October 27, 2014

The Companies That Support Linux: Altera

Findlay Shearer AlteraContributing upstream to the Linux kernel is hugely important to Altera, says Findlay Shearer, a senior manager of product marketing at the Silicon Valley-based chip maker.

Altera's kernel code helps ensure Linux developers can work on their SoCFPGA architecture, which integrates FPGA (field programmable gate array) devices with ARM processors into a single SoC (system-on-chip). This enables innovation in the embedded industry, based on Altera's SoCFPGA chips.

Altera's contributions don't stop there, however.

“Altera believes that upstreaming the code for the SoCFPGA architecture from the beginning was the right decision,” said Shearer, who's responsible for open source runtime and tools for Altera’s SoCs. “However, keeping up with the contributions is paramount to guarantee Altera’s success and reputation within the open source community.”

To become more involved in the Linux community, Altera recently joined The Linux Foundation as a new corporate member.

“The ability to network with like-minded developers, customers, partners and competitors within the Linux community in a synergistic manner ensures the longevity of Linux and the Linux Foundation,” Shearer says in the Q&A, below. “The longevity of Linux is paramount to Altera and its customers' success in the marketplace.”

Here Shearer tells us more about Altera, how it's involved in Linux kernel development, why it joined the Linux Foundation, and why it's a great company for Linux developers.

Linux.com: What is Altera?

Findlay Shearer: Altera is the pioneer of programmable logic solutions and power management technologies enabling system and semiconductor companies to rapidly and cost effectively innovate, differentiate, and win in their markets. Altera offers FPGAs, FPGAs with embedded processor systems (SoCs), and CPLDs in combination with software tools, intellectual property, and customer support to provide high-value programmable solutions to customers worldwide. Altera was founded in 1983 and is headquartered in San Jose, California, and employs more than 3,000 people in over 20 countries.

How and why do you use Linux?

Altera contributes to Linux, including participation on RocketBoards.org, as an enablement for our SoC customers. We provide kernel, U-boot and meta-altera layer for Angstrom and the Yocto Project. Altera contributes to the open source community to enable the Linux kernel to run on its SoCFPGA architecture. Contributions include improvements to the general kernel as well as new SoCFPGA specific functions like the FPGA manager framework. By nature, these improvements benefit everybody in the Linux community.

Altera’s approach for SoCFPGA is centered around upstreaming and “maintainership” of the Linux kernel. Consequently Altera’s Linux team was assembled with this in mind. An Altera employee is the maintainer of the SoCFPGA layer as well as the SoCFPGA clock driver in the Linux kernel.

Altera believes that upstreaming the code for the SoCFPGA architecture from the beginning was the right decision. However, keeping up with the contributions is paramount to guarantee Altera’s success and reputation within the open source community.

In addition to providing the latest stable kernel for the SoCFPGA architecture, Altera also supports U-Boot, LTSI kernel with and without PREEMPT_RT and a meta-altera layer all running and tested on the Yocto Compatible, Angstrom distribution and available via the public git repositories on RocketBoards.org, a “one-stop-shop” for Linux developers working on Altera’s SoCs.

Why did you join the Linux Foundation?

Altera recognizes the importance of Linux and unequivocally believes joining the Linux Foundation sustains Linux, and demonstrates Altera’s commitment to Linux. The Linux Foundation brings together sponsorship for emerging open source projects, education and a common meeting place for the open source community. The ability to network with like-minded developers, customers, partners and competitors within the Linux community in a synergistic manner ensures the longevity of Linux and the Linux Foundation. The longevity of Linux is paramount to Altera and its customers' success in the marketplace.

What interesting or innovative trends are you witnessing in hardware and embedded systems and what role does Linux play in them?

One innovative trend is the integration of ARM-based processors with FPGAs providing increased flexibility through hardware differentiation combined with the increased capabilities and flexibility of Linux results in a differentiated and successful products based on Altera’s SoCs. Another trend is the transition to ARM v8 architecture with virtualization extensions leveraging projects like KVM, Xen and Linux containers. Furthermore many of our customers are selecting Linux and at Altera, we enable choice for our customers.

How is Altera participating in that innovation?

It is important for Altera to contribute to the Linux kernel. Specifically Altera innovates by augmenting the Linux kernel with new features, like an FPGA Manager Framework for programming and reconfiguring the FPGA. Furthermore, Altera is enhancing the Kernel to better handle memory map reconfiguration via dynamic device trees.

What other future technologies or industries do you think Linux and open source will increasingly become important in and why?

A future path for Linux is where it becomes a foundation for other things; where the world moves to software defined systems, Linux could become the common operating system that enables these software defined systems. Linux clearly has become pervasive, now touching many aspects of our professional and personal lives, giving users choices.

Are you hiring?

From improving Linux kernels to developing innovative features both on Linux and tools, Altera is always looking for talented Linux developers. Working at Altera means you are at the forefront of technology innovation, providing customers programmable solutions for leading-edge electronic systems that are shaping our modern world. Altera’s products are preferred by customers in a variety of end-markets, including communications, networking, cloud computing and storage, industrial, automotive and defense. Careers at Altera are founded on a core set of values that allow employees to champion innovation for customers, colleagues, and the company. You can find more information at Altera.com.

Join the Linux Foundation as a new corporate member. 

Click Here!