The Flattened Device Tree (FDT) is a data structure for describing the hardware in a system. It is a derived from the device tree format used by Open Firmware to encapsulate platform information and convey it to the- operating system. The operating system uses the FDT data to find and register the devices in the system.
Currently the Linux kernel can read device tree information in the x86, PowerPC and Sparc architectures. There is interest in extending support for device trees to other platforms, to unify the handling of platform description across kernel architectures.
The Linux kernel includes a "compiler" which takes a device tree description in "dts" format and produces a binary, "dtb", format, suitable for linking into the kernel. See scripts/dtc in the kernel source directory.
There is documentation describing device tree support (with information current as of 2006) in the Linux kernel source tree at: Documentation/powerpc/booting-without-of.txt
The Flattened Device Tree is...
The Flattened Device Tree (FDT) is a data structure. Nothing more.
It describes a machine hardware configuration. It is derived from the device tree format used by Open Firmware. The format is expressive and able to describe most board design aspects including:
- the number and type of CPUs,
- base addresses and size of RAM,
- busses and bridges,
- peripheral device connections, and
- interrupt controllers and IRQ line connections.
Just like initrd images, an FDT image can either be statically linked into the kernel or passed to the kernel at boot time.
Presentations and Papers
"Using the Device Tree to Describe Embedded Hardware" - Grant Likely, Embedded Linux Conference, 2008 http://www.celinux.org/elc08_presentations/glikely--device-tree.pdf
"A Symphony of Flavours: Using the device tree to describe embedded hardware" - Grant Likely and Josh Boyer - paper for OLS 2008 http://ols.fedoraproject.org/OLS/Reprints-2008/likely2-reprint.pdf
Note from Device Tree Birds of a Feature session at OLS 2008: http://lists.ozlabs.org/pipermail/devicetree-discuss/2008-July/000004.html
Coming Up Soon
Grant's talk at Plumber's conference 2009 - http://linuxplumbersconf.org/ocw/proposals/47
Device-tree Mailing List
Mailing list discussion
Recent discussion of "Flattened Device Tree" work on linux-embedded mailing list: http://email@example.com/msg01721.html
Russel King is against adding support for FDT to the ARM platform: http://lkml.indiana.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/0905.3/01942.html (see whole thread for interesting discussion)
David Gibson defends FDT: http://lkml.indiana.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/0905.3/02304.html
Xilinx provides a device-tree generator: http://xilinx.wikidot.com/device-tree-generator "The device tree generator is a Xilinx EDK tool that plugs into the Automatic BSP Generation features of the tool, XPS"