NVIDIA To Utilize Open-Source Kernel Drivers In Linux For GeForce RTX 20 Series & Beyond

After AMD, it seems like NVIDIA plans to go the open-source route as well, as the GPU maker plans to use its open-source GPU kernel driver by default on Linux.

For a quick background context, modern-day NVIDIA architectures run on closed-source modules, which not only harms the open-source community but also hinders development significantly.

To cope with this, NVIDIA has announced that starting with their NVIDIA R560 series Linux driver, the firm plans on defaulting the use of open-source GPU kernel for the GeForce RTX 20 series and beyond in an attempt to make the experience at Linux a delight, and potentially competing against the likes of AMD at the platform, which has managed to gobble up user share.

Here is how NVIDIA describes the change; however, it’s important to note that the open-source kernel is only compatible with Turing or later GPUs.

Starting in the release 560 series, it will be recommended to use the open flavor of NVIDIA Linux Kernel Modules 9 wherever possible (Turing or later GPUs, or Ada or later when using GPU virtualization).

If installing from the .run file, installation will detect what GPUs are present and default to installing the open kernel modules if all NVIDIA GPUs in the system can be driven by the open kernel modules. Distribution-specific repackaging of the NVIDIA driver may require additional steps, specific to that packaging, to choose the open flavor.

In the release 560 series, it will still be possible to configure the .run file to install the proprietary flavor of kernel modules, with the –kernel-module-type=proprietary command line option. However, in the future, some GPUs may only be supported with the open flavor.

The change is certainly appreciated, and it is a bold move from NVIDIA’s camp to improve open-source development. However, we did see such a move coming quite a while ago, when the lead developer of Nouveau, Ben Skeggs, joined NVIDIA, and this move was seen as a step ahead towards open sourcing. While this isn’t certain, future architectures can potentially switch to the newer open-source kernel drivers, ultimately challenging the likes of Team Red regarding driver and platform support.

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