BSDCan 2015 Trip Report: Zbigniew Bodek

06/30/2015

Thanks to the FreeBSD Foundation and Semihalf I was able to attend FreeBSD DevSummit and BSDCan this year (2015).

After a relatively long flight I finally arrived to Ottawa airport. On the spot I started noticing familiar faces and BSD logos here and there (we had plenty of time to stare while waiting in a huge line to immigration). BTW. Don’t ever forget your FreeBSD T-shirt and/or cap when attending BSD conference. They make you glow in the dark for other BSD-geeks so if you don’t have any – buy one.

The Developer Summit started on Wednesday morning with an interesting presentation by Nathan Dautenhahn about the nested kernel – just right to set up the “technical conference” mood. My main goal that day was to attend to a working group related to clocks and power domains in FreeBSD and meet up with guys working on ARMv8 project. And so after months of remote cooperation I was able to talk face to face to Andrew Wafaa (from ARM Ltd.), Ed Maste (from The FreeBSD Foundation) and Andrew Turner (from ABT Systems). Most of us went to ‘Clock and Power Domains’ session where we met with (i.a.) Justin Hibbits and John Baldwin – engineers who really knew what they were talking about. During the discussion I got acquainted with the general demands of the contemporary industry for the energy efficient systems, the ideas that ARM Ltd. recently developed for ARM architecture to prevail in these areas and what could we do to make FreeBSD keep up with the upcoming standards. The brainstorm was quite fruitful and some initial plan and goals for future work were established.

During the dinner on the same day I had a chance to have some less official conversations related to Semihalf’s part of the ARM64 support and an opportunity to perform few test runs of the FreeBSD on Cavium’s Thunder-X that I was supposed to present the following day.

The ARMv8 working group was scheduled for the second day of the DevSummit. That day I met with Larry Wikelius from Cavium from whom I got some feedback of Semihalf’s work so far. He also brought two Thunder-X based boards (or should I say beasts) that served as main attraction and photo/selfie spots. The session was lead by Andrew Wafaa and was one of the most populated working groups this year. We discussed the whole spectrum of topics starting with the current ARMv8 port state through problems that we may encounter when scaling to multiple cores, we talked about packages building, QEMU and future work around the power management, virtualization and etc. Semihalf’s presentation of the FreeBSD on Thunder-X was scheduled for the second part of the working group. The Thunder-X server board was located in Semihalf’s lab in Krakow and I was able to connect to it remotely. Thanks to my colleagues in Poland the board was up and running and all the necessary loader and kernel binaries were in place. It is truly a rare view of so many cores, that they barely fit in top(1) window :).

The main conference was held on Friday and Saturday. The opening lecture was given by famous Steve Bourne, the author of sh (the number of attendees was way above the capacity of the auditorium). Of course there were also some presentations on embedded and hacking tracks that drew my attention. Undoubtedly FreeBSD on ARMv8 (presented by Andrew Turner) was high on my list. The interest in the topic was quite high and after Andrew’s lecture we had some more discussions at which I met (i.a.) Julien Grall from Citrix who works on Xen for ARM and is interested in FreeBSD Xen support for ARMv8.

The DevSummit and conference gave me the opportunity to share Semihalf’s work on ARMv8 with the BSD community, exchange experience and gather other people’s feedback.

Zbigniew Bodek
Software Engineer in Semihalf

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