Qualcomm Posts "QAIC" DRM Accelerator Driver For Linux

Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel on 15 August 2022 at 03:00 PM EDT. Add A Comment
After Qualcomm announced their Cloud AI 100 Accelerator back in 2019, in 2020 during the early days of the pandemic they posted a Linux driver for this accelerator. That driver didn't get picked up for the mainline Linux kernel and two years later there still is little fanfare around the Qualcomm AI Cloud Accelerator hardware. However, now they have posted a new Linux driver that goes the DRM driver route.

Qualcomm engineers today posted a set of 14 patches for implementing the Qualcomm Cloud AI Accelerator support in the form of a Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) driver. Linux DRM drivers are traditionally for GPUs but they have a lot in common with AI/accelerator hardware and is why there are now several accelerator cards aiming at DRM subsystem usage. It also feeds back into the debate whether the Linux kernel needs an accelerator subsystem or should just live within the DRM area. Qualcomm's 2020 driver attempt was just aiming for char/misc.

This QAIC DRM driver is designed to support Qualcomm Cloud AI accelerator PCIe card for deep learning inference workloads. This driver initially targets the Cloud AI 100 / AIC100 and SA9000P hardware, with the latter being part of Snapdragon Ride products. Multiple Qualcomm Cloud AI cards can be used in tandem for greater performance.

The initial "request for comments" patches for this new Qualcomm AI Accelerator Linux kernel driver can be found on the dri-devel mailing list. As of writing I haven't yet seen any new open-source user-space patches for the Qualcomm AI 100 stack with there needing to be an open-source user-space component too if this driver hopes to be mainlined.

The Qualcomm Cloud AI 100 offers up to 16 AI cores, 144MB of on-die SRAM, is manufactured on a 7nm process, and the PCIe cards support PCIe 4.0 x8. The PCIe cards are rated for 400 TOPS at a 75 Watt TDP..
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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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