Qualcomm Mentions "Vulkan2" & What I Would Suspect Of "Vulkan 2.0"

Written by Michael Larabel in Vulkan on 12 December 2017 at 08:30 PM EST. 25 Comments
During last week's Snapdragon Technology Summit, a few references to "Vulkan2" were dropped... Well, here's the official comment from Khronos on that as well as my thoughts on this hypothetical next version of Vulkan.

Several Phoronix readers have pointed out (e.g.) references to "Vulkan2" in the context of the new Snapdragon 845 SoC announced at this year's Snapdragon Technology Summit. The Snapdragon 845 with Adreno 630 does mention "Vulkan2" support.

The "Vulkan2" reference, can be found in multiple places, including the official Snapdragon 845 mobile platform product brief:

Qualcomm: snapdragon-845-mobile-platform-product-brief.pdf

This 2018 high-end smartphone SoC mentions support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0, Vulkan2, and even DxNext... Hmmm, the first time we're really seeing Vulkan 2 in print.

Khronos' Comment

Of course, seeing these Vulkan2 references are exciting. Over the weekend I reached out to The Khronos Group for comment and I received an official response today. Officially they say, "Qualcomm were expressing support for Vulkan as it evolves and not implying the launch a specific version number or timeline."

Pretty much just the usual PR speak for nothing to announce today. Though with the supposed reference to Vulkan and evolving, at the numerous conferences where talking about Vulkan's future over the last two years, they have all referred to Vulkan's evolution in the form of "Vulkan-Next" or "Vulkan Next" and not "Vulkan2." (Between the time of emailing Khronos and receiving a response, the official link for the 845 product brief was removed from the Qualcomm site that did reference Vulkan2, but you can still find that PDF brief and other Qualcomm Vulkan2 references elsewhere, unknown if that's a coincidence or not.)

Now onto the personal speculation part in closely monitoring Vulkan and the other Khronos specifications since starting Phoronix in 2004:

But... I Would Bet On "Vulkan 2.0" In 2018

Besides Qualcomm's press material for their high-end Snapdragon 845 mentioning "Vulkan2", it's highly probable the next big update to Vulkan will indeed come in 2018 and could be called Vulkan 2.0. I've also heard other unofficial chatter over time and developers have been talking about "Vulkan Next" anyways for quite some time.

February will mark the Vulkan 1.0 specification turning two years old and so it would be safe to bet a big update will likely be out in the next calendar year. Especially with Apple recently having come out with "Metal 2" and the Qualcomm material also mentioning "DxNext." DirectX 12.0 will be three years old next year and while Direct3D 12 has seen some updates along the Windows 10 lifecycle, it's about time where Microsoft usually rolls out a significant update.

Vulkan 1.0 has seen many point releases (as of writing, up to Vulkan 1.0.66!) while we find out now that the next major update to this graphics API could be Vulkan 2.0. A big update isn't too surprising since already since the summer of 2016 they said "Vulkan Next" was in active development.

Khronos generally hasn't done 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, versioning with their other standards, but these days there does seem to be a version race at large and then again with other Khronos APIs we haven't seen 66 point releases on one release stream either. With two years since Vulkan 1.0, I wouldn't be surprised to see them jump to Vulkan 2.0 rather than Vulkan 1.1 (and again with the Qualcomm material indicating as much).

What Could Be In There

Hard details are obviously light surrounding Vulkan 2.0/Next... There's been a heck of a lot of new extensions introduced since Vulkan 1.0 debuted in February 2016. One area we are likely to see advanced with the next major Vulkan update is more of an effort to make it suitable for compute purposes. There's been talk for months about Vulkan and OpenCL converging more in the future. There's also been talk of other OpenCL improvements. So it's probably safe to guess something in that direction would happen for a "Vulkan 2.0" milestone.

Beyond the OpenCL/Vulkan compute convergence, Khronos has been spending a lot of time in recent months figuring out the Vulkan portability initiative to get a subset of Vulkan that would map nicely to Direct3D and Metal. It will be interesting to see if anything in the next Vulkan release increases the portability of it for getting Vulkan running nicer (or make it more compelling) on Windows and any level of macOS support besides MoltenVK.

Another item being discussed in recent months has also been in regards to a low-level graphics API for the web and potentially based on Vulkan. It will be interesting to see if anything in "Vulkan 2.0"/Vulkan-Next makes it more applicable for web use-cases.

There's also been public presentations indicating advanced compute support as well as improved HLSL interoperability as items of interest for Vulkan-Next.

We also know there is work going on with Vulkan in the direction of allowing a Wayland compositor side support to allow for effectively a Vulkan-based Wayland compositor. The Vulkan KHX_external extensions were a step toward this but more is still to be done -- and is said to be worked on internally -- as has been discussed via this GitHub thread.

Another popular topic has been for improving the Vulkan XML format (via this thread and elsewhere) as well as improving the stability of it. Seeing a reworked XML specification is certainly something normally reserved for major updates and not yet another point release.

This is all just speculation about what to expect, but it's likely reasonable to assume there will be improvements in at least a few of these areas. We might as well also toss in the (obvious?) likelihood of further work on lowering overhead and virtual reality (VR) and anything to improve Vulkan compute capabilities for machine learning workloads.

When Would "Vulkan 2.0" Be Released

While 2018 is a reasonable bet for this "Vulkan Next" update, The Khronos Group does have tendencies to publish new specification updates around GDC and SIGGRAPH. GDC 2018 is happening from 19 to 23 March. SIGGRAPH 2018 is happening in Vancouver from 12 to 16 August. Then again, the Vulkan 1.0 release on 16 February 2016 didn't end up being timed with any ongoing event; originally the working group hoped to ship by v1.0 by the end of 2015. Certainly by the end of 2018 I would be expecting the first significant post-1.0 update to Vulkan.

More information on any Vulkan updates as they come along... Share your hopes about what you hope to see out of Vulkan in 2018 with us in the forums.
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Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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