Nvidia Releases Open-Source Linux Kernel GPU Driver Module

Nvidia on Wednesday published the R515 driver release of its Linux GPU kernel module under an open source, dual GPL/MIT license.

Chip Biz has made the source code available through the Nvidia Open GPU Kernel Module repo on GitHub, a move that suggests a need to respond to AMD’s long-standing open-source driver initiative.

“This release is an important step towards improving the experience of using Nvidia GPUs in Linux, thanks to tighter integration with the OS and for developers to debug, integrate and contribute back,” said senior product manager, Shirish. Bhaskaran, Senior System Ram Cherukuri claimed. Software Manager, Andy Ritter, Linux OpenGL Driver Engineer, and Fred Oh, Senior Product Marketing Manager, in a blog post. “For Linux distribution providers, open-source modules enhance ease of use.”

Four Nvidia suggests that the availability of 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. And those developing customized Linux kernels should find driver integration more enjoyable.

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The free and open-source software community isn’t too keen on closed-source, proprietary code. Back in 2006, for example, OpenBSD lead developer Theo de Radt criticized blobs – “vendor-compiled binary drivers without any source code” because “they hide bugs and workarounds for bugs.” And Linux kernel supremo Linus Torvalds has similarly voiced his disdain for binary-only modules.

Proprietary drivers have also hidden back doors, which are rarely appreciated.

The quartet of Nvidia co-authors argue that open-sourcing of GPU kernel modules will enhance driver quality and security through the involvement of the Linux community.


However, there are limits to that participation: only Turing (September 20, 2018) and newer GPUs can use open-source drivers; Pre-Turing models require existing proprietary code, or nouveau drivers. The user-space components of Nvidia’s driver software will also remain closed-source binaries, for now at least; This is kernel code that is being published as open source.

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There are some kernel-level drivers being opened that may benefit more from quality checks than others. The source code associated with Nvidia’s Turing and Ampere datacenter GPUs is already considered ready for production. The source code for GeForce and Workstation GPUs is considered to be alpha quality only, and therefore may soon benefit from Community Ministries.

“The new Nvidia open-source GPU kernel module will simplify installation and increase security for Ubuntu users, whether they are AI/ML developers, gamers or cloud users,” said Cindy Goldberg, VP of Silicon Alliance at Canonical. ,

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

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SUSES and Red Hat spokespersons said more or less the same thing, using slightly different terms.

technically inclined people on twitter Express surprise and enthusiasm.

“Congratulations to Nvidia for finally open sourcing its kernel drivers.” said Keno Fischer, co-founder and CTO of Julia Computing. “Long time coming, but perfect move. Look forward to sending some [pull requests] :)” And a colleague did it later.

Basically, everyone in the Linux community appreciates the low risk of proprietary code and the possibilities that arise when permission is not required.


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