30. Extending Vulkan

New functionality may be added to Vulkan via either new extensions or new versions of the core, or new versions of an extension in some cases.

This chapter describes how Vulkan is versioned, how compatibility is affected between different versions, and compatibility rules that are followed by the Vulkan Working Group.

30.1. Instance and Device Functionality

Commands that enumerate instance properties, or that accept a VkInstance object as a parameter, are considered instance-level functionality. Commands that enumerate physical device properties, or that accept a VkDevice object or any of a device’s child objects as a parameter, are considered device-level functionality.

Note

Applications usually interface to Vulkan using a loader that implements only instance-level functionality, passing device-level functionality to implementations of the full Vulkan API on the system. In some circumstances, as these may be implemented independently, it is possible that the loader and device implementations on a given installation will support different versions. To allow for this and call out when it happens, the Vulkan specification enumerates device and instance level functionality separately - they have independent version queries.

Note

Vulkan 1.0 initially specified new physical device enumeration functionality as instance-level, requiring it to be included in an instance extension. As the capabilities of device-level functionality require discovery via physical device enumeration, this led to the situation where many device extensions required an instance extension as well. To alleviate this extra work, VK_KHR_get_physical_device_properties2 (and subsequently Vulkan 1.1) redefined device-level functionality to include physical device enumeration.

30.2. Core Versions

The Vulkan Specification is regularly updated with bug fixes and clarifications. Occasionally new functionality is added to the core and at some point it is expected that there will be a desire to perform a large, breaking change to the API. In order to indicate to developers how and when these changes are made to the specification, and to provide a way to identify each set of changes, the Vulkan API maintains a version number.

30.2.1. Version Numbers

The Vulkan version number comprises three parts indicating the major, minor and patch version of the Vulkan API Specification.

The major version indicates a significant change in the API, which will encompass a wholly new version of the specification.

The minor version indicates the incorporation of new functionality into the core specification.

The patch version indicates bug fixes, clarifications, and language improvements have been incorporated into the specification.

Compatibility guarantees made about versions of the API sharing any of the same version numbers are documented in Core Versions

The version number is used in several places in the API. In each such use, the version numbers are packed into a 32-bit integer as follows:

  • The major version is a 10-bit integer packed into bits 31-22.

  • The minor version number is a 10-bit integer packed into bits 21-12.

  • The patch version number is a 12-bit integer packed into bits 11-0.

VK_VERSION_MAJOR extracts the API major version number from a packed version number:

#define VK_VERSION_MAJOR(version) ((uint32_t)(version) >> 22)

VK_VERSION_MINOR extracts the API minor version number from a packed version number:

#define VK_VERSION_MINOR(version) (((uint32_t)(version) >> 12) & 0x3ff)

VK_VERSION_PATCH extracts the API patch version number from a packed version number:

#define VK_VERSION_PATCH(version) ((uint32_t)(version) & 0xfff)

VK_MAKE_VERSION constructs an API version number.

#define VK_MAKE_VERSION(major, minor, patch) \
    (((major) << 22) | ((minor) << 12) | (patch))
  • major is the major version number.

  • minor is the minor version number.

  • patch is the patch version number.

VK_API_VERSION_1_0 returns the API version number for Vulkan 1.0.0.

// Vulkan 1.0 version number
#define VK_API_VERSION_1_0 VK_MAKE_VERSION(1, 0, 0)// Patch version should always be set to 0

VK_API_VERSION_1_1 returns the API version number for Vulkan 1.1.0.

// Vulkan 1.1 version number
#define VK_API_VERSION_1_1 VK_MAKE_VERSION(1, 1, 0)// Patch version should always be set to 0

30.2.2. Querying Version Support

The version of instance-level functionality can be queried by calling vkEnumerateInstanceVersion.

The version of device-level functionality can be queried by calling vkGetPhysicalDeviceProperties or vkGetPhysicalDeviceProperties2, and is returned in VkPhysicalDeviceProperties::apiVersion, encoded as described in Version Numbers.

30.3. Layers

When a layer is enabled, it inserts itself into the call chain for Vulkan commands the layer is interested in. Layers can be used for a variety of tasks that extend the base behavior of Vulkan beyond what is required by the specification - such as call logging, tracing, validation, or providing additional extensions.

