Khronos looks to rebuild OpenGL as a low-overhead API

Now that DirectX 12 and Mantle have committed to providing developers with quicker, more direct access to modern GPUs in a way that maps better to their operation, the folks behind OpenGL have decided to follow suit. In a press release this morning, the Khronos Group announced an initiative to rebuild OpenGL from the ground up in order to allow for lower overhead, better support of multithreading, and explicit control over mixed GPU and CPU workloads.

Heck, here's the entire text. It's succinct:

Khronos announced a call for participation today in a project to define a future open standard for high-efficiency access to graphics and compute on modern GPUs.  Key directions for the new ground-up design include explicit application control over GPU and CPU workloads for performance and predictability, a multithreading-friendly API with greatly reduced overhead, a common shader program intermediate language, and a strengthened ecosystem focus that includes rigorous conformance testing.  Fast-paced work on detailed proposals and designs are already underway, and any company interested to participate is strongly encouraged to join Khronos for a voice and a vote in the development process.

Although Nvidia and others have done some interesting work on "zero driver overhead" use of OpenGL, this new initiative is different simply because it's about starting over from scratch and building an API using a different set of starting assumptions.

Some familiar names have already endorsed the effort, including a couple of individuals who have been instrumental in building AMD's Mantle API. Here's DICE graphics guru Johan Andersson:

"We are super excited to contribute and work with the Next Generation OpenGL Initiative, and bring our experience of low-overhead and explicit graphics APIs to build an efficient standard for multiple platforms and vendors in Khronos," said Johan Andersson, technical director at Frostbite - Electronic Arts. "This work is of critical importance to get the most out of modern GPUs on both mobile and desktop, and to make it easier to develop advanced and efficient 3D applications - enabling us to build amazing future games with Frostbite on all platforms."

And AMD graphics CTO Raja Koduri:

"OpenGL has played an important role in the growth of mobile, workstation and consumer graphics," said Raja Koduri, chief technology officer, graphics at AMD. "AMD is tremendously excited to take a contributing role in the Next Generation OpenGL initiative as an evolution of the OpenGL standard aligned with AMD’s vision for low-overhead and multi-threaded graphics APIs."

Khronos has lined up endorsements from a bunch of other prominent folks, including Gabe Newell from Valve, Jem Davies from ARM, and executives from Nvidia, Samsung, and Imagination Technologies.

In related news, Khronos has also released the specification for OpenGL 4.5, the next evolutionary step in the current incarnation of the API. Among other things, OpenGL 4.5 includes some provisions for the emulation of DirectX 11, to make porting from D3D and OpenGL easier. The new revision of desktop OpenGL is also now compatible with programs and shaders written for its mobile counterpart, OpenGL ES 3.1, which should allow for cross-development between desktop and mobile platforms. There are also some new hooks to improve multithreading performance. The full OpenGL 4.5 spec is available here.

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