Intel's Linux Graphics Driver Begins Preparing For Multi-GPU Support
Written by Michael Larabel in Intel on 1 August 2019 at 07:29 AM EDT. 8 Comments
INTEL --
Up until now the Intel Linux graphics driver hasn't had to worry about supporting multiple devices concurrently since, well, it hasn't been a possibility. But with the first Intel Xe discrete GPU hardware expected to arrive next year, the "i915" kernel driver has begun seeing restructuring work to support multi-GPU setups, or what most commonly will be Intel integrated graphics paired with a discrete Xe GPU.

For at least the first generation or two of Xe Graphics, the long-standing Intel "i915" Direct Rendering Manager driver will be used. This i915 DRM driver has been seeing changes over the past year to work towards the Xe support from introducing the concept of device local memory to other bits in prepping it for discrete GPU support. The latest in our close monitoring of Intel's patch activity is work on supporting multiple adapters with the driver concurrently.

Among the patches we've been monitoring confirms indeed it's for the future Xe iGPU+dGPU type scenarios: "With discrete graphics system can have both integrated and discrete GPU handled by i915."

At least with today's modern APIs, we aren't anticipating much from the user-space side at least not having to see Intel pursue any SLI/CrossFire type features. With OpenCL for compute and Vulkan for graphics already better dealing with multiple GPUs than past APIs, they should be in good shape there for leveraging the performance potential of multiple GPUs when supporting the relevant API extensions.

Expect more Linux kernel Xe changes as time goes on and the initial product launch expected in 2020.

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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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