Khronos Group brings Vulkan support to Apple's macOS, iOS platforms

February 27, 2018 // 11:29 a.m.

Tags: #api #apple #graphics-api #ios #lunarg #macos #metal #moltenvk #neil-trevett #pierre-loup-griffais #vulkan

The Khronos Group has announced the first official Vulkan support in Apple's macOS and iOS platforms, through a third-party open-source driver dubbed MoltenVK.

Released back in 2015 and based on the work carried out on the GLnext project and AMD's Mantle, Vulkan is a low-level application programming interface (API) designed to offer considerably improved performance on everything from low-power mobile devices to multi-GPU power rigs by, among other tricks, reducing driver overhead. Competing with similar enhancements in Microsoft's rival DirectX 12, the open standard has found its way into game engines from Epic Games, Crytek and others, while being the target for CIG's long-delayed Star Citizen project.

While the Vulkan standard is compatible with Windows and Linux machines, though, it has previously been unavailable on Apple's BSD-based macOS and iOS platforms - largely due to Apple having a rival API in the form of the proprietary Metal. Now, though, Vulkan is available on macOS for the first time through a third-party driver, The Brenwill Workshop's MoltenVK, which has been released under an open-source licence.

'We have been running substantial production loads through the Vulkan tools on Mac, including Dota 2 which is now running faster than the native OpenGL version,' claims Valve's Pierre-Loup Griffais, who has been working with the MoltenVK driver. 'These efforts are aimed toward reducing development and porting costs for any developer supporting multiple platforms.'

Previously a closed driver, MoltenVK has been rereleased under a permissive licence through sponsorship by the Khronos Group. The result is, the Group claims, a major milestone in Vulkan's journey to being a true cross-platform solution: Windows, Linux, Android, and now macOS and iOS support. Coupled with LunarG's software development kit, it's now possible to port and run Vulkan-based software on Apple's platforms.

'Running Vulkan applications on Apple platforms has been the number one request from developers and today’s release of the MoltenVK runtime and LunarG macOS SDK brings that capability to life,' crows Neil Trevett, Nvidia vice-president and the president of the Kronos Group. 'Developers are invited to download the open source Vulkan Portability tools today and provide feedback via Vulkan Ecosystem GitHub Issue. The Vulkan Portability Initiative will continue to strengthen the infrastructure and tooling around bringing Vulkan capabilities to multiple Metal and DX12 platforms - our long-term goal is to enable portable Vulkan code to be executed on any platform that developers care about.'

More information on MoltenVK, which is licensed under the permissive Apache Licence 2.0, is available on the Kronos Group's GitHub repository.

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