Mumblings Of A "Big New" Open-Source GPU Driver Coming...

Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 22 May 2021 at 09:00 AM EDT. 112 Comments
It's sounding like a vendor is readying to publish a "big" new open-source driver, likely a GPU driver, for the Linux kernel.

It's looking like this driver will be from one of the vendors not jiving with the well established open-source ways and requirements of the upstream kernel processes... DRM co-maintainer Daniel Vetter has posted a meme on Friday in anticipation of this pending open-source code drop...

Vetter followed up that it's indeed about a "big new driver from some vendor". Given the Direct Rendering Manager subsystem is where he's focused and co-maintainer, it's more than likely there.

Given the meme, one of the immediate vendors that come to mind is NVIDIA. While there is already the half-baked Nouveau driver with very limited supported for newer hardware generations, NVIDIA has been working on some sort of open-source driver improvements that were expected to be announced last year but haven't yet taken flight. Given NVIDIA's past dabbling around open-source driver and upstream frictions, it could be a pending code drop from NVIDIA.

Another possible scenario is a new code drop from Microsoft on their DirectX Kernel Driver (DXGKRNL). Last year Microsoft made a proposal for a DirectX Kernel Driver as part of their Windows Subsystem for Linux efforts and it immediately received criticism from upstream. We haven't heard anything new on DXGKRNL in a while so perhaps Microsoft has some new kernel strategy they are pursuing to try to woo over the maintainers in getting their driver mainlined for benefiting WSL2.

The upstream DRM maintainers most often raise issue to new drivers / major code for lack of adjoining user-space code for properly utilizing the driver and exercising all of the exposed kernel interfaces with some vendors increasingly being open to mainline kernel drivers but still trying to leverage user-space blobs. There has also been issues in the past for drivers not following upstream ways of the Direct Rendering Manager driver around code duplication and integrating well with the rest of the existing subsystem, not going for atomic mode-setting, etc.

Short of a pipe dream like Apple pushing some M1 graphics driver or so, it would be hard to anticipate any other big surprises considering how successful the rest of the open-source GPU driver landscape is at this point from the Intel and Radeon support through efforts like Freedreno and Panfrost having been quite successful at freeing Qualcomm Adreno and Arm Mali, respectively, among the other smaller driver efforts.

In any case, feel free to discuss in the forums in this weekend what you are hoping this "big new driver from some vendor" to be and the already anticipated uphill battle on getting it mainlined.
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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 20,000 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, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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