[FreeBSD-Announce] FreeBSD/i386 demoted to Tier 2 for FreeBSD 13.x

John Baldwin jhb at FreeBSD.org
Thu Jan 28 19:33:32 UTC 2021

FreeBSD is designating i386 as a Tier 2 architecture starting with
FreeBSD 13.0.  The Project will continue to provide release images,
binary updates, and pre-built packages for the 13.x branch.  However,
i386-specific issues (including SAs) may not be addressed in 13.x.
The i386 platform will remain Tier 1 on FreeBSD 11.x and 12.x.

More background:

The i386 (32-bit x86) architecture has been a substantial part of the
FreeBSD Project’s history and success.  FreeBSD began with i386 as the
only supported architecture, and the ease of availability of i386
computers was key to FreeBSD’s growth and adoption.  However, the
computer industry and the x86 architecture have evolved over time.
For at least the past decade, 64-bit x86 has been the dominant FreeBSD
architecture both in terms of users and active development.  The
FreeBSD/i386 user base has steadily declined and is now on par with
other Tier 2 architectures.  As a result, the i386 architecture will
be demoted to a Tier 2 architecture starting with FreeBSD 13.0.

Due to i386’s history as a Tier 1 architecture and it’s existing
install base, the Project will continue to provide a high level of
support for i386 in FreeBSD 13.x.  This will give existing i386 users
extra time to migrate to a fully-supported architecture for future
FreeBSD releases.

For FreeBSD 13.x, the FreeBSD project commits to providing release
images, binary updates, and pre-built packages for i386.  The FreeBSD
Release Engineering and Security Teams will continue to build, test,
and distribute EN and SA artifacts for i386 alongside all other
supported platforms.  However, EN and SA issues that are specific to
i386, or that require unique development for i386, may not be
addressed.  The userland ABI will continue to be preserved in 13.x
similar to other Tier 1 platforms.

For branches beyond 13.x (e.g. 14.x), the FreeBSD Project reserves the
right to reduce the amount of support provided.  We anticipate that
i386 will receive reduced support inline with existing Tier 2
platforms for 14.x, and will announce the level of support i386 will
receive in 14.x as we are closer to the 14.0 release date.  Due to the
prevalence of existing i386 binaries, we also anticipate that we will
avoid breaking the userland ABI in future branches.  Specifically, we
expect that time_t will remain 32 bits on i386.

Support for i386 on currently-supported FreeBSD branches (11.x and
12.x) will continue at their current Tier 1 level for the duration of
their support lifetime.

On behalf of the FreeBSD core, port manager, release engineering, and
security teams,

John Baldwin

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