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This Is What Started AMD's Open-Source Strategy

Michael Larabel

Published on 17 September 2011
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 6 of 6 - 57 Comments

Release Schedule

ATI Radeon HD 2900 hardware is already available, and product specifications have been published and are well known. Therefore driver support for it should be announced as soon as possible. It is also advisable to seek community involvement early on in the development process by providing the code and specifications to the open source community when they become available.

The initial announcement of this should concur with the initial release of the driver for X.Org and the initial release of specifications. It should include the basic driver with support for 2 display controllers and DVI output. Along with this, the new open development process should be announced which includes a commitment to provide hardware specifications to the community.

A good time for an initial announcement of these development and documentation efforts would be

when a basic 2D driver with support for DVI output devices is available and working and the specifications for these parts are ready for publication. This will give the driver a wider exposure to testing early on.

We expect that the first publishable version of the driver will be completed 2 to 3 months after the development process has started.

Subsequent updates and enhancements to this driver should take place in smaller steps as to demonstrate the open development process and the desire for community involvement in the ongoing work. Each of these updates should be accompanied by the relevant programming documentation. After completing significant milestones, which are still to be determined and agreed upon, we would make release versions of this driver.

Further estimates of schedules are difficult to make without detailed hardware specifications. Some of the supporting infrastructure required for 2D and 3D acceleration is untested, presently under development or still in the design phase. It may be possible to speed up these processes by lending those projects a helping hand.

To accommodate the needs of enterprise customers and their Linux vendors backward compatibility of the driver for mode setting and basic 2D acceleration will be ensured to at least to X11 R6.9 as released by the X.Org Foundation.

3D acceleration and Glucose will require numerous functionalities from Mesa and DRM which are not available in older versions and would be difficult to back-port.

Publishing Specification

As mentioned before these goals can only be achieved if all programming documentation is made available by AMD to NOVELL in a timely fashion.

NOVELL strongly recommends to make the set of documentation that has been used to implement the driver, available to interested parties from the open source community also at each of the release stages. AMD would be the first company that would make the full set of specifications for their graphics hardware used for developing a free driver available to the community.

Towards the community, this step will indicate a firm commitment to open source and will help regain trust and support. It would also allow the open source community to support hardware beyond the time frame it is under maintenance by AMD. This way customers and distributors alike will gain confidence that continued support for their hardware throughout the lifetime of their products or systems can be obtained without creating an extra burden on AMD.

We understand that documentation is presently not in a releasable state. When NOVELL will implement an open source driver for the latest ATI hardware it will be happy to assist AMD in bringing this documentation to a publishable standard. While developing a driver NOVELL would be in the perfect situation to discover gaps and missing information.

It is of course crucial that, for this to succeed, NOVELL would require very direct communication into the software and hardware department at AMD GPG to ensure swift and timely communication on issues and hardware 'quirks' that are not mentioned in the specifications.

  1. Conclusions

NOVELL would like to offer to AMD the implement and maintenance of a driver for AMD's ATI Radeon HD 2000 Series Family of Graphics Hardware (R600) and future chipsets. Development will take place in an open process which allows for involvement of the open source community early on. This driver will include:

  1. Chipset initialization.

  2. Basic mode setting to initialize different outputs (DVI, LVDS, analog VGA) in the RANDR 1.2 context. HDTV encoders can be added at a later stage.

  3. Hardware overlay cursor support.

  4. Dynamic detection and reconfiguration of output devices.

  5. Acceleration of 2D graphics (Core X11 and the RENDER extension).

  6. Support for Video Playback optionally utilizing hardware engines to decode video codecs such as MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DiVX, WMV9 and H264/AVC.

  7. Hardware accelerated OpenGL including vertex and fragment shaders.

  8. EXT_texture_from_pixmap and AIGLX support for composited desktops.

Items 5 to 8 will require the utilization of the 3D engine and thus will require that programming information for it will be made available. An initial basic driver including items 1 to 3 should be available in a timeframe of 2 to 3 months.

It should be pointed out that today accelerated OpenGL support is not just required for professional enterprise level 3D applications or games: it is almost a must have to provide a credible solution for today's state-of-the-art desktop.

Today graphics hardware which does not provide these features will perform sub-optimally in modern desktop environments and with applications relying on state-of-the-art toolkits. It is therefore advisable to add support for accelerated OpenGL at least to the extent that it meets the requirements of todays desktop environments.

AMD may additionally provide 3D shader optimization in an encapsulated module that can be dynamically loaded into libGL.

To ensure an open development process NOVELL would require that it will not make use of any specifications or programming documentation that can not be made available to other developers from the open source community also under a suitable documentation publication program which will permit the release of source code under an open source license.

This step will help to ensure continued maintenance for hardware components beyond the maintenance cycle of the manufacturer and will help customer to secure their investment. Furthermore it will demonstrate and underline AMD's full commitment to the open source development model and send a positive signal to the open source community which this has been waiting for for a long time.

NOVELL will ensure that a driver with at least base functionalities is available for earlier releases of the X Window System at least back to X11 R6.9 to be integrated in existing enterprise products by their respective vendors.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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