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Phoronix Article: There's A New Libre GPU Effort Building On RISC-V, Rust, LLVM & Vulkan

By September 28, 2018May 12th, 2021No Comments

Over the past decade and a half of covering the Linux graphics scene, there have been many attempts at providing a fully open-source GPU (or even just display adapter) down to the hardware level, but none of them have really panned out from Project VGA to other FPGA designs. There’s a new very ambitious project trying to create a “libre 3D GPU” built atop RISC-V, leveraging Rust and LLVM on the software side, and would also support Vulkan.
Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton, the open hardware engineer behind the EOMA68 project, is pursuing an open-source GPU project and is reported to have access to $250k USD in funding to make it happen.
His essential idea for this “libre GPU” is to use a RISC-V processor — likely with some RISC-V extensions to increase the parallelism potential — and the GPU would largely be software-based. He would leverage the LLVM compiler infrastructure and utilize a software-based Vulkan renderer emitting code to run on the RISC-V processor. His Vulkan implementation / display driver is talked about for writing in the Rust programming language. Along similar lines has been Vulkan-CPU and now known as Kazan as a software/CPU-based Vulkan implementation. Vulkan-CPU/Kazan was started as part of 2017 Google Summer of Code but there hasn’t been any apparent activity on that since September 2017. In effect, the plan is like running LLVMpipe for software-based OpenGL on an open-source CPU — but at least LLVMpipe is in good shape these days (albeit slow) where as there isn’t any viable Vulkan software implementation currently.
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