NVIDIA Publishes Signed Volta Firmware Images For Enabling Open-Source Driver Support

Written by Michael Larabel in NVIDIA on 1 October 2018 at 01:19 PM EDT. 26 Comments
While there are no signs of an imminent "Turing" signed firmware release as a prerequisite for open-source driver support on the new GeForce RTX 2070/2080 series, NVIDIA has finally let loose the signed firmware images for Volta "GV100" hardware.

Merged today to linux-firmware.git are the signed firmware images needed for enabling Volta GV100 hardware acceleration. Since the GeForce 900 "Maxwell" series, the GPUs require signed firmware images in order to enable hardware acceleration, which has made the newer GPUs much more open-source-unfriendly than Kepler and older generations. Without these signed binary blobs, the GPUs basically only work out with Nouveau for kernel mode-setting.

With the Linux 4.18 kernel is initial open-source Volta support albeit just the display bits with the Nouveau developers not having had these signed firmware files.

These 20 microcode/firmware files are now out there and then it will be an unknown length of time before the 3D hardware acceleration is working on Volta... It's too late to see it magically happen for Linux 4.20~5.0 so not until the next kernel cycle in 2019 is where we could possibly see that support. But even still it will likely face a similar fate to the current Maxwell/Pascal support of being very slow due to no re-clocking support to be able to change to higher performance states for reaching peak performance rather than being stuck at the low frequencies programmed at hardware initialization time.

Long story short, if you forked over a lot of money for a Volta graphics card, your best and only real solution for the foreseeable future is using NVIDIA's proprietary but performant and feature-packed driver over any open-source option as these signed firmware files are only part of the complex equation.
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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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