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Subject[PATCH v8 19/19] Documentation: arm64: describe asymmetric 32-bit support
Document support for running 32-bit tasks on asymmetric 32-bit systems
and its impact on the user ABI when enabled.

Signed-off-by: Will Deacon <>
.../admin-guide/kernel-parameters.txt | 3 +
Documentation/arm64/asymmetric-32bit.rst | 155 ++++++++++++++++++
Documentation/arm64/index.rst | 1 +
3 files changed, 159 insertions(+)
create mode 100644 Documentation/arm64/asymmetric-32bit.rst

diff --git a/Documentation/admin-guide/kernel-parameters.txt b/Documentation/admin-guide/kernel-parameters.txt
index a2e453919bb6..5a1dc7e628a5 100644
--- a/Documentation/admin-guide/kernel-parameters.txt
+++ b/Documentation/admin-guide/kernel-parameters.txt
@@ -295,6 +295,9 @@
EL0 is indicated by /sys/devices/system/cpu/aarch32_el0
and hot-unplug operations may be restricted.

+ See Documentation/arm64/asymmetric-32bit.rst for more
+ information.
amd_iommu= [HW,X86-64]
Pass parameters to the AMD IOMMU driver in the system.
Possible values are:
diff --git a/Documentation/arm64/asymmetric-32bit.rst b/Documentation/arm64/asymmetric-32bit.rst
new file mode 100644
index 000000000000..64a0b505da7d
--- /dev/null
+++ b/Documentation/arm64/asymmetric-32bit.rst
@@ -0,0 +1,155 @@
+Asymmetric 32-bit SoCs
+Author: Will Deacon <>
+This document describes the impact of asymmetric 32-bit SoCs on the
+execution of 32-bit (``AArch32``) applications.
+Date: 2021-05-17
+Some Armv9 SoCs suffer from a big.LITTLE misfeature where only a subset
+of the CPUs are capable of executing 32-bit user applications. On such
+a system, Linux by default treats the asymmetry as a "mismatch" and
+disables support for both the ``PER_LINUX32`` personality and
+``execve(2)`` of 32-bit ELF binaries, with the latter returning
+``-ENOEXEC``. If the mismatch is detected during late onlining of a
+64-bit-only CPU, then the onlining operation fails and the new CPU is
+unavailable for scheduling.
+Surprisingly, these SoCs have been produced with the intention of
+running legacy 32-bit binaries. Unsurprisingly, that doesn't work very
+well with the default behaviour of Linux.
+It seems inevitable that future SoCs will drop 32-bit support
+altogether, so if you're stuck in the unenviable position of needing to
+run 32-bit code on one of these transitionary platforms then you would
+be wise to consider alternatives such as recompilation, emulation or
+retirement. If neither of those options are practical, then read on.
+Enabling kernel support
+Since the kernel support is not completely transparent to userspace,
+allowing 32-bit tasks to run on an asymmetric 32-bit system requires an
+explicit "opt-in" and can be enabled by passing the
+``allow_mismatched_32bit_el0`` parameter on the kernel command-line.
+For the remainder of this document we will refer to an *asymmetric
+system* to mean an asymmetric 32-bit SoC running Linux with this kernel
+command-line option enabled.
+Userspace impact
+32-bit tasks running on an asymmetric system behave in mostly the same
+way as on a homogeneous system, with a few key differences relating to
+CPU affinity.
+The subset of CPUs capable of running 32-bit tasks is described in
+``/sys/devices/system/cpu/aarch32_el0`` and is documented further in
+**Note:** CPUs are advertised by this file as they are detected and so
+late-onlining of 32-bit-capable CPUs can result in the file contents
+being modified by the kernel at runtime. Once advertised, CPUs are never
+removed from the file.
+On a homogeneous system, the CPU affinity of a task is preserved across
+``execve(2)``. This is not always possible on an asymmetric system,
+specifically when the new program being executed is 32-bit yet the
+affinity mask contains 64-bit-only CPUs. In this situation, the kernel
