Someone Is Already Working On SPIR-V For The Nouveau Driver
Written by Michael Larabel in Nouveau on 6 July 2015 at 12:12 PM EDT. 6 Comments
While there is already an Intel Vulkan Linux graphics driver developed by Valve and LunarG that will be open-sourced as soon as the Vulkan specification is officially out, we haven't heard much about the other open-source Linux graphics drivers trying to get a jump start on Vulkan / SPIR-V support.

It seems though an independent developer has already started toying with a SPIR-V translator in the Nouveau world. Pierre Moreau, an independent French developer that has contributed to Nouveau in the past, revealed that he's been working on a translator for going from SPIR-V to the NVIDIA NV50 IR. This is a step on the back-end needed for going from the Vulkan/OpenCL 2.1+ intermediate representation over to the hardware instructions of the older "NV50" class GPUs.

There have been public revisions of SPIR-V to go by for starters, but SPIR-V 1.0 probably won't be unveiled until the Vulkan specification launches at the same time. It's still widely-expected that Vulkan will be formally introduced at SIGGRAPH or GDC Europe -- both are taking place in early August. Pierre is working on going from SPIR-V to NV50 IR and once achieving that milestone he hopes to work more on the Nouveau compute support.

Assuming this translator gets finished into a workable state, this SPIR-V to NV50 IR code could also be used for accelerating other workloads/code that emit LLVM IR -- given there's still the industry effort on getting an LLVM IR to SPIR-V pass that should jump-start the possibilities of this new Khronos Group IR for graphics and compute. Pierre Moreau even talked of the possibilities of going from CUDA to LLVM IR to SPIR-V IR to the NV50 IR in Nouveau as a possible "open-source CUDA."

The developer's comments can be found in this Nouveau thread. Let's hope this sub-project will pan out and become a reality unlike the many other half-finished open-source graphics projects. Given Nouveau's re-clocking issues, if you're after serious compute performance, you'll be better off waiting for the NVIDIA binary Linux driver with its SPIR-V support, which is rumored to come right around the time of the official Khronos announcement.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of 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 automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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