Nvidia releases open-source GPU driver modules for the Linux kernel • The Register

Nvidia on Wednesday released the R515 driver version of its Linux GPU kernel modules under a dual GPL/MIT open source license.

The chip industry has made the source code available through the Nvidia Open GPU Kernel Modules repository at GitHuba decision that suggests the need to respond to AMD’s long-standing open source driver initiative.

“This release is an important step toward improving the experience of using Nvidia GPUs on Linux, for tighter integration with the operating system, and for developers to debug, integrate, and contribute back,” said said Ram Cherukuri, senior product manager, Shirish Baskaran, senior system software manager, Andy Ritger, Linux OpenGL pilot engineer, and Fred Oh, senior product marketing manager, in a blog post. “For Linux distribution vendors, open source modules increase ease of use.”

The availability of the GPU kernel module source code should make life easier for Linux distributors such as Canonical and SUSE by allowing them to sign and distribute Nvidia GPU drivers and package their code with less effort, the four Nvidians suggest. And those developing custom Linux kernels should find the driver integration more enjoyable.

The free and open source software community isn’t too fond of proprietary, closed-source code. In 2006, for example, OpenBSD lead developer Theo de Raadt criticized drops – “binary drivers compiled by the vendor without any source code” because “they hide bugs and workarounds for bugs”. And Linux kernel supremo Linus Torvalds has the same expressed his contempt for binary-only modules.

Proprietary pilots also concealed backdoorswhich are rarely appreciated.

Nvidia’s quartet of co-authors say open source GPU kernel modules will improve driver quality and security through involvement of the Linux community.


However, there are limits to this involvement: only Turing (September 20, 2018) and newer GPUs can use open source drivers; Pre-Turing models require existing proprietary code or the Nouveau driver. The userspace components of Nvidia’s driver software will also remain closed-source binaries, for now at least; it is the kernel code that is released as open source.

Some of the kernel-level drivers being opened may benefit more from quality checks than others. The source code associated with Nvidia’s Turing and Ampere data center GPUs is already considered production-ready. The source code for the GeForce and Workstation GPUs is only considered alpha quality and therefore may benefit from community care sooner.

“New Nvidia open-source GPU core modules will simplify installations and increase security for Ubuntu users, whether they are AI/ML developers, gamers or cloud users,” said Cindy Goldberg, vice president of alliances. Silicon at Canonical, in a press release. .

Ubuntu, she said, will now be able to provide better support for developers working on AI and ML applications by tightening integration with Nvidia GPUs.

Spokespersons for SUSE and Red Hat said more or less the same thing using slightly different words.

On Twitter, people with technical tendencies Express surprise and enthusiasm.

“Congratulations to Nvidia for finally opening the supply of its kernel drivers,” mentioned Keno Fischer, co-founder and CTO of Julia Computing. “A lot of time ahead, but absolutely the right decision. I can’t wait to send some [pull requests] :)” And a colleague afterwards did it.

Basically, everyone in the Linux community appreciates reduced exposure to proprietary code and the possibilities that arise when authorization is not required. ®

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