In a surprising announcement today, The Linux Foundation made it known that NVIDIA has become a member of this nonprofit consortium of companies tasked with the promotion and growth of the Linux operating system. NVIDIA joins its name to such companies as IBM, Intel or AMD.
NVIDIA currently offers a proprietary driver for the Linux operating system, as well as FreeBSD and Solaris, collectively named Unix Drivers. The only open source drivers released by NVIDIA are those for the older nForce hardware. The Nouveau drivers, on the other hand, are an open source alternative developed by the Linux community through reverse engineering of NVIDIA’s proprietary drivers. It’s this open source alternative that is usually the default driver with Linux distributions.
It is a little too soon to know if NVIDIA’s membership means it will create an official open source driver for Linux, much like AMD, or provide support for the current Nouveau drivers. But if it doesn’t, it will surely be the elephant in the room.
Lately, there’s been a tremendous amount of pressure on NVIDIA to open source its drivers. The successor to the current Fermi architecture, code-named Kepler (and it’s own successor, Maxwell), are said to be going to have a tremendous impact on high-performance computing and supercomputing. Two computing areas almost entirely dominated by open source platforms. Developers, engineers and technicians, all expect more from NVIDIA in terms of flexibility and support.
Maybe it’s nothing, maybe it’s everything we wanted. We shall see. It’s, however, highly encouraging news that NVIDIA has joined its name to a consortium of 135 companies that protect and foster the growth of the Linux operating system. An operating system firmly founded on the principles of the open source model.