Thursday, March 5th, 2015 Posted by Jim Thacker

Video: see Vulkan, OpenGL’s replacement, in action

Imagination Technologies’ Library demo shows the Vulkan API running on its PowerVR Rogue GPUs, used in modern smartphones and tablets. The open API is intended as a ground-up replacement for OpenGL.

The Khronos Group, the industry consortium that oversees graphics programming interfaces, has unveiled Vulkan, its “ground-up redesign” of the 22-year-old OpenGL API.

The new open API, formerly known as Next Generation OpenGL Initiative or simply glNext, is intended as a replacement for the older API, and will not be backwards-compatible with it.

So why replace OpenGL?
Whereas OpenGL was originally designed for graphics workstations, Vulkan is designed to be used on a full range of modern devices, including mobile chipsets with shared memory between CPU and GPU.

The API is also intended to give software developers direct control over GPU operation, minimising the work that needs to be done by graphics drivers – and the resulting hit on performance and stability.

In addition, it’s designed to be better for multi-core programming, further increasing performance.

Vulkan also uses the same intermediate language as OpenCL, the open API for heterogenous computing, used for GPU acceleration of general processing tasks.

If Vulkan fulfils its promise – and as well as Nvidia, AMD and all of the other hardware giants, supporters include Lucasfilm, Pixar, Valve, Blizzard, Epic Games and Unity Technologies – the result should be high-performance graphics applications that run faster and more stably across a range of platforms.

Release schedule
The specifications for Vulkan are due for release later this year, but the Khronos Group’s website provides a downloadable PDF overview of the new API, and a forum thread for submitting feedback.

There are also a few early demos of Vulkan in action: the video at the top of the story shows Imagination Technologies’ Library demo running on an early alpha driver for its PowerVR Rogue mobile GPUs.

The demo gives a flavour of the performance we can expect from Vulkan, supporting physically based shading, HDR rendering and 4x multi-sample anti-aliasing. Find more details on Imagination Technologies’ blog.

Read an overview of the Vulkan API on Khronos Group website

Read a brief digest of the key points on The Register

Read an interesting longer article on ExtremeTech on the relationship between Vulkan and AMD’s Mantle