NVIDIA Embraces Open Source GPU Kernel Drivers, Starting In The Datacenter
NVIDIA's relationship with the open-source community has historically been a tale of intense on-again-off-again interactions. In recent years, the company has embraced open source more closely as of late, but its past refusal to open-source its graphics drivers, citing trade secrets and proprietary technology, has continued to be a point of friction between Team Green and Linux kernel developers.
Well, that all ends now, because NVIDIA has announced it will open-source the kernel portion of its graphics drivers. To be clear, there are huge swaths of NVIDIA's graphics drivers that are remaining closed-source, including all of the client-facing portions of the code as well as its drivers for OpenGL, Vulkan, OpenCL, and so on.
It would be easy to draw a connection between this change and the relative success of SteamOS on the Steam Deck, but gaming isn't really the play here. After all, the current state of the open-source drivers for desktop GeForce hardware is considered "alpha" by NVIDIA, meaning they're really not ready for prime-time.
Of course, given that they're open source, things probably won't stay that way for long. NVIDIA itself says work is fully underway in transitioning to the open-source kernel driver as its primary Linux driver, and it's also inviting community members to create and contribute their own patches—although you'll have to sign a Contributor License Agreement to do so.
Whatever the reason, this is fantastic news for the open-source community. Everyone benefits from open-source software development, and this is the first step toward a fully open-source graphics driver for the green team's hardware. If you're a developer yourself, you can check out the code on Github right now.