Open-Source "Nouveau" Driver Now Supports NVIDIA Ampere - But Without 3D Acceleration
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 14 January 2021 at 08:20 PM EST. 57 Comments
NOUVEAU --
Patches were sent out today that provide the open-source Linux kernel "Nouveau" driver with support for NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 series "Ampere" graphics cards. But at the moment there is no 3D acceleration and the developers are blocked still by signed firmware requirements, so it's basically just a matter of having kernel mode-setting display support.

Red Hat's Ben Skeggs sent out the pull request today that provides kernel mode-setting support for the RTX 30 "Ampere" graphics cards with the long-standing open-source NVIDIA "Nouveau" driver

This at least lets those with the shiny new NVIDIA graphics cards to mode-set to the native panel resolution for most displays but doesn't provide much more than that. There is no actual hardware acceleration support yet as the Nouveau developers are still waiting on re-distributable signed firmware image binaries so they can begin tackling that 3D bring-up. But even then, mind you, Nouveau has just an open-source OpenGL driver and some OpenCL support but no Vulkan driver yet.

There still is the big elephant in the room for Nouveau as well that GPUs beyond the GeForce GTX 950 series are still bound to their boot-time clock frequencies that tend to be just a fraction of their base/boost clock frequencies due to PMU access limitations. Until NVIDIA can provide the PMU firmware that Nouveau developers can make use of for power management, the Nouveau performance on Maxwell, Pascal, Volta, and Turing is very poor -- and Ampere likely to join that game. But at least there is some hope of improved open-source NVIDIA support in the pipe.


While this initial open-source Ampere GPU support is just mode-setting, thanks do go out to NVIDIA from the Nouveau developers for at least providing hardware samples as well as answering of some technical questions that got them to this initial bring-up.

This initial mode-setting support for the Nouveau DRM kernel driver is just under one thousand lines of code atop the existing support.

Details via this pull request. The current code covers GA100/GA102/GA104 graphics processors.
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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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