NVIDIA Presents Its Driver Plans To Support Mir/Wayland & KMS On Linux

Written by Michael Larabel in NVIDIA on 10 October 2014 at 12:00 PM EDT. 84 Comments
As anticipated, Andy Ritger of NVIDIA presented at XDC2014 in Bordeaux, France the company's plans to support alternative window managers beyond X11 when it comes to their Linux graphics driver. NVIDIA is working on some significant improvements to their closed-source Linux driver to support Mir and Wayland.

Andy Ritger of NVIDIA

We have known for many months that NVIDIA is working towards Wayland support but it's been a long and drawn out process to make the necessary changes for the NVIDIA Linux driver to support Wayland by meeting closer to the design of the open-source graphics drivers while retaining their cross-platform support. The cross-platform focus and so much of the NVIDIA Linux/Solaris/BSD driver sharing code with Windows is one of the reasons why their binary driver is so great, very fast, and offers nearly the same set of features as their Windows driver.

NVIDIA does indeed plan to fully support Mir and Wayland with their closed-source Linux GPU driver.. The reverse-engineered, open-source Nouveau driver already supports these alternative windowing systems / compositors.

NVIDIA is currently working on its driver code to support the mainline Linux KMS (Kernel Mode-Setting) infrastructure, allow its EGL implementation to work outside of X11, and is proposing a few EGL extensions to allow for Wayland client/compositor support in a manner that's easier for them to adapt. It was only recently that NVIDIA began supporting EGL by their Linux desktop graphics driver on top of their GLX support.

NVIDIA's binary blob isn't using the KMS API directly but their display code is working to register with DRM and for its kernel driver to support using the KMS ioctls. Supporting these KMS ioctls while using their own KMS implementation would allow it to be compatible with the //www.phoronix.com/search/xf86-video-modesetting DDX and allow other Linux KMS clients to run off the binary NVIDIA driver. NVIDIA's binary DDX driver will use the re-factored code-paths too so it's not a second-class citizen. Part of what's been taking so long is for providing this support but in not breaking their complex binary blob's functionality for items like G-Sync, FrameLock, Stereo, and SLI rendering.

Coming with the NVIDIA 346.xx driver series later this year is their EGL implementation that works outside of X11! However, NVIDIA's version of KMS won't be introduced so soon.

Andy then proceeded to talk about specific EGL extension work and other technical details for accomplishing their task of getting Wayland and Mir running with their closed-source GPU driver.

While the open-source graphics drivers use Mesa's GBM (Generic Buffer Manager), NVIDIA is proposing a more generalized approach for dealing with buffers using EGLStreams.

So coming out soon with the NVIDIA 346.xx Linux driver series we can find EGL working without X11, but the KMS support remains a work-in-progress and this driver series will not work with Wayland/Mir. NVIDIA will be publishing their Weston patches to show things work if using EGLDevice, EGLOutput, and EGLStreams as more generalized approaches for supporting Wayland than the Mesa-specific code.

No firm time table was provided when NVIDIA's Unix driver team hope to have their Linux proprietary driver fully running with Wayland/Mir and available to the public, but based upon how things are looking right now, it would likely be a safe bet for 2015.

Meanwhile AMD Catalyst support for Mir/Wayland won't come until AMD unifies Catalyst with their new open-source driver. Then the two AMD drivers will be using AMDGPU KMS/DRM driver and Wayland/Mir should work with the Catalyst user-space blob as long as it has the necessary EGL extensions. Some users are probably sad NVIDIA didn't announce some magical open-source strategy today, but at least the graphics card giant continues to maintain their Linux graphics driver support extremely well for gamers and enthusiasts.
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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 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 OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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