Mesa/Gallium Cell Driver

The Mesa Cell driver is part of the Gallium3D architecture. Tungsten Graphics did the original implementation of the Cell driver.

Source Code

The latest Cell driver source code is on the master branch of the Mesa git repository.

To build the driver you'll need the IBM Cell SDK (version 2.1 or 3.0). To use the driver you'll need a Cell system, such as a PS3 running Linux, or the Cell Simulator (untested, though).

If using Cell SDK 2.1, see the configs/linux-cell file for some special changes.

To compile the code, run make linux-cell. Or to build in debug mode, run make linux-cell-debug.

To use the library, make sure your current directory is the top of the Mesa tree, then set LD_LIBRARY_PATH like this:

  export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$PWD/lib/gallium:$PWD/lib/

Verify that the Cell driver is being used by running progs/xdemos/glxinfo and looking for:

  OpenGL renderer string: Gallium 0.3, Cell on Xlib

Driver Implementation Summary

Rasterization is parallelized across the SPUs in a tiled-based manner. Batches of transformed triangles are sent to the SPUs (actually, pulled by from main memory by the SPUs). Each SPU loops over a set of 32x32-pixel screen tiles, rendering the triangles into each tile. Because of the limited SPU memory, framebuffer tiles are paged in/out of SPU local store as needed. Similarly, textures are tiled and brought into local store as needed.


As of October 2008, the driver runs quite a few OpenGL demos. Features that work include:

Performance has recently improved with the addition of PPC code generation for vertex shaders, but the code quality isn't too great yet.

Another bottleneck is SwapBuffers. It may be the limiting factor for many simple GL tests.

Debug Options

The CELL_DEBUG env var can be set to a comma-separated list of one or more of the following debug options:

Note that some of these options may only work for linux-cell-debug builds.

If the GALLIUM_NOPPC env var is set, PPC code generation will not be used and vertex shaders will be run with the TGSI interpreter.

If the GALLIUM_NOCELL env var is set, the softpipe driver will be used intead of the Cell driver. This is useful for comparison/validation.


If you're interested in contributing to the effort, familiarize yourself with the code, join the mesa3d-dev mailing list, and describe what you'd like to do.