Microsoft Has A Large Presence At This Year's X.Org Conference

Written by Michael Larabel in X.Org on 17 September 2020 at 02:30 AM EDT. 45 Comments
Years ago if saying Microsoft would have multiple developers presenting at the annual X.Org Developers' Conference (XDC) as well as being a sponsor, you'd probably raise some laughs. But this year for XDC2020 Gdansk (albeit virtual due to COVID-19), Microsoft engineers gave not just one talk but three on the opening day.

For XDC2020 there is Microsoft as one of the silver sponsors for the event. Then again, Microsoft has sponsored LinuxTag and other events over the years, but making this affair much more notable were three back-to-back talks centered around Microsoft open-source efforts on the graphics/GPU front.

Jesse Natalie and Steve Pronovost both of Microsoft kicked off XDC2020 by talking about the WSL graphics architecture in a pre-recorded, well-edited video presentation. That was followed by Pronovost talking about X11/Wayland application support under WSL and then the third and final Microsoft talk of the day was Jesse talking about their Mesa Direct3D 12 mapping layers for getting OpenCL/OpenGL over D3D12.

This Microsoft push was all about their efforts for getting GPU compute and graphical applications up and running under Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL2). Additionally with the effort they've paired up with Collabora for OpenCL/OpenGL over DirectX 12 is about enhancing their ecosystem as well. For example, talking about getting Blender with OpenGL up and running on a Windows device with Qualcomm processor otherwise lacking OpenGL support but just a D3D12 driver.

Interestingly they commented that Mesa was the "only viable approach" for this OpenGL work atop Direct3D 12. It wasn't practical writing a new OpenGL implementation for layering on Direct3D 12 given the years of work already done by Mesa as well as the countless quirks and other tuning that's gone in over the years.

The three presentations talked about their work on NIR to DXIL (DirectX Intermediate Layer) translations, the Direct3D 12 Gallium3D driver, the Gallium pipe interface to translate Direct3D 12 API calls, their OpenCL C (CLC) to DXIL compiler, and related technical feats for improving the open graphics/compute API ecosystem on Windows/WSL.

During the presentation it was shared that there should be a live version for testing of some of their recent progress in about one month.

It was also reiterated during XDC2020 their emphasis to upstream their changes. Microsoft has pushed patches to Mesa and we expect more of that work to continue. However, the threshold for pushing new code into Mesa is much lower than that of the Linux kernel. Mesa upstream developers seem open to accepting Microsoft's open-source contributions especially with the involvement of Collabora, but on the kernel side mainlining their DirectX 12 "DXGKRNL" driver into the Linux kernel remains far from certain.

We'll see how it all plays out but nevertheless was interesting Microsoft presentations at XDC2020.
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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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