Frequently Asked Questions

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What is LEAP?

LEAP stands for Linux for Enterprise ARM Servers, and it is a software distribution based on the CentOS 7.1 sources for x86_64, with additional packages built or modified from Fedora package sources or packaged by the LEAP team.

What is the difference between Fedora, CentOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server ARM Development Preview, and LEAP?

Fedora is a community-based distribution supported by Red Hat. There is a strong AArch64/ARM64 secondary architecture project within Fedora. The Fedora Project's stated mission is to "lead the advancement of free and open source software and content as a collaborative community", so the Fedora project iterates rapidly, producing a new release roughly every six months.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is a commercial software distribution from Red Hat. It is loosely based on technologies from the Fedora Project; a new release is produced every few years, and supported for at least 7 years (and often for 10 years or more). Red Hat provides a very high level of support for the RHEL product line, and it is used in many mission-critical enterprise systems by organizations ranging from small companies to banks, governments, and stock brokerages. The RHEL package set is substantially smaller than the Fedora package set.

Red Hat has produced the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server ARM Development Preview (RHELSADP), which is based on RHEL and which runs on ARM64 enterprise servers. This is not a full general availability release of RHEL for ARM64 with paid support, but provides a testing platform and an indication of where Red Hat may be headed with future ARM enterprise products.

CentOS is a community-based rebuild of the RHEL sources. This means that it is largely the same software, but without commercial support. CentOS is widely used in conjunction with RHEL; for example, some organizations use CentOS for software development and testing, and then deploy onto RHEL servers. Others organizations use CentOS for projects which require a software platform which is stable for a number of years but which do not require the level of support provided by RHEL. CentOS completed an ARM64 build of the CentOS 7.1 sources in parallel with the LEAP project, and has aligned that build with RHELSADP since its release (e.g., by switching to the RHELSADP kernel). At the time of writing, a public beta version has been released.

LEAP is intended to fit somewhere between Fedora and CentOS. Our goal is to be the go-to distribution for ARM64 platform evaluation for enterprise workloads. It is based on the CentOS 7.1 package set, which provides a stable set of software packages for powering enterprise workloads. However, the AArch64/ARM64 platform is relatively new, and there is lot of rapid progress in porting, optimization, and bug fixes taking place. The LEAP project will be aggressively experimenting with platform support and optimizations, and we have added a number of benchmarking tools into the package set.

Which ARM64 distribution should you use on ARM64? It depends on your goals. To participate in cutting-edge open source development, consider using Fedora ARM; for maximum package-version compatibility with x86_64 platforms, consider using CentOS or RHELASDP; for a stable enterprise package set combined with benchmarking tools and upversioned packages for performance and compatibility, consider using LEAP. (Of course, there are also software distributions outside of this family; exploring the state of those distributions is left as an exercise for the reader!).

What are the future plans for the LEAP project?

Plans for LEAP include:

  • Public access to the LEAP koji buildsystem.
  • Support for additional ARM64 platforms.
  • An ILP32 subsystem suitable for running the SpecPERF 2006 tests in ILP32 mode, for apples-to-apples comparisons with other architectures and platforms.
  • Package optimizations and experimental performance enhancements.
  • Package updates and security fixes from upstream.

What are the timelines for the future of the LEAP project?

One of the goals of LEAP is ultimately work ourselves out of a job, and will be contributing our results into various upstream communities. The timelines for doing this depend on the speed and ways in which the enterprise ARM64 space evolves.

LEAP is currently funded through the end of 2015. We will likely continue work on this project through 2016, based on consultation with industry partners.

Is LEAP software supported?

We have set up communicate tools for the LEAP project, and seek to develop a small and active community. We also plan to provide software updates on a best-effort basis. However, please clearly note: there is no guaranteed level of support, no service level agreement, no direct engineering support, no warranties or guarantees, and no commitment of performance, security, stability, or fitness for any particular use of the LEAP software. It is experimental, provided as-is, and must be used at your own risk.

What are the license terms of the LEAP software?

The LEAP software packages are licensed under individual free software and open source licenses. Please refer to the license information provided with each RPM software package for details.

Who produces LEAP?

LEAP is produced by the Open Source Technologies for Emerging Platforms (OSTEP) team within the Centre for Development of Open Technology (CDOT) at Seneca College.

The OSTEP applied research program run by Professor Chris Tyler, an NSERC Industrial Research Chair. The OSTEP-LEAP team consists of the current (and former) members:

  • Andrew Oatley-Willis
  • Artem Luzyanin
  • Christopher Markieta
  • Glaser Lo
  • Michael Huang
  • Reinildo Souza da Silva

How is the LEAP project funded?

LEAP is generously funded by industry partners, and by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) though the Industrial Research Chairs for Colleges (IRCC) program.

My company produces ARM64 enterprise chips/SOCs, servers, or hyperscale systems. How can we get involved with the LEAP project?

We would love to partner with you! Please contact Chris Tyler (chris.tyler@senecacollege.ca / +1 416-629-0628 x33315).

How is LEAP produced?

LEAP was built natively on ARM64 systems using the Koji build system within the Enterprise Hyperscale Lab (EHL).

What platforms are supported by LEAP?

The initial release of LEAP supports two platforms:

  • The Applied Micro X-Gene X-CT1
  • The AMD Seattle (B0 silicon)

In addition, it is possible to install LEAP onto QEMU-KVM virtual machines under Fedora 22 running on ARM64 hardware.

Support for additional platforms is in progress.

What types of installations are supported by LEAP?

LEAP installations are performed by PXE boot. Installation options may be specified in a Kickstart file (automated installation), in text mode via the serial console, or in interactive mode via a VNC graphical session.

How do I communicate with the LEAP team and community?

There are a number of ways to communicate with the LEAP team:

I've discovered a problems with the LEAP software, or have a suggestion for its improvement. How do I communicate this?

Check for duplicate reports of the issue, then file an issue using the Bugzilla system at http://bugzilla.leapproject.ca

Where/how is LEAP being used?

LEAP is certainly in use within the LEAP project - our wiki, Koji build system, software builders, bugzilla issue tracker, and repository server all run on LEAP.

We'll leave it up to other LEAP users to discuss how they are using LEAP on the User mailing list.