RFC-0211: Fuchsia on RISC-V

RFC-0211: Fuchsia on RISC-V
  • Build
  • Devices
  • Drivers
  • EngProd/Infra
  • Firmware
  • General
  • Kernel
  • Languages and Libraries
  • Security
  • Toolchain

Add support for 64-bits RISC-V CPUs.

Gerrit change
Date submitted (year-month-day)2023-02-14
Date reviewed (year-month-day)2023-03-07


This RFC proposes adding support for the RISC-V CPU architecture to Fuchsia. The proposed board name is riscv64.


RISC-V is a free and open instruction set architecture originally developed at UC Berkeley which has become increasingly popular in recent years. RISC-V International, a nonprofit based in Switzerland whose founding members include Google, defines the RISC-V specifications. All work is done through an open collaboration process that takes place on GitHub and the resulting specifications are freely available to the public. The RISC-V architecture is designed to be flexible enough to be used for everything between small microcontrollers and server-class CPUs. It has 32- and 64-bit address space variants and defines sets of instruction extensions which are grouped into categories that are convenient for modern operating system support. In addition, implementations can define custom non-standard instructions for special applications.

The recent availability of high-performance 64-bit cores from companies like SiFive has moved RISC-V from being primarily a small microcontrollers solution into the space where Fuchsia is currently doing the most development. We believe this is the perfect time for Fuchsia to support this architecture. By building robust RISC-V support now, we will ensure that Zircon and Fuchsia will be ready to support the next generation of computing devices from the very beginning of their appearance in the market.

The open philosophy of RISC-V is a good fit with our goals for the open source Fuchsia project and will help us in collaborating with other stakeholders in the RISC-V world.



  • jamesr@google.com


  • curtisgalloway@google.com - RFC wrangler
  • revest@google.com, rogerta@google.com - pioneer Fuchsia on RISC-V 20%-ers
  • cpu@google.com - RISC-V champion
  • travisg@google.com - Kernel wrangler emeritus


  • phosek@google.com (Toolchain)
  • shayba@google.com (Testing, build system)
  • mcgrathr@google.com (Zircon)
  • dpursell@google.com (Firmware)
  • mkearney@google.com (Documentation)
  • mvanotti@google.com (Security)


  • keir@google.com (Pigweed)


Target hardware

Fuchsia only targets 64-bit processors. So RISC-V support will target 64-bit CPUs only. Here we propose that only the QEMU virt platform is targeted. AEMU support is not considered in this RFC and as such, workflows or testing that require AEMU will not be supported. Support for a specific development board will be proposed separately in a future RFC.

ISA Extensions

RISC-V defines common sets of ISA extensions as profiles. We'll align our requirements with official profile definitions and work with the RISC-V community on future profile definitions.

As a first step, we'll only require RVA20 profiles since they are supported by QEMU. User code can assume that RVA20U64 extensions are available on all Fuchsia systems without runtime feature checks. The platform itself requires hardware/firmware to support the RVA20S64 profile.

We expect a future RFC to update these policies before RISC-V Fuchsia systems are deployed on hardware.

SBI Firmware

The kernel will only run in Supervisor mode (S-Mode) and will require the help of a lower level firmware running in Machine mode (M-mode). The SBI specification provides services to, for example, start secondary cores, timers and use remote fences. This spec is typically implemented by open-source firmware implementations such as OpenSBI; QEMU ships with a prebuilt OpenSBI 1.0 which Zircon will require as a baseline.


On the QEMU "virt" platform, we will start with Zircon getting booted by a boot-shim similar to the one used in arm64. The boot-shim gets DeviceTree data describing the QEMU configuration and presents ZBI items representing those details according to the ZBI boot protocol. New ZBI item types specific to RISC-V needs will be specified in the ZBI protocol as needed. In the future, we could use other firmwares to boot into Zircon.

