NVIDIA came out to clarify doubts about the use of open Kernel modules

NVIDIA drivers on Linux

We recently shared here on the blog the news about the changes that NVIDIA has implemented in the version of its proprietary drivers "NVIDIA 560".

Proposed Changes that will be applied from the "NVIDIA 560" version, consist basically in that open Linux kernel modules will be used by default on systems with GPUs based on the Turing microarchitecture (GeForce GTX 1600 and RTX 2000) and newer versions.

With this change, open and proprietary modules cannot be used simultaneously or coexist in the same file system. This means that open modules can only be used with GPUs that have a separate GPU System Processor (GSP) microcontroller, such as the Turing, Ampere, and Ada microarchitectures. For older GPUs without GSP, such as those based on Maxwell, Pascal, and Volta microarchitectures, proprietary modules will continue to be used.

Given the doubts and many of the speculations that were generated after the news, Andy Ritger, leader of the development of drivers for Unix-type operating systems at NVIDIA, came out to answer various questions related to the transition from NVIDIA proprietary drivers to the default use of open Linux kernel modules.

Andy mentions that the capabilities of open and proprietary modules regarding GPU initialization and power management They will be quite similar on NVIDIA 560 drivers, with plans to work towards full parity in the future. It is mentioned that version 560 will also address historical issues in open modules, such as those related to the use of VRR (variable refresh rate) on laptops.

In addition to this, cWhen the topic of support for open Nouveau and NVK controllers was addressed, a representative of NVIDIA indicated that, for production applications, the company recommendation is to use proprietary drivers and open kernel modules supplied separately. Although the company previously attempted to provide documentation and patches for Nouveau and NVK developers, the assistance provided is considered modest and does not qualify as full support.

With regards to ability to support proprietary NVIDIA components in the open driver Nouveau, such as CUDA, AI, RT/PT, DLSS and Optix, it was mentioned that this is currently not possible and that these components do not work with the Nouveau kernel module. It is not clear if this will be possible in the future.

It's important pointing that Nouveau also does not support configuration and monitoring related features (nvapi/nvidia-smi). However, a change in the licensing of nvapi API definitions allowed projects such as Wine and Proton to develop their own implementations of some nvapi elements used in games.

On the other hand, also the issue of NVIDIA employee involvement was addressed in the development of Nouveau, it was mentioned that this participation is currently limited, but some employees they are already contributing to the development of Nouveau and participating in related discussions.

When wondered about NVIDIA's plans to open stack components of drivers for GPUs that run in user space, a company employee responded that he was not aware of such plans.

Of the other points that were addressed, it is mentioned that:

  • NVIDIA has no plans to push for the inclusion of open modules in the main Linux kernel at this time.
  • NVIDIA has no plans to provide open kernel modules for GPUs prior to the Turing generation. Therefore, Volta and older GPU users should continue to use the proprietary modules for optimal performance.
  • The decision to use public modules by default is based on the desire to simplify testing and reduce the overhead associated with needing to retest public and private modules.

Finally, en regarding parity in functionality between open and proprietary drivers, a representative of NVIDIA mentioned that in version 560 of the controller, the open source kernel modules will achieve approximately the functionality of the proprietary modules. However, the limitation of not being able to use the RTD3 (Run Time D3) dynamic power management mechanism with open kernel modules in generations prior to Ampere was highlighted.

If you are interested in knowing more about it, you can check the details at the following link.

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