+determines the new affinity mask as follows:
+ 1. If the 32-bit-capable subset of the affinity mask is not empty,
+ then the affinity is restricted to that subset and the old affinity
+ mask is saved. This saved mask is inherited over ``fork(2)`` and
+ preserved across ``execve(2)`` of 32-bit programs.
+ **Note:** This step does not apply to ``SCHED_DEADLINE`` tasks.
+ 2. Otherwise, the cpuset hierarchy of the task is walked until an
+ ancestor is found containing at least one 32-bit-capable CPU. The
+ affinity of the task is then changed to match the 32-bit-capable
+ subset of the cpuset determined by the walk.
+ 3. On failure (i.e. out of memory), the affinity is changed to the set
+ of all 32-bit-capable CPUs of which the kernel is aware.
+A subsequent ``execve(2)`` of a 64-bit program by the 32-bit task will
+invalidate the affinity mask saved in (1) and attempt to restore the CPU
+affinity of the task using the saved mask if it was previously valid.
+This restoration may fail due to intervening changes to the deadline
+policy or cpuset hierarchy, in which case the ``execve(2)`` continues
+with the affinity unchanged.
+Calls to ``sched_setaffinity(2)`` for a 32-bit task will consider only
+the 32-bit-capable CPUs of the requested affinity mask. On success, the
+affinity for the task is updated and any saved mask from a prior
+``execve(2)`` is invalidated.
+Explicit admission of a 32-bit deadline task to the default root domain
+(e.g. by calling ``sched_setattr(2)``) is rejected on an asymmetric
+32-bit system unless admission control is disabled by writing -1 to
+``execve(2)`` of a 32-bit program from a 64-bit deadline task will
+return ``-ENOEXEC`` if the root domain for the task contains any
+64-bit-only CPUs and admission control is enabled. Concurrent offlining
+of 32-bit-capable CPUs may still necessitate the procedure described in
+`execve(2)`_, in which case step (1) is skipped and a warning is
+emitted on the console.
+**Note:** It is recommended that a set of 32-bit-capable CPUs are placed
+into a separate root domain if ``SCHED_DEADLINE`` is to be used with
+32-bit tasks on an asymmetric system. Failure to do so is likely to
+result in missed deadlines.
+The affinity of a 32-bit task on an asymmetric system may include CPUs
+that are not explicitly allowed by the cpuset to which it is attached.
+This can occur as a result of the following two situations:
+ - A 64-bit task attached to a cpuset which allows only 64-bit CPUs
+ executes a 32-bit program.
+ - All of the 32-bit-capable CPUs allowed by a cpuset containing a
+ 32-bit task are offlined.
+In both of these cases, the new affinity is calculated according to step
+(2) of the process described in `execve(2)`_ and the cpuset hierarchy is
+unchanged irrespective of the cgroup version.
+CPU hotplug
+On an asymmetric system, the first detected 32-bit-capable CPU is
+prevented from being offlined by userspace and any such attempt will
+return ``-EPERM``. Note that suspend is still permitted even if the
+primary CPU (i.e. CPU 0) is 64-bit-only.
+Although KVM will not advertise 32-bit EL0 support to any vCPUs on an
+asymmetric system, a broken guest at EL1 could still attempt to execute
+32-bit code at EL0. In this case, an exit from a vCPU thread in 32-bit
+mode will return to host userspace with an ``exit_reason`` of
+``KVM_EXIT_FAIL_ENTRY`` and will remain non-runnable until successfully
+re-initialised by a subsequent ``KVM_ARM_VCPU_INIT`` operation.
diff --git a/Documentation/arm64/index.rst b/Documentation/arm64/index.rst
index 97d65ba12a35..4f840bac083e 100644
--- a/Documentation/arm64/index.rst
+++ b/Documentation/arm64/index.rst
@@ -10,6 +10,7 @@ ARM64 Architecture
+ asymmetric-32bit
 \ /
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