Virtual memory

The RISC-V MMU supports multiple modes with different page sizes and maximum page table levels. At first, we'll only concentrate on sv39 since it is the baseline implemented in most hardware. In this mode, 39 bits of total address space are available which Zircon will use to provide 38 bits of user address space. As Sv48 becomes more widely available, we may extend Zircon to support larger user address spaces.

Target product

This RFC proposes targeting the "bringup" configuration followed by the "minimal" enabled with Netstack 3 so there are no dependencies on Go. An "eng" variant of the minimal configuration needs to be created such that standard developer workflows are available without further modification.


For the targeted configuration, we need PLIC, PCI, Ethernet, Console, PCI and RNG drivers. PLIC and PCI drivers need work but it is believed that the rest can use the existing Virtio-based ARM drivers as-is, this needs to be verified.


Every time a RISC-V standard is provided, for example the ELF psABI or the interrupt stack handling recommendation, Fuchsia will follow the standard practices unless such standard and recommendation precludes the agreed upon support level as defined below.

For example, we have already specified x18 (s2) as a reserved register for shadow call stacks. We will endeavor to work with the community to update the psABI spec to permit platforms to reserve x18 in particular.

Support level

The support level should be the "base" level as described in RFC-0111. This requires LLVM, Rust and support upstream so that at least the "minimal" configuration can be targeted. In addition, the SDK will be updated so out-of-tree development targeting RISC-V is possible. Consult the RFC-0111 for the full details. In addition, basic diagnostics like crash dump reports and interactive debugging support are in scope.


This RFC should not impact the performance of Fuchsia on existing architectures, as there are no architecture-independent changes proposed. The performance of Fuchsia on QEMU on RISC-V only affects the speed of the CI/CQ test pipeline and as such performance work shall be limited to make this scenario reasonably fast, which mostly entails running the test suites without timing out.

Security considerations

We propose to target the following baseline security mitigations:

  • Stack canaries
  • Shadow call stacks

Outside of the scope of this RFC are KASLR and architectural side-channel mitigations.


Automated testing of the riscv64 architecture support will come from the continuous integration where fuchsia will be booted in the QEMU virt platform.


The fuchsia.dev documentation needs to be overhauled to include RISC-V in many places, such that a regular developer can find the necessary information to contribute RISC-V specific code. Some examples below:

  • New entry in concepts/architecture/architecture_support.md
  • Image and board support in concepts/emulator/index.md
  • Supported configurations in concepts/testing/sanitizers.md
  • All major targets in contribute/contributing_to_zircon.md

Drawbacks, alternatives, and unknowns

This proposal adds a 3rd major architecture to Fuchsia and as such will incur significant one-time engineering costs for:

  • Toolchain & build system across the 3 supported languages
  • Libc, firmware and low-level kernel support
  • zxdb and crashpad work
  • Architecture specific kernel work
  • SDK and documentation work

In addition, it will require ongoing costs for:

  • Build maintenance
  • CI/CQ work for RISCV
  • Incremental cost for Infra
  • Ongoing higher-level library porting for full support

As RISC-V is still a relatively young architecture, we expect to encounter unknown challenges as we work our way up the stack for full Fuchsia support. Two such examples are Virtualization support and trusted execution environment.

Lack of server-class RISC-V hardware makes QEMU emulation slow and might make it difficult to run all the relevant test suites or use more elaborate product configurations.

In addition, some third-party tools and libraries may need additional work for RISC-V compatibility which we have not accounted for here and that might require convincing upstream projects to adopt RISC-V or force us to maintain forks.

We could delay support for RISC-V until 64-bit hardware is more mature, but delay would risk falling behind the introduction of hardware proposed for production devices, making Fuchsia a less viable option as an OS. RISC-V being the most viable competitor to Aarch64 and x86-64 will no doubt make it a popular architecture, resulting in lower costs and more freedom to innovate. The longer we wait, the more chance there is for RISC-V to evolve in ways that make a later Fuchsia port more painful or prohibitive.

Prior art and references