Open-Source NVIDIA Vulkan Driver "NVK" Sees Uptick In Activity This Week
NVK was started by Red Hat engineers as an open-source NVIDIA Vulkan driver being worked on by Nouveau developers like Karol Herbst at Red Hat. This Vulkan driver is still very much a work-in-progress and hasn't yet been merged to mainline Mesa and will likely be some time still before it's ready for Linux gamers and the like.
Meanwhile the biggest Nouveau obstacle remains on the kernel driver side with the lack of re-clocking support for GeForce GTX 900 "Maxwell" GPUs and newer, which means that the NVIDIA GPUs are stuck running at their low boot-clock frequencies. The Nouveau performance is in very bad shape for the GTX 900 series and newer. The GTX 600/700 series are getting up there in age and can re-clock to their optimal clock frequencies but must be done manually via the command-line by interested users. Until this is sorted out and ultimately the PMU firmware issue complicating these efforts, both the OpenGL and Vulkan Nouveau performance will continue to suffer greatly.
Those curious about the ongoing Nouveau NVK work can track the progress via Nouveau's Mesa NVK branch where the development is currently centralized. Jason Ekstrand with Collabora in particular has been very active this week in bringing up this Vulkan driver. Ekstrand was one of the original developers when Intel started their ANV open-source Vulkan driver and continued that effort for years while at the company, so will be a valuable contributor to NVK.
More format capabilities were wired up, Maxwell fixes, zeroing of client memory objects, linear image creation support, many bug fixes, and a variety of other additions were made to NVK this week. Here's to hoping NVK development continues happening at full-steam ahead so it will be ready for Linux gamers by the time the Nouveau DRM re-clocking situation is sorted out, presumably through NVIDIA GSP (GPU System Processor) integration.