NVIDIA Releases Open-Source GPU Kernel Modules
NVIDIA is now publishing Linux GPU kernel modules as open source with dual GPL/MIT license, starting with the R515 driver release. You can find the source code for these kernel modules in the NVIDIA Open GPU Kernel Modules repo on GitHub.
This release is a significant step toward improving the experience of using NVIDIA GPUs in Linux, for tighter integration with the OS and for developers to debug, integrate, and contribute back. For Linux distribution providers, the open-source modules increase ease of use. They also improve the out-of-the-box user experience to sign and distribute the NVIDIA GPU driver. Canonical and SUSE are able to immediately package the open kernel modules with Ubuntu and SUSE Linux Enterprise Distributions.
Developers can trace into code paths and see how kernel event scheduling is interacting with their workload for faster root cause debugging. In addition, enterprise software developers can now integrate the driver seamlessly into the customized Linux kernel configured for their project.
This will further help improve NVIDIA GPU driver quality and security with input and reviews from the Linux end-user community.
With each new driver release, NVIDIA publishes a snapshot of the source code on GitHub. Community patches submitted are reviewed and if approved, integrated into a future driver release.
Refer to the NVIDIA contribution guidelines and overview of the driver release cadence and life-cycle documentation for more information.
The first release of the open GPU kernel modules is R515. Along with the source code, fully-built and packaged versions of the drivers are provided.
For data center GPUs in the NVIDIA Turing and NVIDIA Ampere architecture families, this code is production ready. This was made possible by the phased rollout of the GSP driver architecture over the past year, designed to make the transition easy for NVIDIA customers. We focused on testing across a wide variety of workloads to ensure feature and performance parity with the proprietary kernel-mode driver.
In the future, functionality such as HMM will be a foundational component for confidential computing on the NVIDIA Hopper architecture.
In this open-source release, support for GeForce and Workstation GPUs is alpha quality. GeForce and Workstation users can use this driver on Turing and NVIDIA Ampere architecture GPUs to run Linux desktops and use features such as multiple displays, G-SYNC, and NVIDIA RTX ray tracing in Vulkan and NVIDIA OptiX. Users can opt in using the kernel module parameter
NVreg_EnableUnsupportedGpus as highlighted in the documentation. More robust and fully featured GeForce and Workstation support will follow in subsequent releases and the NVIDIA Open Kernel Modules will eventually supplant the closed-source driver.
Customers with Turing and Ampere GPUs can choose which modules to install. Pre-Turing customers will continue to run the closed source modules.
The open-source kernel-mode driver works with the same firmware and the same user-mode stacks such as CUDA, OpenGL, and Vulkan. However, all components of the driver stack must match versions within a release. For instance, you cannot take a release of the source code, build, and run it with the user-mode stack from a previous or future release.
The R515 release contains precompiled versions of both the closed-source driver and the open-source kernel modules. These versions are mutually exclusive, and the user can make the choice at install time. The default option ensures that silent installs will pick the optimal path for NVIDIA Volta and older GPUs versus Turing+ GPUs.
Users can build kernel modules from the source code and install them with the relevant user-mode drivers.
Figure 1: Illustration of installation options for the end user to opt-in to open GPU kernel modules and the default path of closed source modules.
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