Plans Being Drafted To Upstream Intel's New "Xe" Linux Graphics Driver

Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 20 February 2023 at 11:00 AM EST. 21 Comments
While the Linux 6.3 merge window has just begun, what you won't find in this next kernel version is the Intel Xe DRM driver as the new kernel graphics driver being worked on by the company for their modern integrated and discrete graphics processors.

Announced at the end of 2022 was the Xe Linux kernel graphics driver as an eventual replacement to the i915 DRM driver for their modern GPUs. The Intel Xe kernel graphics driver just focuses on Gen12 hardware and newer from Tigerlake on the integrated graphics side up through DG2/Alchemist Arc Graphics as well as future iGPUs and dGPUs. Pre-Gen12 support will continue to be found in the i915 DRM driver.

With this Xe kernel driver they can focus exclusively on modern Intel graphics hardware capabilities, make fresh design choices in not having to maintain ABI compatibility with the old ways of the i915 driver, more easily implement new driver features, and also make the driver code more portable across different CPU architectures for benefiting Intel discrete GPUs on AArch64 / RISC-V / POWER.

Intel Iris Xe logo

The Intel Xe driver effort is a major undertaking and in 2023 they aim to at least have it adequate for experimental/enthusiast user testing. As the Xe driver started being worked on behind closed doors at Intel and outside of the kernel tree, getting this now-massive driver upstreamed is a challenge by itself.

DRM co-maintainer and Intel engineer Daniel Vetter laid out some plans for hopefully a path forward in getting the code upstreamed. In a lengthy mailing list post he outlined some of his ideas for getting the new code reviewed, what still needs to see a consensus around the scheduler approach and other items, cross-driver consensus needed in a few areas, and other open items.

The hope with this mailing list post is making the Xe driver an easier upstreaming process than the big burden and headaches that were involved when AMD was working to upstream DAL/DC as a big chunk of code into the Direct Rendering Manager area to rework their display handling and led to a big and time consuming code rewrite.

With some luck we could see the Xe driver upstreamed later this year. Initially it will likely be off by default even for new graphics hardware unless opting in with a build or run-time module option to use in place of i915. In any event stay tuned to see how the Xe driver upstreaming pans out and how well it's looking for performance.
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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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