AMD Unleashes Initial AMDGPU Driver Support For GCN 1.0 / Southern Islands GPUs

Written by Michael Larabel in Radeon on 13 May 2016 at 07:27 PM EDT. 143 Comments
Tonight AMD will be releasing their (experimental) patches for supporting GCN 1.0 "Southern Islands" graphics processors under their newer AMDGPU kernel DRM driver as an alternative to the mature GCN 1.0 support found within the longstanding Radeon DRM driver.

We've known that AMD has been working on GCN 1.0 support for AMDGPU since this newer DRM driver is what's used by the PRO hybrid driver stack and also a requirement for Vulkan support. With this experimental GCN 1.0 support, hardware going back to the Radeon HD 7000 series will be supported by this newer driver. No pre-GCN GPUs will be supported by AMDGPU.

The support going out tonight is more experimental than the GCN 1.1 support, which for now remains hidden behind an kernel Kconfig switch, with GCN 1.2 and newer GPUs being what is supported by default in the mainline DRM driver. In the PRO hybrid driver stack with its DKMS packaged DRM driver, GCN 1.1 support is enabled by default, but it doesn't look like the GCN 1.0 support is even quite ready for that.

This code doesn't accelerate the desktop with GLAMOR but basically can boot to an unaccelerated desktop and then support for accelerated OpenGL tests with Piglit via offscreen GBM. This code today is only aimed for developers and not yet any gamers or enthusiasts: you'll be better off sticking with the Radeon DRM driver for now or Catalyst on an older Linux distribution.

This experimental support will be available via a DRM branch (drm-next-4.8-wip-si) via Alex Deucher's Git repository shortly. From an advanced notice about the code that will be published shortly, it's explained as, "this should be considered developer level code. It's not ready for users. GFX and DMA are mostly working. DPM (power management) is implemented, but not working yet. UVD and VCE support have not yet been ported. It uses the same ucode as radeon just like CIK." Listed as working is the frame-buffer console, an unaccelerated X.Org Server, and basic OpenGL tests using GBM.

Besides the AMDGPU DRM changes, Mesa and libdrm patches will be coming too for providing this initial Southern Islands support on this alternative DRM driver. There will eventually be xf86-video-amdgpu DDX patches too, but for now the developers have been using the xf86-video-modesetting generic driver.

So that's the short story for now! Stay tuned for the code drop that's expected soon. It's great to see AMD getting out this GCN 1.0 / Southern Islands code for AMDGPU in allowing these older GCN (Radeon HD 7000) series graphics cards some additional life via this newer DRM driver and the PRO hybrid driver stack. However, as mentioned multiple times, this current code is very experimental and doesn't even yet provide an accelerated desktop and thus not yet ready for Linux gamers. It will be interesting to watch this space and certainly once this GCN 1.0/1.1 support for AMDGPU matures I'll be running plenty of benchmarks.
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