Nouveau Changes Will Make Features Like SLI Easier
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 4 October 2012 at 10:18 AM EDT. 9 Comments
With the significant DRM changes in the Linux 3.7 kernel there's something to enjoy out of all the major open-source graphics drivers. For Nouveau users, it's particularly exciting right now and there's more hope for the future.

Nouveau users with Linux 3.7 will immediately benefit from fan control support and Kepler FUC support so that you no longer need to jump through hurdles for GeForce 600 series microcode blobs in order to get accelerated support. There's also other bug-fixes and improvements to enhance this reverse-engineered open-source NVIDIA driver.

While not immediately relevant to end-users, the Nouveau kernel driver code rewrite may prove interesting. As mentioned in the commit, David Airlie describes it as "major driver rework into a hw core driver, makes features like SLI a lot saner to implement."

There isn't any work going on right now (at least in any major official capacity) for open-source NVIDIA SLI (Scalable Link Interface) support for multi-GPU rendering or any other exciting NVIDIA GeForce/Quadro features, but this splitting and re-factoring of the code will make such features easier to implement in the future.

Ben Skeggs of Red Hat has been working on this code and his commit goes on to explain "Future work will be headed in the way of separating the policy supplied by the nouveau drm module from the mechanisms provided by the driver core. There will be a couple of major classes (subdev, engine) of driver modules that have clearly defined tasks, and the further directory structure change is to reflect this."

The follow-up commit does "This commit provides most of the infrastructure to support a major overhaul of Nouveau's internals coming in the following commits. This work aims to take all the things we've learned over the last several years, and turn that into a cleaner architecture that's more maintainable going forward." This rework reduces the complexity of the driver as each component of the driver is more independent, there's better tracking of GPU units, all NVIDIA GPUs can now be exposed to the client over a single file descriptor, and the core hardware support code is now untangled from the DRM implementation. There's also going to be a user-space version of the core code.

So beyond the immediate end-user improvements to the Nouveau driver for the Linux 3.7 kernel, there's significant underlying work in this next kernel release to bolster the growth of this open-source GPU driver in the future.

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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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