MIAOW: An Open-Source GPU Design Based On AMD's Southern Islands
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 29 October 2014 at 10:34 AM EDT. 9 Comments
A new open-source GPU design has been published designed to run on FPGAs... What makes this "open hardware" project more interesting than past designs is that their compute unit was designed around AMD's public "Southern Islands" instruction set architecture.

A developer for ReactOS, the project aiming for a open-source OS that's binary-compatible with Windows 2000, has been working on the MIAOW open-source GPU. For a graduate level computer architecture course, the developer "Z98" and other students were working on a project of a FPGA GPU design based around the ISA of AMD's public Southern Islands documentation. The students were with the Vertical Research Group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Southern Islands is GCN 1.0 and the graphics processor design for AMD's Radeon HD 7000 product series. AMD published the Southern Islands ISA back in 2012, besides their work on the open-source Linux GPU driver support.

The Radeon HD 7950, one of AMD's Southern Islands graphics cards.

The students' FPGA design is based on the Southern Islands instruction set and for it they also produced a testing framework to run OpenCL programs compiled for this AMD ISA. The MIAOW project extended beyond the end of their university course with the developer attempting to put the MIAOW design on a FPGA and in the process restructuring some of the design after attempting to push it on a Xilinx simulator.

While there isn't much going on right now for the MIAOW open-source GPU, it's been opened up under a three-clause BSD license. The Verilog, Xilinx scripts, and other sources to this "open-source GPU based on the AMD Southern Islands" can be found via GitHub.

As written on the ReactOS blog, "To take MIAOW from its current state to a fully-fledged graphics card that can do 3D hardware acceleration will take a lot more work, but much like an operating system needs a kernel to start with, the core is now there. The hope is that those interested will be willing to pitch in and help flesh out the additional functionality necessary so that perhaps one day we can have a fully functional completely open GPU."

In the past we've seen FPGA-based open-source GPU design attempts with Project VGA, a Kickstarter GPU, and other initiatives, but sadly they've all failed as doing open hardware projects is really hard and very different from the open-source software game.
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