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Multiple X Servers For One Graphics Card, Again

X.Org

Published on 01 August 2011 05:36 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in X.Org
22 Comments

One of the long sought after features of X.Org and the Linux graphics stack has been the ability to run multiple X Servers from a single graphics card. While this wouldn't be used by many, there are still many interested in seeing this feature request become a reality.

For instance, being able to run multiple X.Org Servers from one graphics card (basically one X.Org Server per output port) would be ideal for many educational institutions and enterprise environments where one PC/server could be easily shared by many heads.

Dr. Klaus Kusche, a German professor, is the latest individual seeking out this feature for Linux / X and is even willing to put money behind seeing it become a reality. "Mainboards with 4 or even up to 7 PCIe x8 or x16 slots are available today, and graphics cards with 3 to 5 outputs are also common. Such a combination would make a very attractive classroom server for up to 25 pupils/students, cheaper than any other solution, much easier to administrate than a network of single-seat PC's, and much faster w.r.t. graphics than a server with thin clients. We would be highly interested in such a solution (I'm a professor for computer science at a technical high school and university of applied sciences), and I'm currently investigating the possibilities for that."

Xephyr, a KDrive-based nested X Server, would work in this scenario as it targets a host X.Org Server. However, the Xephyr method is un-accelerated (it just uses shared memory) so it doesn't make sense for anything but the most basic tasks.

There was previously some proof-of-concept code by David Airlie to be able to run multiple X.Org Servers on a single graphics card, but that code never matured beyond experimental form and he doesn't have the time to see that materialize in mainline form in the foreseeable future.

See this mailing list thread for the discussion surrounding the feature request of multiple X Servers per output/graphics card. Due to the mailing list software, here's the jump to the August responses.

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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