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The Khronos Group releases Vulkan 1.0 API Specification

The Khronos Group has now released the Vulkan API for graphics and compute on GPUs, a bonafide positive development for the IT world, providing software developers numerous benefits and options.


The Khronos™ Group, an open consortium of leading hardware and software companies, has announced the availability of the Vulkan™ 1.0 royalty-free, open standard API (application programming interface) specification.

Vulkan provides high-efficiency, cross-platform access to graphics and compute on modern GPUs used in a wide variety of devices from PCs and consoles to smartphones and embedded systems.

Architosh has written extensively about the Vulkan Graphics API and its technology in prior features, as the graphics API is the meant to help compliment OpenGL and OpenGL ES, two Khronos Group standards that have largely shaped the computing landscape for the past decade and a half.

What Vulkan 1.0 Does

Vulkan is a ground-up design, oriented at helping graphics software developers program “down to the metal,” as they say, to optimize graphics performance on today’s highly capable GPUs. By providing direct control over GPU acceleration, with maximized performance and predictability, Vulkan offers minimal CPU overhead and efficient multi-threaded performance.

01 - Vulkan(tm) is the latest graphics and compute combined future API for GPUs across all devices.

01 – Vulkan(tm) is the latest graphics and compute combined future API for GPUs across all devices.

Vulkan 1.0 hardware drivers and SDKs are available immediately for developers to begin creating Vulkan applications and engines. More information about this information can be found here.

What Others Say

“We are extremely pleased at the industry’s rapid execution on the Vulkan API initiative. Due to Vulkan’s cross platform availability, high performance and healthy open-source ecosystem, we expect to see rapid uptake by software developers, far exceeding the adoption of similar APIs which are limited to specific operating systems,” says Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director at Valve.

Vulkan is the result of 18 months in an intense collaboration between leading hardware, game engine and platform vendors, built on significant contributions from multiple Khronos members. Vulkan is designed for portability across platforms with desktop and mobile GPU architectures.

Today Vulkan is available on multiple versions of Microsoft Windows, from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and has been adopted as a native rendering and compute API by platforms, including Linux, SteamOS, Tizen and Google’s Android. Missing from the set of OS vendors is Apple with no announced support for Mac OS X and iOS.

MORE: SIG: Apple looks to be going the path of “Metal” for graphics—seems out on Vulkan standard

“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,” says Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and vice president at Nvidia. “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.”

To learn more and read the full press release go here.

Architosh Analysis

Both Microsoft and Apple have taken a different direction with more explicit, low-level, programming “down to the medal” approaches with compute and graphics on modern GPU architectures. For its part, Apple has created the Medal API, at first for iOS and then for OS X. It is basically asking its OS X developers to make a singular choice: stay with OpenGL for cross-platform capability (mainly between Windows and Mac) or optimize your OS X solutions using specific API’s from either Apple or Microsoft.

In our discussions and interviews with Neil Trevett in the past, it wasn’t clear to the group where Apple may want to go and handle things, but the threat of OS-specific APIs that compete with Vulkan wasn’t a particularly joyous development. It will mean more choice ultimately for software developers, but it may fork development work, particularly between Mac and Windows. However, since the CAD and 3D markets have different orientations towards performance as compared to the gaming market in particular, many developers will continue to support OpenGL and OpenGL ES, two true cross-platform graphics standards that offer development benefits of their own.

Reader Comments

  1. Until Apple decides to support Vulkan natively, developpers could use middlewares like MetalVK for Vulkan, or MetalGL for OpenGL, to improve the performance of their softwares, through Metal

  2. id be curious what performance penalty may be involved in these middleware options? thanks for the comment. 🙂

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