Vulkan 1.0 API Specification Finalized by AMD & Khronos Group, Driver Ready

By Published February 16, 2016 at 9:00 am

The Vulkan API has completely taken over AMD's low-level Mantle application program interface, somewhat of a peer to Microsoft's DirectX 12.

It's a competitive space. Mantle tried to push the industry toward more console-like programming – and we mean that in positive ways – by getting developers “close to the metal.” Low-level APIs that bypass the insurmountable overhead of DirectX 11 are the key to unlocking the full potential of modern hardware; DirectX 12 and Vulkan both get us closer to this, primarily by shifting draw calls off the CPU and reducing bottlenecking. GPUs have grown so powerful in their parallel processing that they can assume significant workload that was once placed upon processors – this benefits gamers in particular, since the majority of our workloads are more easily pushed through the GPU.

Within the gaming world, our previous interview with Chris Roberts revealed that Star Citizen is hoping to eventually adopt Vulkan at some level, though the team is presently busy with DirectX 12 and 11 optimizations.

Today marks AMD's announcement that it has officially worked with the Khronos Group to ratify the Vulkan 1.0 specification, defining the future for an OpenGL-based API that competes with DirectX 12. Vulkan (sometimes called “OpenGL Next”) contains significant parts of Mantle's philosophy and code, and bills itself as a more universal API through its utilization on non-Windows devices. Vulkan should eventually find itself on mobile and Linux operating systems and, with the right development support, will reduce pipeline bottlenecks for gaming and production applications. Interesting for users of “old” Windows operating systems, Vulkan is also supported on Windows 7 and 8.1, a counter to Microsoft's exclusivity of DirectX 12 to Windows 10.

AMD's press release states:

“As a complement to OpenGL, descended from AMD’s Mantle, and forged by the industry, Vulkan is a powerful low-overhead graphics API that gives software developers deep control over the performance, efficiency, and capabilities of Radeon GPUs and multi-core CPUs. Compared to OpenGL, Vulkan substantially reduces API overhead, which is background work a GPU or CPU must do to interpret what a game is asking of the hardware. Reducing this overhead gives hardware much more time to spend on delivering meaningful features, performance, and image quality. Vulkan also exposes GPU hardware features not ordinarily accessible through OpenGL, and uniquely supports Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Android, and Linux.”

In its statement issued to press, AMD's Raja Koduri said:

“The release of the Vulkan™ 1.0 specification is a huge step forward for developers. The Vulkan™ API, which was derived from Mantle, will bring the benefits of low-overhead high-performance Graphics API to the benefit of cross-platform and cross-vendor targeted applications”

We can only imagine that Koduri verbally spoke each “Trademark” identifier in his statement.

As a part of this announcement, AMD is making available a public AMD Radeon driver for Vulkan development. The driver is a beta build and is mostly meant for developers. The graphics company tells us that its driver works with Vulkan to expose GPU-level hardware features.

We'll continue following this story closely, as we're already doing with DirectX 12 developments in gaming.

- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.

Last modified on February 16, 2016 at 9:00 am
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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