Originally, the Khronos group aimed to have its new Vulkan API wrapped up and released by the end of the year. Alas, that target will not be met.
The group informed us that the Vulkan API’s specification is complete, it still needs a couple of final touch ups and must make its way through legal review. Khronos did not give a new target deadline, but it shouldn’t take long.
The Vulkan API is the successor to OpenGL. In its early stages it was called GLNext, but that name has been scrapped. The API is built to offer lower-level access to the graphics hardware, much like AMD’s Mantle did originally and as DirectX 12 does today.
Low-level access to the hardware basically means that instead of relying on existing higher-level access layers, developers are able to access the graphics hardware more directly than before. This does make programming a little more difficult, but some of the developers we talked to at trade shows and for interviews indicated that they much prefer lower-level access, as it enables them to work the way they want to, rather than the way that the API makers think they want to.
On the consumer side, it’s also relevant: The removal of access layers means less overhead, meaning that games run better than before. With VR around the corner, we also need as much performance as we can get, so these APIs are all arriving right on cue.
“Vulkan will set the foundation for graphics and compute APIs for years to come and so Khronos is taking the time needed to do this right – and the Vulkan 1.0 release is near!” Khronos stated.
Various partners are already preparing their support for Vulkan, too. Johan Andersson from EA tweeted that the Frostbite engine would be supported on some platforms, and Gabe Newell from Valve also said that his team would be ensuring support. Many other developers have announced support, too. Google even announced that it would be using it in Android.
DirectX 12 will likely remain the dominant graphics API for the time being, chances are that Vulkan support will be more widespread at some point than OpenGL ever achieved, thanks to gaming on Linux slowly becoming more popular.
Update, 12/22/2015, 11:07am PT: Fixed a typo.