3 Cross Compiling Erlang/OTP

Table of Contents

3.1  Introduction

This document describes how to cross compile Erlang/OTP-19. You are advised to read the whole document before attempting to cross compile Erlang/OTP. However, before reading this document, you should read the $ERL_TOP/HOWTO/INSTALL.md document which describes building and installing Erlang/OTP in general. $ERL_TOP is the top directory in the source tree.

otp_build Versus configure/make

Building Erlang/OTP can be done either by using the $ERL_TOP/otp_build script, or by invoking $ERL_TOP/configure and make directly. Building using otp_build is easier since it involves fewer steps, but the otp_build build procedure is not as flexible as the configure/make build procedure. Note that otp_build configure will produce a default configuration that differs from what configure will produce by default. For example, currently --disable-dynamic-ssl-lib is added to the configure command line arguments unless --enable-dynamic-ssl-lib has been explicitly passed. The binary releases that we deliver are built using otp_build. The defaults used by otp_build configure may change at any time without prior notice.

Cross Configuration

The $ERL_TOP/xcomp/erl-xcomp.conf.template file contains all available cross configuration variables and can be used as a template when creating a cross compilation configuration. All cross configuration variables are also listed at the end of this document. For examples of working cross configurations see the $ERL_TOP/xcomp/erl-xcomp-TileraMDE2.0-tilepro.conf file and the $ERL_TOP/xcomp/erl-xcomp-x86_64-saf-linux-gnu.conf file. If the default behavior of a variable is satisfactory, the variable does not need to be set. However, the configure script will issue a warning when a default value is used. When a variable has been set, no warning will be issued.

A cross configuration file can be passed to otp_build configure using the --xcomp-conf command line argument. Note that configure does not accept this command line argument. When using the configure script directly, pass the configuration variables as arguments to configure using a <VARIABLE>=<VALUE> syntax. Variables can also be passed as environment variables to configure. However, if you pass the configuration in the environment, make sure to unset all of these environment variables before invoking make; otherwise, the environment variables might set make variables in some applications, or parts of some applications, and you may end up with an erroneously configured build.

What can be Cross Compiled?

All Erlang/OTP applications except the wx application can be cross compiled. The build of the wx driver will currently be automatically disabled when cross compiling.


The build system, including cross compilation configuration variables used, may be subject to non backward compatible changes without prior notice. Current cross build system has been tested when cross compiling some Linux/GNU systems, but has only been partly tested for more esoteric platforms. The VxWorks example file is highly dependent on our environment and is here more or less only for internal use.


Please submit any patches for cross compiling in a way consistent with this system. All input is welcome as we have a very limited set of cross compiling environments to test with. If a new configuration variable is needed, add it to $ERL_TOP/xcomp/erl-xcomp.conf.template, and use it in configure.in. Other files that might need to be updated are:

  • $ERL_TOP/xcomp/erl-xcomp-vars.sh
  • $ERL_TOP/erl-build-tool-vars.sh
  • $ERL_TOP/erts/aclocal.m4
  • $ERL_TOP/xcomp/README.md
  • $ERL_TOP/xcomp/erl-xcomp-*.conf

Note that this might be an incomplete list of files that need to be updated.

General information on how to submit patches can be found at: http://wiki.github.com/erlang/otp/submitting-patches

3.2  Build and Install Procedure

If you are building in Git, you want to read the Building in Git section of $ERL_TOP/HOWTO/INSTALL.md before proceeding.

We will first go through the configure/make build procedure which people probably are most familiar with.

Building With configure/make Directly


Change directory into the top directory of the Erlang/OTP source tree.

$ cd $ERL_TOP

In order to compile Erlang code, a small Erlang bootstrap system has to be built, or an Erlang/OTP system of the same release as the one being built has to be provided in the $PATH. The Erlang/OTP for the target system will be built using this Erlang system, together with the cross compilation tools provided.

If you want to build using a compatible Erlang/OTP system in the $PATH, jump to (3).

Building a Bootstrap System


$ ./configure --enable-bootstrap-only
$ make

The --enable-bootstrap-only argument to configure isn't strictly necessary, but will speed things up. It will only run configure in applications necessary for the bootstrap, and will disable a lot of things not needed by the bootstrap system. If you run configure without --enable-boostrap-only you also have to run make as make bootstrap; otherwise, the whole system will be built.

