The Khronos Group launches Vulkan 1.0

February 17, 2016 // 2:12 p.m.

Tags: #amd #api #arm #directx #directx-12 #graphics #imagination #intel #khronos-group #mantle #nvidia #opengl #opengl-es #qualcomm #vulkan

The Khronos Group has officially launched its Vulkan application programming interface (API), with drivers available immediately from AMD, Nvidia, Intel, and Imagination Technologies for various graphics processors.

Designed to operate at a lower level than the Khronos Group's more well-known OpenGL API, Vulkan promises to dramatically improve performance by reducing the driver overhead - a feature that will be of most benefit to those on lower-performance graphics cards, where the overhead can sap a surprisingly high percentage of the overall performance. Coupled with support for more efficient usage of multi-core processors, Vulkan is being positioned as a next-generation API - though the Khronos Group is quick to point out that it will continue to develop OpenGL and its embedded variant OpenGL ES in parallel with Vulkan.

'The Vulkan working group has been driven by more positive developer energy than any other Khronos project, resulting in the release of specifications, conformance tests, and open source SDK and compiler components in just 18 months,' crowed Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and vice president at Nvidia, which is supporting the API on its GeForce GTX 600 series and above graphics processors. 'Vulkan does not replace traditional APIs, but it provides another choice for developers. In the right hands, Vulkan’s multi-threading and explicit resource management can enable a new class of smooth, high-performance engines and applications.'

Derived from AMD's short-lived Mantle project, Vilkan has support from all the major graphics vendors including AMD, Nvidia, Intel, ARM, Imagination Technologies, and Qualcomm. Support has been added, or is in the process of being added, to graphics processors ranging from high-end desktop and workstation devices down to mobile-centric system-on-chip designs. Impressively, it even has an end-user implementation at launch: Croteam's puzzler The Talos Principle has already received a beta update which enables Vulkan support. 'Vulkan has a huge potential! We're only scratching the surface of what can be done with it, and porting The Talos Principle to Vulkan should be seen as a proof of concept,' explained Dean Sekulic, graphics engine specialist at Croteam, of his company's release. 'Vulkan in just one sentence? The endless war between performance and portability is finally over!'

Vulkan isn't without competition in the market, however. Microsoft's DirectX 12 offers many of the same benefits, including the promise of improved multi-processor handling and lower driver overheads, but is exclusively available on the company's Windows 10 operating system with partial support on the Xbox One. Vulkan, by contrast, is cross-platform and, thanks to AMD's code contributions from Mantle, has many open source components.

More information on the Vulkan 1.0 release is available on the official website.