The Khronos Group released version 1.0 of its Vulkan graphics API this morning. This release is a hard launch, meaning that the Vulkan specification, conformance tests, SDKs, and other resources are available immediately for developers who want to play with the new API. AMD has a beta Windows driver with Vulkan support available for its graphics cards, and Nvidia has also posted a compatible beta driver on its Vulkan portal.
Vulkan is the Khronos Group's take on the low-overhead graphics API movement that AMD more or less kicked off with its Mantle API back in 2013. (Vulkan is based in part on Mantle.) Like Microsoft's Direct3D 12 and Apple's Metal, Vulkan is meant to give developers more direct control over the resources available on the graphics card.
Direct3D 12 will only be available on Windows 10, however, and Metal is only available on Apple's platforms. Vulkan will be compatible with any OpenGL ES 3.1 or 4.x GPU. Operating systems supported include Windows XP and newer, along with SteamOS, Ubuntu, Red Hat, Tizen, and Android.
Khronos says Vulkan will let developers generate GPU work in parallel using many CPU cores, something that's difficult in current releases of OpenGL. Vulkan also purports to come with benefits like "simpler, more predictable drivers" and greater portability across various platforms.
While Vulkan may offer advantages to some developers, especially those whose programs are CPU-bound, the new API is meant to complement OpenGL rather than replace it. Neil Trevett, Nvidia VP and president of the Khronos Group, says Vulkan "…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."
Croteam's The Talos Principle will get Vulkan support soon, according to a post on the company's blog. We might have to play with that title once it's patched to see what the new API can do.