VFIO is about running for example Windows 10 in a virtual machine (VM), using a discrete graphics card that you pass through to the VM. The Linux driver framework that is used to bind the graphics card during the host boot is called VFIO. The virtual machine itself (e.g. Windows 10) then uses its own native graphics driver to drive the GPU, significantly boosting VM graphics performance. This enables you to run Linux on the host and create Windows virtual machines for gaming and other high performance tasks.
AMD graphics cards have been plagued with the notorious FLR reset bug over several years now. Independent developers wrote a kernel patch as a workaround that would work most of the time. But the patch required kernel or module compilation, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Yesterday Wendell at Level1Techs posted a (p)review of the latest AMD Radeon 6800 and 6800XT graphics cards. He attests that the AMD Radeon 6800/6800XT are perfectly suitable for VFIO passthrough. No more FLR reset bug. Wendell goes further to point out that the Linux graphics drivers available in Ubuntu 20.04 already support these cards. This is great news for the Linux user community in general, and VFIO passthrough enthusiasts especially! Finally an alternative to NVIDIA.
There are more good news: Those of you who already own an AMD Navi, Vega or Polaris graphics card plagued with the FLR reset bug can now enjoy a simpler, better workaround. Instead of compiling the patch into the kernel, all you need to do now is to “build the module and modprobe it, or use dmks to manage it directly”.
AMD has already shown its Linux support through its open source graphics drivers. The new graphics cards based on the RDNA2 architecture have finally corrected the product flaw of previous releases. Welcome to the VFIO club.
You will probably have to wait some time to get hold of one of these cards, as they seem to have sold out on launch day.
I’ve already written a detailed tutorial on VGA passthrough based on QEMU version 2.11. Time has passed and today distributions like Ubuntu 20.04, Linux Mint 20, or Manjaro come with QEMU 4.0, 4.2 or 5.0.
It wasn’t easy this time. Don’t get me wrong – the VFIO passthrough part, though challenging in some ways, went quite well. All in all I’m pleased now with the results. Here the Passmark 9.0 benchmark as uploaded onto their database (for more details, click the frame below):
I’ve been contemplating a PC upgrade for more than a year (see my post here). At first I considered staying with Intel and getting an i9-9900K CPU with integrated GPU on a Z390 motherboard.
Along came the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X that topped the benchmarks, including the Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop benchmarks (to be precise, it ranked #4 in the Adobe Lightroom benchmark, and a narrow #1 in the Adobe Photoshop benchmark). These good news about the AMD Ryzen 3900X were soon followed by reports about BIOS issues and VFIO incompatibility. At the very least, it looked like VGA passthrough was more challenging.
You may wonder what’s wrong with this fellow (meaning me, the author). Has he completely lost his mind when he proposes a Linux virtual gaming machine? Before you discredit the idea, let me explain. Continue reading “Linux Virtual Gaming Machine”
I have run a number of benchmarks to document the performance of Windows 10 running as a virtual machine on Linux, in the hope other PC users will dive into the fascinating world of virtualization.
Benchmarks are helpful in comparing one system with another, and one configuration with another. I use them for optimizing my Windows 10 performance and for making sure that updates/upgrades haven’t produced unwanted side effects. Continue reading “Windows 10 Virtual Machine Benchmarks”