Khronos Group Introduces New Vulkan Hardware Driver API and SPIR V Intermediate Language Shared by Vulkan and OpenCL 2.1
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
The Khronos Group, an open consortium of hardware and software companies, has released the technical previews of the new Vulkan open standard API for high-efficiency access to graphics and compute on modern GPUs that are used in a wide variety of devices.
The new introduction is a ground-up design, previously referred to as the Next Generation OpenGL Initiative, that provides applications direct control over GPU acceleration for maximized performance and predictability, and uses Khronos’ new SPIR-V specification for shading language flexibility. Vulkan initial specifications and implementations are expected later this year.
Vulkan is a unified specification that minimizes driver overhead and enables multi-threaded GPU command preparation for optimal graphics and compute performance on diverse mobile, desktop, console and embedded platforms. Vulkan also provides the direct GPU control needed by sophisticated game engines, middleware and applications with the cross vendor performance and functional portability resulting from simpler, more predictable drivers.
The layered design of Vulkan enables multiple IHVs to plug into a common, extensible architecture for code validation, debugging and profiling during development without impacting production performance; this layering flexibility is expected to catalyze strong innovation in cross-vendor GPU tools.
Khronos has also announced are Vulkan and OpenCL 2.1 are now sharing core intermediate language technologies resulting in SPIR-V - a functionality in the Khronos Standard Portable Intermediate Representation initially used by OpenCL, now fully defined by Khronos with native support for shader and kernel features.
SPIR-V splits the compiler chain, enabling high-level language front-ends to emit programs in a standardized intermediate form to be ingested by Vulkan or OpenCL drivers. Eliminating the need for a built-in high-level language source compiler reduces GPU driver complexity and will enable a diversity of language front-ends. Additionally, a standardized IR provides a measure of shader IP protection, accelerated shader load times and enables developers to use a common language front-end, improving shader reliability and portability across multiple implementations.
“Vulkan is a significant Khronos initiative to provide developers the choice of a state-of-the-art GPU API that is open and portable across multiple platforms, at a time where platform diversity is increasing,” said Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and vice president at NVIDIA. “Khronos will be driving the Vulkan ecosystem with open source conformance test components and sample front-end compiler implementations that use SPIR-V to leverage the hardware community’s investment in optimized back-end drivers. Vulkan expands the family of Khronos 3D APIs, and complements OpenGL and OpenGL ES that between them, provide access to billions of GPUs today, and will continue to be evolved and maintained to meet industry needs.”
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