AMD has traditionally separated its Linux drivers into open-source and closed-source solutions, and the latter has outperformed the former for quite some time now. However, a new report from Phoronix reveals that the latest round of improvements to the RadeonSI workstation open-source graphics driver has resulted in a 10% performance uplift.
The Linux Application Programming Interface (API) world is widely dominated by the newest members, Vulkan and OpenCL. However, when it comes to some serious workstation-grade software, the good 'ol OpenGL API comes into play. AMD has a closed-source Radeon driver for OpenGL applications, and it provides the best possible performance for Radeon cards. However, developers have been working on improving its open-source equivalent.
Called the RadeonSI driver, it's part of the Mesa driver collection of open-source GPU drivers. Its performance has lagged the AMD's Radeon Pro driver for workstation-grade software and hardware, but that has now been fixed with the latest updates.
The latest round of driver patches is due for Mesa version 21.3, scheduled for release next quarter. The new code has already been tested with a popular benchmark, SPECViewPerf Siemens NX, and the new driver delivers as much as 10% more performance than the older revision. This is a great sign of progression, achieved by adding 379 lines of new code and removing 461 lines of the older codebase.
This shows us that the open-source driver work is now on pace to catch up with the closed-source AMDGPU-PRO OpenGL workstation driver. However, it doesn't mean that AMD will abandon the development of the proprietary solution. It just means that the open driver is now more up to par with what AMD offers in closed form, and it could reach a point of overtaking the proprietary solution. AMD, of course, works with a multitude of clients, so support for the closed solution will likely last for a very long time.