Cross Building the System


$ ./configure --host=<HOST> --build=<BUILD> [Other Config Args]
$ make

<HOST> is the host/target system that you build for. It does not have to be a full CPU-VENDOR-OS triplet, but can be. The full CPU-VENDOR-OS triplet will be created by executing $ERL_TOP/erts/autoconf/config.sub <HOST>. If config.sub fails, you need to be more specific.

<BUILD> should equal the CPU-VENDOR-OS triplet of the system that you build on. If you execute $ERL_TOP/erts/autoconf/config.guess, it will in most cases print the triplet you want to use for this.

Pass the cross compilation variables as command line arguments to configure using a <VARIABLE>=<VALUE> syntax.


You can not pass a configuration file using the --xcomp-conf argument when you invoke configure directly. The --xcomp-conf argument can only be passed to otp_build configure.

make will verify that the Erlang/OTP system used when building is of the same release as the system being built, and will fail if this is not the case. It is possible, however not recommended, to force the cross compilation even though the wrong Erlang/OTP system is used. This by invoking make like this: make ERL_XCOMP_FORCE_DIFFERENT_OTP=yes.


Invoking make ERL_XCOMP_FORCE_DIFFERENT_OTP=yes might fail, silently produce suboptimal code, or silently produce erroneous code.


You can either install using the installation paths determined by configure (4), or install manually using (5).

Installing Using Paths Determined by configure



make install will install at a location specified when doing configure. configure arguments specifying where the installation should reside are for example: --prefix, --exec-prefix, --libdir, --bindir, etc. By default it will install under /usr/local. You typically do not want to install your cross build under /usr/local on your build machine. Using DESTDIR will cause the installation paths to be prefixed by $DESTDIR. This makes it possible to install and package the installation on the build machine without having to place the installation in the same directory on the build machine as it should be executed from on the target machine.

When make install has finished, change directory into $DESTDIR, package the system, move it to the target machine, and unpack it. Note that the installation will only be working on the target machine at the location determined by configure.

Installing Manually



make release will copy what you have built for the target machine to <RELEASE_DIR>. The Install script will not be run. The content of <RELEASE_DIR> is what by default ends up in /usr/local/lib/erlang.

The Install script used when installing Erlang/OTP requires common Unix tools such as sed to be present in your $PATH. If your target system does not have such tools, you need to run the Install script on your build machine before packaging Erlang/OTP. The Install script should currently be invoked as follows in the directory where it resides (the top directory):

$ ./Install [-cross] [-minimal|-sasl] <ERL_ROOT>


  • -minimal Creates an installation that starts up a minimal amount of applications, i.e., only kernel and stdlib are started. The minimal system is normally enough, and is what make install uses.
  • -sasl Creates an installation that also starts up the sasl application.
  • -cross For cross compilation. Informs the install script that it is run on the build machine.
  • <ERL_ROOT> - The absolute path to the Erlang installation to use at run time. This is often the same as the current working directory, but does not have to be. It can follow any other path through the file system to the same directory.

If neither -minimal, nor -sasl is passed as argument you will be prompted.

You can now either do:


  • Decide where the installation should be located on the target machine, run the Install script on the build machine, and package the installed installation. The installation just need to be unpacked at the right location on the target machine:

    $ cd <RELEASE_DIR>
    $ ./Install -cross [-minimal|-sasl] <ABSOLUTE_INSTALL_DIR_ON_TARGET>



  • Package the installation in <RELEASE_DIR>, place it wherever you want on your target machine, and run the Install script on your target machine:

    $ ./Install [-minimal|-sasl] <ABSOLUTE_INSTALL_DIR_ON_TARGET>

Building With the otp_build Script


$ cd $ERL_TOP


$ ./otp_build configure --xcomp-conf=<FILE> [Other Config Args]


$ ./otp_build configure --host=<HOST> --build=<BUILD> [Other Config Args]

If you have your cross compilation configuration in a file, pass it using the --xcomp-conf=<FILE> command line argument. If not, pass --host=<HOST>, --build=<BUILD>, and the configuration variables using a <VARIABLE>=<VALUE> syntax on the command line (same as in (3)). Note that <HOST> and <BUILD> have to be passed one way or the other; either by using erl_xcomp_host=<HOST> and erl_xcomp_build=<BUILD> in the configuration file, or by using the --host=<HOST>, and --build=<BUILD> command line arguments.

otp_build configure will configure both for the boostrap system on the build machine and the cross host system.


$ ./otp_build boot -a

otp_build boot -a will first build a bootstrap system for the build machine and then do the cross build of the system.


