Talk Of An ARM Vendor Open-Sourcing Their 3D Driver?
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 14 November 2016 at 01:17 PM EST. 15 Comments
HARDWARE --
While we have seen a number of ARM vendors in recent years open-source and mainline DRM/KMS drivers in the Linux kernel for supporting their display blocks on modern SoCs, there has been little activity in the open-source 3D space still for ARM SoCs.

Broadcom's VC4 driver while it hasn't replaced the binary driver in all cases yet is official and continues gaining ground with a fully-open DRM/KMS driver and VC4 Gallium3D driver. That driver written by Eric Anholt (formerly of Intel's Linux graphics team) is about the lone official open-source ARM 3D driver to talk about on Linux, unless you count the efforts NVIDIA has provided to Nouveau in the Tegra space.

Then for community efforts is the notable Freedreno Gallium3D driver and MSM DRM driver for providing open-source reverse-engineered Qualcomm Adreno graphics support. There is also the maturing Etnaviv driver for fully-open and reverse-engineered support on Vivante GC GPUs and the now defunct Lima driver for ARM Mali GPUs.

There has been talk in the past of Imagination working on an open-source PowerVR driver but nothing that's panned out yet. Long story short, the ARM 3D driver scene on Linux isn't too vibrant with having Broadcom VC4 and then the reverse-engineered, community-based efforts like Freedreno and Etnaviv.

But during last week's X.Org Foundation Board of Directors meeting there was mentions of rumors regarding some possible open-source ARM action. While the board was talking about becoming a Khronos adopter for Mesa, this came up in the meeting logs (bold our emphasis):
[mupuf] I guess the PR release could say: "Get in touch with us if you wonder if you are elligible"
[danvet] we could spin that as an invitation for hw vendors to join mesa ;-)
[danvet] mupuf, yeah, that's what I mean
[danvet] there's lots of noise that maybe some arm gpu vendor will open source their stuff
[danvet] imo we want them into the fold, long term

[danvet] but that's an entirely different thing
Board member danvet is Daniel Vetter of Intel's Open-Source Technology Center and serves as the i915 DRM driver maintainer for the kernel. By talking about getting a rumored ARM GPU vendor open-sourcing their stuff involved with Mesa would imply it's 3D related as opposed to just being another KMS display driver.

Any guesses or hopes what ARM GPU vendor could possibly open-source their driver? Certainly would be nice seeing more open-source ARM 3D driver options, assuming this pans out...
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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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