In regards to 32bit architecture I have some unfortunate news which I laid out in this comment in the GitHub issue. I’ll copy and paste it here as well to give it some more visibility
As I am interested in the new RISC-V architecture and have purchased a development board with the new JH1100 CPU (still waiting on it to be shipped around February), I’ve been keeping an eye on the Wiki page from the Debian developers around this architecture and their Wiki page.
There is some unfortunate data on that page for all 32-bit users, the current Debian repository is slowly becoming unable to compile the 300,000+ packages available in the Debian package repository for the 32bit architecture.
Ultimately what this means is that 32bit architecture is slowly “dying” or fading away, since it isn’t even capable of compiling the tools anymore. Only around 30-35% of the current packages successfully compile on a 32bit architecture, and it has slowly been decreasing every month for a couple years now and getting to the point where it no longer is viable to keep trying to compile the packages for that architecture.
Note that it says x32 is high on the chart, but that is because the x32 ABI is no longer a pure “32bit” architecture, it is in fact a mix of 32bit and 64bit due to a request from Linus Torvalds in August 27, 2011. You can read a little bit about it on this Wikipedia page
QUOTE from RISC-V - Debian Wiki
What are the goals of this project in particular?
In this project the goal is to have Debian ready to install and run on systems implementing a variant of the RISC-V ISA:
- Software-wise, this port targets the Linux kernel
- Hardware-wise, the port targets the 64-bit variant, little-endian
This ISA variant is the “default flavour” recommended by the designers, and the one that seems to attract more interest for planned implementations that might become available in the next few years (development boards, possible consumer hardware or servers).
While 32-bit and 128-bit implementations are possible, there are problems with this:
In the context of RISC-V design, they have not been explored as deeply, and tools and resources (e.g. simulators, research cores) as not as well studied and adapted;
For general purpose computers, the focus shifted to 64-bit for many years already, and there isn’t a lot of interest in 32-bit architectures except for specific purposes;
32-bit ports in Debian already struggle to compile some large packages of the archive in the last few months/years, a problem that will become worse with time;
A 128-bit port is simply not realistic at this time.
Particularly this line:
32-bit ports in Debian already struggle to compile some large packages of the archive in the last few months/years, a problem that will become worse with time
What this means, in my interpretation, is that 32bit architecture doesn’t have much longer left for general use and will not remain as a viable option for that, much longer.
Edit: I’m talking in the context of years, which I interpret the meaning of the text on the wiki page also doing & underlying it using an image with data as an example
Do I think 32bit will go away completely?
No, but I do think it will only remain for specific use-cases (like industrial SOC’s/Embedded systems for simpler computing tasks) and not general use, and certainly not for general use as a home-server.
As such, it has become improbable to support 32bit when even the Debian maintainers are struggling to keep up, and if they drop that support, we will be unable to continue with a 32bit image, as we kind of already are in regards to Nextcloud 25 and PHP 8.0+.
So it’s unfortunate, but in my opinion, supporting 32bit architecture is becoming less and less of a viable option, in fact, it kind of already is non-viable with the amount of packages that doesn’t compile on it and the fact that almost none of us that write the code have a 32bit machine to test things out on to make sure they work.