$ ./otp_build release -a <RELEASE_DIR>

otp_build release -a will do the same as (5), and you will after this have to do a manual install either by doing (6), or (7).

3.3  Building and Installing the Documentation

After the system has been cross built you can build and install the documentation the same way as after a native build of the system. See the How to Build the Documentation section in the $ERL_TOP/HOWTO/INSTALL.md document for information on how to build the documentation.

3.4  Testing the cross compiled system

Some of the tests that come with erlang use native code to test. This means that when cross compiling erlang you also have to cross compile test suites in order to run tests on the target host. To do this you first have to release the tests as usual.

$ make release_tests


$ ./otp_build tests

The tests will be released into $ERL_TOP/release/tests. After releasing the tests you have to install the tests on the build machine. You supply the same xcomp file as to ./otp_build in (9).

$ cd $ERL_TOP/release/tests/test_server/
$ $ERL_TOP/bootstrap/bin/erl -eval 'ts:install([{xcomp,"<FILE>"}])' -s ts compile_testcases -s init stop

You should get a lot of printouts as the testcases are compiled. Once done you should copy the entire $ERL_TOP/release/tests folder to the cross host system.

Then go to the cross host system and setup the erlang installed in (4) or (5) to be in your $PATH. Then go to what previously was $ERL_TOP/release/tests/test_server and issue the following command.

$ erl -s ts install -s ts run all_tests -s init stop

The configure should be skipped and all tests should hopefully pass. For more details about how to use ts run erl -s ts help -s init stop

3.5  Currently Used Configuration Variables

Note that you cannot define arbitrary variables in a cross compilation configuration file. Only the ones listed below will be guaranteed to be visible throughout the whole execution of all configure scripts. Other variables needs to be defined as arguments to configure or exported in the environment.

Variables for otp_build Only

Variables in this section are only used, when configuring Erlang/OTP for cross compilation using $ERL_TOP/otp_build configure.


These variables currently have no effect if you configure using the configure script directly.

  • erl_xcomp_build - The build system used. This value will be passed as --build=$erl_xcomp_build argument to the configure script. It does not have to be a full CPU-VENDOR-OS triplet, but can be. The full CPU-VENDOR-OS triplet will be created by $ERL_TOP/erts/autoconf/config.sub $erl_xcomp_build. If set to guess, the build system will be guessed using $ERL_TOP/erts/autoconf/config.guess.

  • erl_xcomp_host - Cross host/target system to build for. This value will be passed as --host=$erl_xcomp_host argument to the configure script. It does not have to be a full CPU-VENDOR-OS triplet, but can be. The full CPU-VENDOR-OS triplet will be created by $ERL_TOP/erts/autoconf/config.sub $erl_xcomp_host.

  • erl_xcomp_configure_flags - Extra configure flags to pass to the configure script.

Cross Compiler and Other Tools

If the cross compilation tools are prefixed by <HOST>- you probably do not need to set these variables (where <HOST> is what has been passed as --host=<HOST> argument to configure).

All variables in this section can also be used when native compiling.

  • CC - C compiler.

  • CFLAGS - C compiler flags.

  • STATIC_CFLAGS - Static C compiler flags.

  • CFLAG_RUNTIME_LIBRARY_PATH - This flag should set runtime library search path for the shared libraries. Note that this actually is a linker flag, but it needs to be passed via the compiler.

  • CPP - C pre-processor.

  • CPPFLAGS - C pre-processor flags.

  • CXX - C++ compiler.

  • CXXFLAGS - C++ compiler flags.

  • LD - Linker.

  • LDFLAGS - Linker flags.

  • LIBS - Libraries.

Dynamic Erlang Driver Linking

Either set all or none of the DED_LD* variables.

  • DED_LD - Linker for Dynamically loaded Erlang Drivers.

  • DED_LDFLAGS - Linker flags to use with DED_LD.

  • DED_LD_FLAG_RUNTIME_LIBRARY_PATH - This flag should set runtime library search path for shared libraries when linking with DED_LD.

Large File Support

Either set all or none of the LFS_* variables.

  • LFS_CFLAGS - Large file support C compiler flags.

  • LFS_LDFLAGS - Large file support linker flags.

  • LFS_LIBS - Large file support libraries.

Other Tools
  • RANLIB - ranlib archive index tool.

  • AR - ar archiving tool.

  • GETCONF - getconf system configuration inspection tool. getconf is currently used for finding out large file support flags to use, and on Linux systems for finding out if we have an NPTL thread library or not.

