Linked by David Adams on Thu 18th Aug 2011 19:09 UTC, submitted by Michael
Graphics, User Interfaces While the BFS scheduler is getting ready to celebrate its second birthday, in just three weeks AMD's open-source Radeon graphics driver strategy for Linux will be turning four years old . . . which has ended up being a game-changer in the Linux world. AMD continues to support open-source hardware enablement on their latest graphics processors and recently even hired more developers to work on the code and documentation. How far have they come though in four years?
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I'm not sure why you believe that the open source driver will overtake the closed-source one in a few months time. It's really hard work to get that performance out, and I really doubt the Linux driver team has the same resources as the Windows driver team at AMD. Btw, it's not 80% now on new cards, it's still closer to 50-60% I think. The 80% figure is relevant for cards that are about 6-7 years old, as far as I can tell.

The programming specification documents that AMD/ATI released are here:

Note the dates. The documents for the older cards were released (~ early 2008) about a year before the documents for the newer cards (~ early 2009). There is a direct correspondence to the performance, in that there is better performance (relative to closed source driver for the same card) for those older cards where the open source developers have had a year longer to work on the drivers.

That is the first point. Given the same amount of time, it would be reasonable to expect a similar improvement for newer cards as we see now for the older cards. In fact, having gone through the process once for the older cards, the still-to-be-done performance fine tuning for the newer cards might even happen quicker.

The second point is that closed source drivers are developed for Windows. The majority of this code is then re-used for Linux, with a small open source wrapper program to interface to the different kernel. The drivers are optimised for Windows. Because of that fact, and also the fact that the closed source drivers require an extra "adapter" layer, it is reasonable to expect that eventually the open source drivers will catch up, given that they are tuned for Linux.

Apart from the development going on at Xorg, AMD itself has been hiring new open source developers of late.

Edited 2011-08-19 04:59 UTC

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