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How to Install Ubuntu on an Arm Server

As a follow up to our previous blog post offering advice and options for purchasing an Arm Server, the second most frequent question we receive is regarding how to install Ubuntu on an Arm Server. This of course varies depending on the hardware you have chosen, but typically follows one of two options (with some customization likely to be necessary for Option 2).

The easiest method for installing Ubuntu on Arm is to acquire SBSA compatible hardware. This is typically a more expensive option, but because of a standard UEFI boot processes and hardware description, direct downloads of Debian Aarch64, Fedora Arm, CentOS Aarch64, and Ubuntu Arm Server install in a normal manner. Simply write the downloaded Ubuntu Arm Server image to a USB drive, insert it into the Arm Server, and then boot from that device to start the process. The installation process will then install the operating system to a local hard drive, setup the Grub bootloader, and configure the OS for boot. Typical units in this scenario are Cavium ThunderX or ThunderX2 servers, Qualcomm Centriq 2400 servers, or Softiron Overdrive 1000 or 3000 AMD Opteron A1100 servers. These machines simply install and boot operating systems in a “normal” fashion, similar to x86 counterparts.

A second, cheaper option, is to use a single board computer such as a Raspberry Pi, an Odroid, a NanoPi, a Pine64, or others. In this scenario, the board vendor is usually the one to develop and release the Ubuntu Arm image, though sometimes the Armbian team also provides an image that can be written directly to an SD Card and booted. For example, the Pine64 and many Odroid, FriendlyArm, OrangePi, and BananaPi models have pre-configured 32-bit and 64-bit Ubuntu Arm images available for installation (depending on the exact model). They typically contain a SoC-specific kernel, paired with an Ubuntu Arm rootfs, and need to written to an SD Card and then inserted into the board. Sometimes these boards also contain permanent storage such as eMMC, and the OS can be then be transferred from the SD Card to teh eMMC, depending on the model.

As always, if you have any feedback, let us know in the comments!