OpenGL creator the Khronos Group has announced the release of Vulkan 1.1, the latest stable release of the low-level application programming interface (API) specification which started life as the GLNext project.

Announced back in 2015 as the outcome of the GLNext programme and borrowing heavily from AMD's since-shelved Mantle project, Vulkan is designed to considerably improve the performance and flexibility of graphics hardware from low-power embedded devices all the way up to high-end dedicated graphics cards. Since the release of Vulkan 1.0 in 2016 the technology has enjoyed considerable industry support, including from Epic Games, Valve, Crytek, Cloud Imperium Games, Intel, and Imagination Technology, and recently announced third-party support for Apple's macOS and iOS platforms.

'With enhanced developer tools, rigorous conformance testing, and the public Vulkan Ecosystem Forum, Khronos is delivering on its goal to develop a complete and vibrant Vulkan ecosystem,' claims Tom Olson, distinguished engineer at Arm and Vulkan Working Group chair, of the group's work. 'Vulkan 1.1 is a response to prioritised industry requests and shows our commitment to delivering a functional roadmap driven by developer needs.'

Primary new features include support for subgroup operations, a method of sharing and manipulating data across multiple tasks running in parallel which offers a considerable performance boost, the ability for applications to carry out rendering and display tasks on protected resources without the ability to directly access or copy said resources, a move which allows for the secure playback of protected media, and the integration of a range of functions that were previously available only as extensions - including simultaneous rendering of multiple image views, a boon for the virtual reality market, and support for multi-GPU rendering.

'AMD is very excited about the release of the Vulkan 1.1 specifications. This new iteration of the industry standard builds on its strong foundations and expands its reach by making the API more accessible to developers. New Vulkan 1.1 features such as subgroup access in compute shaders enable console-like optimisations that will empower developers to exert more control on the GPU than ever before,' claims Andrej Zdravkovic, corporate vice president of software at AMD, of the release. 'Vulkan also enriches its connectivity with other APIs by supporting interop operations, and finally enables first-class support for multi-GPU and VR systems. AMD believes that this major upgrade to the API will delight the existing Vulkan community and continue to broaden the user base.'

The new release, which also comes with a matching SPIR-V 1.3 specification for shader intermediate representation, is live now on the Khronos Group's GitHub repository.


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