Open source graphics drivers are becoming more competitive with closed source drivers. Phoronix.com recently benchmarked AMD, “Latest Open-Source RadeonSI Driver Moves On To Smacking Catalyst”, and the open source driver beat the Catalyst driver in some cases. This would have been shocking 3-5 years ago.
For some perspective, Rich Geldreich’s post from last year, “The Truth on OpenGL Driver Quality”, is a good summary of the state of the industry.
Open source drivers have improved relative to closed source drivers because they have attracted very good driver developers. Part of this is because RedHat and other companies are pouring more funding into open source driver development. Also per dollar of funding the open source drivers attract much better driver developers, except perhaps Nvidia but even they are changing. Much of this is because as a developer Linux is a sexier technology than Windows and contributing to the Linux kernel is more attractive than contributing to a driver who’s source will only be seen internally.
An example of this is seen in Rich’s post, comparing Vendor C’s open source OpenGL driver & their closed source OpenGL driver. The open source driver is technically behind the closed source driver but the open source driver team is better. As Rich says about the closed source driver, “This team will honestly ask you if ‘perf’ or ‘correctness’ is more important.”
It’s people not the current driver state that matters for driver execution in the long term. And what drives execution is the people.