Multi-GPU PRIME & GPU Hot-Switching Proposal
Written by Michael Larabel in X.Org on 16 March 2011 at 09:28 PM EDT. Add A Comment
Last week a student developer from Belgium had proposed an OpenGL 4.1 state tracker for Gallium3D to be developed this summer as part of the X.Org / Mesa involvement with the annual Google Summer of Code. Under this proposal, OpenGL 4.1 would be implemented from scratch (Mesa / Gallium3D are currently only supportive of OpenGL 2.1 with limited support for OpenGL 3.0 extensions) without any dependence on Mesa; some of the well-known Mesa developers called this too ambitious, but it's unclear if the Belgian developer will still attempt this workload. Meanwhile, a Russian student developer has just voiced two ambitious proposals: Multi-GPU PRIME support and GPU hot-switching.

The Russian student developer, Антонов Николай, is interested in either open-source PRIME multi-GPU support or multi-graphics card hot-switching support to be worked on as this year's Google Summer of Code.

Open-source GPU PRIME support came about a few days over a year ago as an attempt to provide multi-vendor graphics processor offloading / multi-GPU rendering. The PRIME name comes from David Airlie, the author of the original code, dubbing it off NVIDIA's Optimus Technology that was introduced a month prior. Unlike Optimus, PRIME could theoretically work with any open-source graphics driver regardless of hardware vendor. However, the only active work on PRIME lasted for a matter of days and so David looked for someone else to take over this work. Now there may be that chance with the 2011 Google Summer of Code.

The other alternative project that Antonov has expressed interest in is graphics card hot-switching for X.Org. This would be interesting for being able to pop-in a second GPU without blowing out an existing X.Org Server or simply for dual-GPU notebooks to flip from the integrated to discrete graphics seamlessly. It's along the lines of last year's switcheroo work, but more integrated into the X.Org Server for seamless switching.

With these two features, however, there is some display-server-specific work, so any X.Org Server code wouldn't necessarily provide direct benefit to the Wayland Display Server.

There are also other Mesa / X GSoC projects that the open-source developers are hoping student developers will tackle this summer, thanks in large part to Google's sponsorship.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com 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 OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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