QEMU is a generic and open source processor emulator which can emulate i386, x86_64, MIPS, MIPSEL, PowerPC and SPARC systems. In case of SPARC it can emulate a SparcStation 5 or a SparcStation 10.
The Debian Etch distribution supports SparcStation 5 or a SparcStation 10 natively, including emulated ones. That makes a cheap development platform. The emulated system running on an Athlon 64 X2 3800+ is around the same speed as a SparcStation 5 with a 170MHz CPU, and possibly with much more RAM (my emulated system has 512MiB of RAM).
Please note that Debian dropped SPARC32 support with Lenny, and that QEMU doesn't support (yet) SPARC64 targets.
This howto has been written for a Debian host system, but could be easily adapted for other distributions.
Alternatively prebuilt images are also available.
To build QEMU a few packages like SDL needs to be installed on your system. gcc version 3.4 is also needed, as some parts of QEMU do not build with newer gcc versions. As QEMU is present in the archive, just run:
Then run the configure script:
Then compile it:
And install it on your system:
Preparing the installation
First you need to create an image of the hard disk. In my case I have chosen to emulate a 10GB hard-disk, but this size could be changed to correspond to your needs. Note that the file is created in qcow format, so that only the non-empty sectors will be written in the file.
A small tip: create a directory to hold all the files related to the emulated SPARC machine.
Installing Debian Etch
To start the installation process, use the following line:
After a few seconds you should see OpenBIOS booting the CD-ROM. At the prompt, just press enter.
You should then see the kernel booting:
And then the first screen of the Debian-Installer:
Proceed exacty as with a normal installation. If you need some documentation, please refer to the Debian installation guide.
At the end of the installation. Congratulations!
Using the system
To start the system use the following command:
After a few seconds the system should give you a login prompt. Enjoy your new SPARC platform:
By default QEMU emulate a machine with 128MiB of RAM. You can use the
-m option to
increase or decrease the size of the RAM. It is however limited to 256MiB. If you want to use
more RAM (up to 2047MiB), switch the machine to a SparcStation 10 machine (-M SS-10).
Connect your emulated machine to a real network
When no option is specified QEMU uses a non priviledged user mode network stack that gives the emulated machine access to the world. But you probably want to make your emulated machine accessible from the outside. It is possible by using the tap mode and bridging the tap interface with the network interface of the host machine.
The first thing to do is to active a bridge on your host machine. For that you have to modify the
/etc/network/interfaces file as follow:
iface eth0 inet dhcp
iface br0 inet dhcp
Then you need to install the
bridge-utils package and restart your network interface:
# ifdown eth0
# ifup br0
Create a script call
/etc/qemu-ifup that will be executed upon the start of QEMU:
echo "Executing /etc/qemu-ifup"
echo "Bringing up $1 for bridged mode..."
sudo /sbin/ifconfig $1 0.0.0.0 promisc up
echo "Adding $1 to br0..."
sudo /usr/sbin/brctl addif br0 $1
As you probably don't want to execute QEMU as root, you need to create a
qemu user group
and authorize the brctl and ifconfig commands for users of the
You need to add the following lines to
/etc/sudoers (edit the file using
Cmnd_Alias QEMU = /usr/sbin/brctl, /sbin/ifconfig
%qemu ALL=NOPASSWD: QEMU
Finally you can start your emulated machine using the following command