Cross System Root Locations

  • erl_xcomp_sysroot - The absolute path to the system root of the cross compilation environment. Currently, the crypto, odbc, ssh and ssl applications need the system root. These applications will be skipped if the system root has not been set. The system root might be needed for other things too. If this is the case and the system root has not been set, configure will fail and request you to set it.

  • erl_xcomp_isysroot - The absolute path to the system root for includes of the cross compilation environment. If not set, this value defaults to $erl_xcomp_sysroot, i.e., only set this value if the include system root path is not the same as the system root path.

Optional Feature, and Bug Tests

These tests cannot (always) be done automatically when cross compiling. You usually do not need to set these variables.


Setting these variables wrong may cause hard to detect runtime errors. If you need to change these values, really make sure that the values are correct.


Some of these values will override results of tests performed by configure, and some will not be used until configure is sure that it cannot figure the result out.

The configure script will issue a warning when a default value is used. When a variable has been set, no warning will be issued.

  • erl_xcomp_after_morecore_hook - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have a working __after_morecore_hook that can be used for tracking used malloc() implementations core memory usage. This is currently only used by unsupported features.

  • erl_xcomp_bigendian - yes|no. No default. If yes, the target system must be big endian. If no, little endian. This can often be automatically detected, but not always. If not automatically detected, configure will fail unless this variable is set. Since no default value is used, configure will try to figure this out automatically.

  • erl_xcomp_double_middle - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have doubles in "middle-endian" format. If no, it has "regular" endianness.

  • erl_xcomp_clock_gettime_cpu_time - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have a working clock_gettime() implementation that can be used for retrieving process CPU time.

  • erl_xcomp_getaddrinfo - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have a working getaddrinfo() implementation that can handle both IPv4 and IPv6.

  • erl_xcomp_gethrvtime_procfs_ioctl - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have a working gethrvtime() implementation and is used with procfs ioctl().

  • erl_xcomp_dlsym_brk_wrappers - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have a working dlsym(RTLD_NEXT, <S>) implementation that can be used on brk and sbrk symbols used by the malloc() implementation in use, and by this track the malloc() implementations core memory usage. This is currently only used by unsupported features.

  • erl_xcomp_kqueue - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have a working kqueue() implementation that returns a file descriptor which can be used by poll() and/or select(). If no and the target system has not got epoll() or /dev/poll, the kernel-poll feature will be disabled.

  • erl_xcomp_linux_clock_gettime_correction - yes|no. Defaults to yes on Linux; otherwise, no. If yes, clock_gettime(CLOCK_MONOTONIC, _) on the target system must work. This variable is recommended to be set to no on Linux systems with kernel versions less than 2.6.

  • erl_xcomp_linux_nptl - yes|no. Defaults to yes on Linux; otherwise, no. If yes, the target system must have NPTL (Native POSIX Thread Library). Older Linux systems have LinuxThreads instead of NPTL (Linux kernel versions typically less than 2.6).

  • erl_xcomp_linux_usable_sigaltstack - yes|no. Defaults to yes on Linux; otherwise, no. If yes, sigaltstack() must be usable on the target system. sigaltstack() on Linux kernel versions less than 2.4 are broken.

  • erl_xcomp_linux_usable_sigusrx - yes|no. Defaults to yes. If yes, the SIGUSR1 and SIGUSR2 signals must be usable by the ERTS. Old LinuxThreads thread libraries (Linux kernel versions typically less than 2.2) used these signals and made them unusable by the ERTS.

  • erl_xcomp_poll - yes|no. Defaults to no on Darwin/MacOSX; otherwise, yes. If yes, the target system must have a working poll() implementation that also can handle devices. If no, select() will be used instead of poll().

  • erl_xcomp_putenv_copy - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have a putenv() implementation that stores a copy of the key/value pair.

  • erl_xcomp_reliable_fpe - yes|no. Defaults to no. If yes, the target system must have reliable floating point exceptions.

  • erl_xcomp_posix_memalign - yes|no. Defaults to yes if posix_memalign system call exists; otherwise no. If yes, the target system must have a posix_memalign implementation that accepts larger than page size alignment.

3.6  Copyright and License

Copyright Ericsson AB 2009-2014. All Rights Reserved.

Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License"); you may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You may obtain a copy of the License at


Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS, WITHOUT WARRANTIES OR CONDITIONS OF ANY KIND, either express or implied. See the License for the specific language governing permissions and limitations under the License.