1.1. What is the Vulkan Graphics System?

Vulkan is an API (Application Programming Interface) for graphics and compute hardware. The API consists of many commands that allow a programmer to specify shader programs, compute kernels, objects, and operations involved in producing high-quality graphical images, specifically color images of three-dimensional objects.

1.1.1. The Programmer’s View of Vulkan

To the programmer, Vulkan is a set of commands that allow the specification of shader programs or shaders, kernels, data used by kernels or shaders, and state controlling aspects of Vulkan outside of shader execution. Typically, the data represents geometry in two or three dimensions and texture images, while the shaders and kernels control the processing of the data, rasterization of the geometry, and the lighting and shading of fragments generated by rasterization, resulting in the rendering of geometry into the framebuffer.

A typical Vulkan program begins with platform-specific calls to open a window or otherwise prepare a display device onto which the program will draw. Then, calls are made to open queues to which command buffers are submitted. The command buffers contain lists of commands which will be executed by the underlying hardware. The application can also allocate device memory, associate resources with memory and refer to these resources from within command buffers. Drawing commands cause application-defined shader programs to be invoked, which can then consume the data in the resources and use them to produce graphical images. To display the resulting images, further platform-specific commands are made to transfer the resulting image to a display device or window.

1.1.2. The Implementor’s View of Vulkan

To the implementor, Vulkan is a set of commands that allow the construction and submission of command buffers to a device. Modern devices accelerate virtually all Vulkan operations, storing data and framebuffer images in high-speed memory and executing shaders in dedicated GPU processing resources.

The implementor’s task is to provide a software library on the host which implements the Vulkan API, while mapping the work for each Vulkan command to the graphics hardware as appropriate for the capabilities of the device.

1.1.3. Our View of Vulkan

We view Vulkan as a pipeline having some programmable stages and some state-driven fixed-function stages that are invoked by a set of specific drawing operations. We expect this model to result in a specification that satisfies the needs of both programmers and implementors. It does not, however, necessarily provide a model for implementation. An implementation must produce results conforming to those produced by the specified methods, but may carry out particular computations in ways that are more efficient than the one specified.