U-Boot Platform Linux Kernel and Device Tree Source

ONIE provides an environment in which a network operating system (NOS) installer can run. As such, the kernel must provide features and services useful for an installer. This places a number of requirements on the Linux kernel configuration.

In addition, the kernel requires support for individual hardware platforms and the associated device tree source.


The examples throughout this section reference a hypothetical machine, called MACHINE, manufactured by a hypothetical hardware manufacturer, called VENDOR. The machine is based on a Freescale QorIQ PowerPC CPU.

Every platform must add platform support to the Linux kernel. In general these types of files need to be added or modified:

File Purpose
linux/arch/$(CPU)/boot/dts/vendor_machine.dts Device Tree Source (DTS) for the platform.
linux/arch/$(CPU)/.../Kconfig Kernel configuration fragment that allows the new platform to be selected.
linux/arch/$(CPU)/.../Makefile Makefile fragment detailing what C file to compile when the platform is selected.
linux/arch/$(CPU)/.../vendor_machine.c Platform support C file. Basic initialization and reset.

Device Tree Source

The device tree is a simple tree structure of nodes and properties that describe the hardware platform. Properties are key-value pairs, and nodes may contain both properties and child nodes. The nodes and properties relevant to ONIE are discussed here.

Node Property Purpose
/ model A string that uniquely identifies the hardware platform. For example, “vendor,model-XYZ”.
/ compatible A string that identifies a platform that is compatible with the model. For example, “vendor,model”.
/localbus/nor partitions Node that partitions the NOR flash into logical regions. NAND flash could also be used.

model and compatible Properties

The model and compatible properties are used by the kernel at boot time to invoke the correct platform initialization routines. For example:

/ {
        model = "vendor,model-XYZ";
        compatible = "vendor,model";
[ ... ]

See how the compatible property is used in Platform Support C Files below.

Boot Flash Partitioning

For an ONIE system the partitioning looks like:

Region Label Typical Size Purpose
open Leftover space for use by the operating system.
diag Space occupied by hardware diagnostics [optional].
onie 4MB Space occupied by the ONIE kernel and initramfs.
uboot-env 64KB (1 sector) Space occupied by the U-Boot environment variables.
uboot 512KB Space occupied by the U-Boot binary.

Here is an example NOR flash node where the NOR flash is 128MB in size:

nor@0,0 {
        #address-cells = <0x1>;
        #size-cells = <0x1>;
        compatible = "cfi-flash";
        reg = <0x0 0x0 0x8000000>;
        bank-width = <0x2>;
        device-width = <0x2>;
        partition@0 {
                /* Entire flash minus (u-boot + onie + diag) */
                reg = <0x00000000 0x07760000>;
                label = "open";
        partition@1 {
                /* Optional hardware diagnostic image, 4MB */
                reg = <0x07760000 0x00400000>;
                label = "diag";
        partition@2 {
                /* 4MB onie */
                reg = <0x07b60000 0x00400000>;
                label = "onie";
        partition@3 {
                /* 128KB, 1 sector */
                reg = <0x07f60000 0x00020000>;
                label = "uboot-env";
                env_size = <0x2000>;
        partition@4 {
                /* 512KB u-boot */
                reg = <0x07f80000 0x00080000>;
                label = "uboot";

Compare this partitioning scheme to the picture in NOR Flash Memory Layout.


The region label properties within the nodes are important and must have the names as shown above. The ONIE application and operating system installers rely on these names.


The env_size property of the uboot-env partition indicates how much of the sector is used to store U-Boot environment variables. This value must match the CONFIG_ENV_SIZE macro defined in the U-Boot source file include/configs/onie_common_config.h. This value is used at runtime to facilitate the reading and writing of U-Boot environment variables by an operating system installer.


The diag partition is optional and is intended to be used by the hardware vendor to provide a diagnostic image. The size of the diagnostic partition is only constrained by the total size of the NOR flash.

Kconfig and Makefile

The Kconfig file must contain an additional stanza for the new platform. For example:

       bool "VENDOR Corporation Model MACHINE"
       select DEFAULT_UIMAGE
         This option enables support for the VENDOR MACHINE networking platform

The Makefile file must contain an additional entry for the new platform. For example:

obj-$(CONFIG_VENDOR_MACHINE) += vendor_machine.o

Platform Support C Files

The platform support C files perform any boot time initialization necessary for a particular platform. Most of these initialization codes can be ported from a similar hardware platform.

Any platform specific drivers are also considered to be “platform support” C files.

The primary responsibilities of the platform support C files in ONIE are:

  • return true when the kernel probes for a device tree node whose compatible property is “vendor,machine”. If it finds it, the kernel now knows what type of machine is running.
  • if necessary, implement a platform-specific vendor_machine_restart() function to perform a system reboot. This may be necessary for platform that implement a CPLD-based reset mechanism, instead of using a standard CPU architecture reset mechanism.