Note

For example, an implementation is not expected to check that the value of enums used by the application fall within allowed ranges. Instead, a validation layer would do those checks and flag issues. This avoids a performance penalty during production use of the application because those layers would not be enabled in production.

Note

Vulkan layers may wrap object handles (i.e. return a different handle value to the application than that generated by the implementation). This is generally discouraged, as it increases the probability of incompatibilities with new extensions. The validation layers wrap handles in order to track the proper use and destruction of each object. See the “Vulkan Loader Specification and Architecture Overview” document for additional information.

To query the available layers, call:

VkResult vkEnumerateInstanceLayerProperties(
    uint32_t*                                   pPropertyCount,
    VkLayerProperties*                          pProperties);
  • pPropertyCount is a pointer to an integer related to the number of layer properties available or queried, as described below.

  • pProperties is either NULL or a pointer to an array of VkLayerProperties structures.

If pProperties is NULL, then the number of layer properties available is returned in pPropertyCount. Otherwise, pPropertyCount must point to a variable set by the user to the number of elements in the pProperties array, and on return the variable is overwritten with the number of structures actually written to pProperties. If pPropertyCount is less than the number of layer properties available, at most pPropertyCount structures will be written. If pPropertyCount is smaller than the number of layers available, VK_INCOMPLETE will be returned instead of VK_SUCCESS, to indicate that not all the available layer properties were returned.

The list of available layers may change at any time due to actions outside of the Vulkan implementation, so two calls to vkEnumerateInstanceLayerProperties with the same parameters may return different results, or retrieve different pPropertyCount values or pProperties contents. Once an instance has been created, the layers enabled for that instance will continue to be enabled and valid for the lifetime of that instance, even if some of them become unavailable for future instances.

Valid Usage (Implicit)
  • pPropertyCount must be a valid pointer to a uint32_t value

  • If the value referenced by pPropertyCount is not 0, and pProperties is not NULL, pProperties must be a valid pointer to an array of pPropertyCount VkLayerProperties structures

Return Codes
Success
  • VK_SUCCESS

  • VK_INCOMPLETE

Failure
  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_HOST_MEMORY

  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_DEVICE_MEMORY

The VkLayerProperties structure is defined as:

typedef struct VkLayerProperties {
    char        layerName[VK_MAX_EXTENSION_NAME_SIZE];
    uint32_t    specVersion;
    uint32_t    implementationVersion;
    char        description[VK_MAX_DESCRIPTION_SIZE];
} VkLayerProperties;
  • layerName is a null-terminated UTF-8 string specifying the name of the layer. Use this name in the ppEnabledLayerNames array passed in the VkInstanceCreateInfo structure to enable this layer for an instance.

  • specVersion is the Vulkan version the layer was written to, encoded as described in Version Numbers.

  • implementationVersion is the version of this layer. It is an integer, increasing with backward compatible changes.

  • description is a null-terminated UTF-8 string providing additional details that can be used by the application to identify the layer.

To enable a layer, the name of the layer should be added to the ppEnabledLayerNames member of VkInstanceCreateInfo when creating a VkInstance.

Loader implementations may provide mechanisms outside the Vulkan API for enabling specific layers. Layers enabled through such a mechanism are implicitly enabled, while layers enabled by including the layer name in the ppEnabledLayerNames member of VkInstanceCreateInfo are explicitly enabled. Except where otherwise specified, implicitly enabled and explicitly enabled layers differ only in the way they are enabled. Explicitly enabling a layer that is implicitly enabled has no additional effect.

30.3.1. Device Layer Deprecation

Previous versions of this specification distinguished between instance and device layers. Instance layers were only able to intercept commands that operate on VkInstance and VkPhysicalDevice, except they were not able to intercept vkCreateDevice. Device layers were enabled for individual devices when they were created, and could only intercept commands operating on that device or its child objects.

Device-only layers are now deprecated, and this specification no longer distinguishes between instance and device layers. Layers are enabled during instance creation, and are able to intercept all commands operating on that instance or any of its child objects. At the time of deprecation there were no known device-only layers and no compelling reason to create one.

In order to maintain compatibility with implementations released prior to device-layer deprecation, applications should still enumerate and enable device layers. The behavior of vkEnumerateDeviceLayerProperties and valid usage of the ppEnabledLayerNames member of VkDeviceCreateInfo maximizes compatibility with applications written to work with the previous requirements.

