck Silver badge


    If Oracle hadn't destroyed just about every bit of goodwill Sun had built up in the developer community, I doubt if the Sparc code would have been purged with such glee.

    1. iOS6 user

      Re: Oracle

      > I doubt if the Sparc code would have been purged with such glee

      Linux (u)sparc port always was only a toy.

      Nothing serious have been done on Linux on this platform.

      Oracle made Solaris development much more productive. In the same time now on some Solaris kernel projects are working now more developers than during best Sun times on whole kernel.

      Look on raw fact like list of released new features in Sol 11.3.

      Look on Development and adoption of all OSS bits is now in Solaris steady and well organized (which was not the case when during the Sun time).

      Really I wish to see any Linux distributions new major version with so many new features like in lates Solaris. Remember that it is quite close to first release of Solaris 12 which will have even more radical changes.

  7. CFWhitman

    There is certainly some Fujitsu SPARC hardware that runs Linux, but supercomputer hardware tends not to run on a standard distribution anyway.

    Of course Debian is still officially supported on various ARM, MIPS, and PowerPC systems, and on IBM Z systems. It is also unofficially supported on a few others.

    Some of the ARM hardware available is viable as a light desktop. I have a Raspberry Pi 2 and a Cubox-i4Pro and they are both much more viable than old PowerMacs (which I have put Linux on before as well).

  8. Mark Morgan Lloyd

    The last half-reliable release of Debian on SPARC was Lenny. Superficial examination of Debian's bug tracker shows that there were enough accumulated problems in Squeeze that there should have been no attempt to release anything later.

    That is not, of course, to say that pulling everything from the build system is a good idea, since there's already one developer who apparently missed the announcements and is wondering how to get back to a position where he can try to pick up the pieces.

    Not everything can be blamed on Oracle. Sun's claim that they'd lost various hardware documentation so couldn't share it with open source developers was pretty laughable, particularly since they were /the/ supplier of computer systems to drawing offices and document management departments for decades.

  9. John Tserkezis

    This article prompted me to remember that mum threw out my last remaining Sun Microsystems mug during a cleanup many years ago.

    I just wanted to say I'm still pissed about it.

    That is all.

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