Nouveau Still Pushing Forward In 2020 Thanks To Red Hat But Community Developers Leaving
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 1 February 2020 at 03:00 PM EST. 85 Comments
NOUVEAU --
Red Hat's Karol Herbst spoke at the FOSDEM 2020 conference in Brussels on the state of the open-source NVIDIA "Nouveau" Linux graphics driver stack.

While Karol works on Nouveau in an official capacity at Red Hat with a focus on SPIR-V/OpenCL compute and Red Hat also employs Nouveau DRM maintainer Ben Skeggs and other open-source graphics driver developers like Jerome Glisse, there isn't much Nouveau work outside of Red Hat. Karol did point out they do have a new Red Hat intern working on Nouveau shader cache support too. But there isn't too much left to the Nouveau developer community.


Ilia Mirkin is one of the last remaining "community" members. There are others still lurking within the community, but the Nouveau effort these days is driven primarily as a function of Red Hat's efforts.

Understandably, the community developers aren't too motivated to work on the Nouveau driver when NVIDIA themselves aren't supporting the community much. Nouveau remains hindered in supporting new hardware by needing signed firmware releases by NVIDIA for hardware initialization, Maxwell GTX 900 GPUs and newer are running crippled for lack of signed PMU firmware for power management handling to enable re-clocking, etc. There is the well embraced open-source Radeon graphics stack and a growing number of open-source Arm drivers for those wishing to contribute to vibrant open-source GPU driver projects.

So while NVIDIA might have an open-source announcement of sorts coming up next month, for now there isn't much left to the Nouveau community outside of Red Hat.

As for what the remaining contributors have been working on, there is the NIR support that came together in 2019 though not yet enabled by default, initial OpenCL support for Fermi and newer as of Mesa 19.3, and other OpenGL bits. They are still working to get beyond OpenGL 4.4 compliance and there isn't yet any working Nouveau Vulkan driver. While the Turing open-source acceleration support came together in the Linux 5.6 kernel, there isn't yet any OpenGL support there or for Volta GPUs. Red Hat continues working on the Nouveau OpenCL stack.

Other important tasks left for Nouveau include better eGPU handling, context recovery, debugging features, better multi-threading, and other tasks. See the Nouveau early 2020 status report via this slide deck for those not at FOSDEM 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 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 or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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