To enumerate device layers, call:

VkResult vkEnumerateDeviceLayerProperties(
    VkPhysicalDevice                            physicalDevice,
    uint32_t*                                   pPropertyCount,
    VkLayerProperties*                          pProperties);
  • pPropertyCount is a pointer to an integer related to the number of layer properties available or queried.

  • pProperties is either NULL or a pointer to an array of VkLayerProperties structures.

If pProperties is NULL, then the number of layer properties available is returned in pPropertyCount. Otherwise, pPropertyCount must point to a variable set by the user to the number of elements in the pProperties array, and on return the variable is overwritten with the number of structures actually written to pProperties. If pPropertyCount is less than the number of layer properties available, at most pPropertyCount structures will be written. If pPropertyCount is smaller than the number of layers available, VK_INCOMPLETE will be returned instead of VK_SUCCESS, to indicate that not all the available layer properties were returned.

The list of layers enumerated by vkEnumerateDeviceLayerProperties must be exactly the sequence of layers enabled for the instance. The members of VkLayerProperties for each enumerated layer must be the same as the properties when the layer was enumerated by vkEnumerateInstanceLayerProperties.

Valid Usage (Implicit)
  • physicalDevice must be a valid VkPhysicalDevice handle

  • pPropertyCount must be a valid pointer to a uint32_t value

  • If the value referenced by pPropertyCount is not 0, and pProperties is not NULL, pProperties must be a valid pointer to an array of pPropertyCount VkLayerProperties structures

Return Codes
Success
  • VK_SUCCESS

  • VK_INCOMPLETE

Failure
  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_HOST_MEMORY

  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_DEVICE_MEMORY

The ppEnabledLayerNames and enabledLayerCount members of VkDeviceCreateInfo are deprecated and their values must be ignored by implementations. However, for compatibility, only an empty list of layers or a list that exactly matches the sequence enabled at instance creation time are valid, and validation layers should issue diagnostics for other cases.

Regardless of the enabled layer list provided in VkDeviceCreateInfo, the sequence of layers active for a device will be exactly the sequence of layers enabled when the parent instance was created.

30.4. Extensions

Extensions may define new Vulkan commands, structures, and enumerants. For compilation purposes, the interfaces defined by registered extensions, including new structures and enumerants as well as function pointer types for new commands, are defined in the Khronos-supplied vulkan_core.h together with the core API. However, commands defined by extensions may not be available for static linking - in which case function pointers to these commands should be queried at runtime as described in Command Function Pointers. Extensions may be provided by layers as well as by a Vulkan implementation.

Because extensions may extend or change the behavior of the Vulkan API, extension authors should add support for their extensions to the Khronos validation layers. This is especially important for new commands whose parameters have been wrapped by the validation layers. See the “Vulkan Loader Specification and Architecture Overview” document for additional information.

Note

Valid Usage sections for individual commands and structures do not currently contain which extensions have to be enabled in order to make their use valid, although it might do so in the future. It is defined only in the Valid Usage for Extensions section.

30.4.1. Instance Extensions

Instance extensions add new instance-level functionality to the API, outside of the core specification.

To query the available instance extensions, call:

VkResult vkEnumerateInstanceExtensionProperties(
    const char*                                 pLayerName,
    uint32_t*                                   pPropertyCount,
    VkExtensionProperties*                      pProperties);
  • pLayerName is either NULL or a pointer to a null-terminated UTF-8 string naming the layer to retrieve extensions from.

  • pPropertyCount is a pointer to an integer related to the number of extension properties available or queried, as described below.

  • pProperties is either NULL or a pointer to an array of VkExtensionProperties structures.

When pLayerName parameter is NULL, only extensions provided by the Vulkan implementation or by implicitly enabled layers are returned. When pLayerName is the name of a layer, the instance extensions provided by that layer are returned.

If pProperties is NULL, then the number of extensions properties available is returned in pPropertyCount. Otherwise, pPropertyCount must point to a variable set by the user to the number of elements in the pProperties array, and on return the variable is overwritten with the number of structures actually written to pProperties. If pPropertyCount is less than the number of extension properties available, at most pPropertyCount structures will be written. If pPropertyCount is smaller than the number of extensions available, VK_INCOMPLETE will be returned instead of VK_SUCCESS, to indicate that not all the available properties were returned.

