Intel's Linux Graphics Driver Seeing More Patches To Prepare For Bring-Up Beyond Icelake
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 8 March 2019 at 05:56 PM EST. 1 Comment
INTEL --
A month ago we were first to report on Intel posting Linux graphics driver patches for "device local memory" as they prepare for the bring-up of their "Xe Graphics" discrete GPU hardware due out at some point in 2020. To no surprise, there are more patches out today as the Intel open-source developers begin pushing out more code restructuring work for bringing up graphics support past Icelake "Gen 11" graphics.

The patches today aren't introducing any new hardware support or functional changes but refactoring existing code that can be used by Intel graphics generations beyond "Gen 11". The code is changing relevant areas of the driver to instead of just checking for (pseudo code) "IS ICELAKE" or "Gen == 11" to instead putting the relevant code paths to "Gen >= 11" and similar so that future generations can re-use existing code where applicable. That makes the review easier for when Intel developers post the patches bringing up the next-generation hardware support for actually presenting just the changed areas. This is similar to what we've seen with past generations of Intel Linux graphics support of first re-working the relevant checks prior to introducing the actual bring-up code for next-gen hardware.

So with the rework patches "gen11+: First assume next platforms will inherit stuff" out there, it wouldn't surprise me if in a matter of weeks we begin seeing early hardware enablement work around Xe, formerly known as Gen 12.

With previous generations of Intel graphics, the initial open-source bring-up has generally begun a year or more ahead of the actual hardware debut to ensure the support is all ironed out by the time the hardware is shipping -- or even ahead of their hardware/software partners receiving early samples. Intel's had the Icelake support out for a number of months now and in recent versions of the Linux kernel and Mesa now largely appears to be in good shape and they also dropped the "alpha hardware" support flag recently. The Gen12 / Xe support will likely follow a similar trend of seeing Intel continuing to push out new driver support patches incrementally over the months ahead and ideally having the support all in good standing by the time we see the hardware hopefully in 2020. And more ideally to have the support found in all the tier one Linux distributions by the time the hardware ships so desktop users don't need to jump through hoops using experimental kernel/Mesa builds for accelerated graphics/compute support...

Unlike with Windows where Intel just ships their standalone driver package for download on release day, under the open-source Linux driver model they need to align with the release cadences of the Linux kernel and other components as well as the cut-off dates for the prominent Linux distribution releases to ensure good out-of-the-box support.

Stay tuned for our close monitoring of Intel's next-gen hardware enablement under Linux.
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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 10,000 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 or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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