5.2. Architectures

An RTEMS architecture is a class or family of a processor architecture that RTEMS supports. The RTEMS architecture model follows the architecture model of GCC. An architecture in GCC results in a specific RTEMS GCC compiler. This compiler may support a range of processors in the family that may have differences in instructions sets, floating point support or other aspects. RTEMS configures GCC to create separate runtime libraries for each supported instruction set, floating point unit, vector unit, word size (e.g. 32-bit and 64-bit), endianess, code model, ABI, processor errata workarounds, and so on in the architecture. This is termed multilib. Multilibs are chosen automatically by GCC via selecting a specific set of machine options.

You can query the multilibs of a specific RTEMS GCC compiler via the -print-multi-lib option:

$ sparc-rtems5-gcc -print-multi-lib

Each printed line represents a multilib. The . corresponds to the default multilib. It is used if a set of machine options does not match to a specialized multilib. The string before the ; describes the directory in the GCC installation used for the particular multilib. After the ; the set of machine options for this multilib follows separated by @ characters.

You can figure out the multilib selected by GCC for a set of machine options with the -print-multi-directory option:

$ sparc-rtems5-gcc -print-multi-directory -mcpu=leon3

It is crucial that the RTEMS BSP, support libraries and the application code are compiled consistently with a compatible set of machine options. Otherwise, in the best case errors during linking will occur or you may end up silently with undefined behaviour which results in sporadic run-time crashes. A wrong set of machine options may result in a running application, however, with degraded performance, e.g. hardware floating point unit is not used by the mathematical library.

For a list of architectures supported by RTEMS please have a look at the sections of the Board Support Packages chapter.

RTEMS executables are statically linked for a specific target therefore a precise and exact match can be made for the hardware that extracts the best possible performance. The compiler supports the variants to the instruction set and RTEMS extends the specialization to specific processors in an architecture. This specialization gives RTEMS a finer resolution of features and capabilities a specific device may offer allowing the kernel, drivers and application to make the most of those resources. The trade off is portability however this is not important because the executable are statically linked for a single target.


RTEMS support dynamically load code through the dlopen interface. Loading code via this interface results in an executable image that is equivalent to statically linked executable of the same code. Dynamic loading is a system level tool for system architects.