Because the list of available layers may change externally between calls to vkEnumerateInstanceExtensionProperties, two calls may retrieve different results if a pLayerName is available in one call but not in another. The extensions supported by a layer may also change between two calls, e.g. if the layer implementation is replaced by a different version between those calls.

Implementations must not advertise any pair of extensions that cannot be enabled together due to behavioral differences, or any extension that cannot be enabled against the advertised version.

Valid Usage (Implicit)
  • If pLayerName is not NULL, pLayerName must be a null-terminated UTF-8 string

  • pPropertyCount must be a valid pointer to a uint32_t value

  • If the value referenced by pPropertyCount is not 0, and pProperties is not NULL, pProperties must be a valid pointer to an array of pPropertyCount VkExtensionProperties structures

Return Codes
Success
  • VK_SUCCESS

  • VK_INCOMPLETE

Failure
  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_HOST_MEMORY

  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_DEVICE_MEMORY

  • VK_ERROR_LAYER_NOT_PRESENT

To enable an instance extension, the name of the extension should be added to the ppEnabledExtensionNames member of VkInstanceCreateInfo when creating a VkInstance.

Note

Enabling an extension does not change behavior of functionality exposed by the core Vulkan API or any other extension, other than making valid the use of the commands, enums and structures defined by that extension.

30.4.2. Device Extensions

Device extensions add new device-level functionality to the API, outside of the core specification.

To query the extensions available to a given physical device, call:

VkResult vkEnumerateDeviceExtensionProperties(
    VkPhysicalDevice                            physicalDevice,
    const char*                                 pLayerName,
    uint32_t*                                   pPropertyCount,
    VkExtensionProperties*                      pProperties);
  • physicalDevice is the physical device that will be queried.

  • pLayerName is either NULL or a pointer to a null-terminated UTF-8 string naming the layer to retrieve extensions from.

  • pPropertyCount is a pointer to an integer related to the number of extension properties available or queried, and is treated in the same fashion as the vkEnumerateInstanceExtensionProperties::pPropertyCount parameter.

  • pProperties is either NULL or a pointer to an array of VkExtensionProperties structures.

When pLayerName parameter is NULL, only extensions provided by the Vulkan implementation or by implicitly enabled layers are returned. When pLayerName is the name of a layer, the device extensions provided by that layer are returned.

Implementations must not advertise any pair of extensions that cannot be enabled together due to behavioral differences, or any extension that cannot be enabled against the advertised version.

Valid Usage (Implicit)
  • physicalDevice must be a valid VkPhysicalDevice handle

  • If pLayerName is not NULL, pLayerName must be a null-terminated UTF-8 string

  • pPropertyCount must be a valid pointer to a uint32_t value

  • If the value referenced by pPropertyCount is not 0, and pProperties is not NULL, pProperties must be a valid pointer to an array of pPropertyCount VkExtensionProperties structures

Return Codes
Success
  • VK_SUCCESS

  • VK_INCOMPLETE

Failure
  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_HOST_MEMORY

  • VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_DEVICE_MEMORY

  • VK_ERROR_LAYER_NOT_PRESENT

The VkExtensionProperties structure is defined as:

typedef struct VkExtensionProperties {
    char        extensionName[VK_MAX_EXTENSION_NAME_SIZE];
    uint32_t    specVersion;
} VkExtensionProperties;
  • extensionName is a null-terminated string specifying the name of the extension.

  • specVersion is the version of this extension. It is an integer, incremented with backward compatible changes.

30.5. Extension Dependencies

Some extensions are dependent on other extensions to function. To enable extensions with dependencies, such required extensions must also be enabled through the same API mechanisms when creating an instance with vkCreateInstance or a device with vkCreateDevice. Each extension which has such dependencies documents them in the appendix summarizing that extension.

If an extension is supported (as queried by vkEnumerateInstanceExtensionProperties or vkEnumerateDeviceExtensionProperties), then required extensions of that extension must also be supported for the same instance or physical device.

Any device extension that has an instance extension dependency that is not enabled by vkCreateInstance is considered to be unsupported, hence it must not be returned by vkEnumerateDeviceExtensionProperties for any VkPhysicalDevice child of the instance.

30.6. Compatibility Guarantees (Informative)

This section is marked as informal as there is no binding responsibility on implementations of the Vulkan API - these guarantees are however a contract between the Vulkan Working Group and developers using this Specification.

30.6.1. Core Versions

Each of the major, minor, and patch versions of the Vulkan specification provide different compatibility guarantees.

Patch Versions

A difference in the patch version indicates that a set of bug fixes or clarifications have been made to the Specification. Informative enums returned by Vulkan commands that will not affect the runtime behavior of a valid application may be added in a patch version (e.g. VkVendorId).

The specification’s patch version is strictly increasing for a given major version of the specification; any change to a specification as described above will result in the patch version being increased by 1. Patch versions are applied to all minor versions, even if a given minor version is not affected by the provoking change.

Specifications with different patch versions but the same major and minor version are fully compatible with each other - such that a valid application written against one will work with an implementation of another.

Note

If a patch version includes a bug fix or clarification that could have a significant impact on developer expectations, these will be highlighted in the change log. Generally the Vulkan Working Group tries to avoid these kinds of changes, instead fixing them in either an extension or core version.

Minor Versions

Changes in the minor version of the specification indicate that new functionality has been added to the core specification. This will usually include new interfaces in the header, and may also include behavior changes and bug fixes. Core functionality may be deprecated in a minor version, but will not be obsoleted or removed.

The specification’s minor version is strictly increasing for a given major version of the specification; any change to a specification as described above will result in the minor version being increased by 1. Changes that can be accomodated in a patch version will not increase the minor version.

Specifications with a lower minor version are backwards compatible with an implementation of a specification with a higher minor version for core functionality and extensions issued with the KHR vendor tag. Vendor and multi-vendor extensions are not guaranteed to remain functional across minor versions, though in general they are with few exceptions - see Obsoletion for more information.

Major Versions

A difference in the major version of specifications indicates a large set of changes which will likely include interface changes, behavioral changes, removal of deprecated functionality, and the modification, addition, or replacement of other functionality.

The specification’s major version is monotonically increasing; any change to the specification as described above will result in the major version being increased. Changes that can be accomodated in a patch or minor version will not increase the major version.

The Vulkan Working Group intends to only issue a new major version of the Specification in order to realise significant improvements to the Vulkan API that will necessarily require breaking compatibility.

A new major version will likely include a wholly new version of the specification to be issued - which could include an overhaul of the versioning semantics for the minor and patch versions. The patch and minor versions of a specification are therefore not meaningful across major versions. If a major version of the specification includes similar versioning semantics, it is expected that the the patch and minor version will be reset to 0 for that major version.

30.6.2. Extensions

A KHR extension must be able to be enabled alongside any other KHR extension, and for any minor or patch version of the core Specification beyond the minimum version it requires. A multi-vendor extension should be able to be enabled alongside any KHR extension or other multi-vendor extension, and for any minor or patch version of the core Specification beyond the minimum version it requires. A vendor extension should be able to be enabled alongside any KHR extension, multi-vendor extension, or other vendor extension from the same vendor, and for any minor or patch version of the core Specification beyond the minimum version it requires. A vendor extension may be able to be enabled alongside vendor extensions from another vendor.

The one other exception to this is if a vendor or multi-vendor extension is made obsolete by either a core version or another extension, which will be highlighted in the extension appendix.

Promotion

Extensions, or features of an extension, may be promoted to a new core version of the API, or a newer extension which an equal or greater number of implementors are in favour of.

When extension functionality is promoted, minor changes may be introduced, limited to the following:

  • Naming

  • Non-intrusive parameters changes

  • Feature advertisement/enablement

  • Combining structure parameters into larger structures

  • Author ID suffixes changed or removed

Note

If extension functionality is promoted, there is no guarantee of direct compatibility, however it should require little effort to port code from the original feature to the promoted one.

The Vulkan Working Group endeavours to ensure that larger changes are marked as either deprecated or obsoleted as appropriate, and can do so retroactively if necessary.

Extensions that are promoted are listed as being promoted in their extension appendices, with reference to where they were promoted to.

Deprecation

Extensions may be marked as deprecated when the intended use cases either become irrelevant or can be solved in other ways. Generally, a new feature will become available to solve the use case in another extension or core version of the API, but it is not guaranteed.

Note

Features that are intended to replace deprecated functionality have no guarantees of compatibility, and applications may require drastic modification in order to make use of the new features.

Extensions that are deprecated are listed as being deprecated in their extension appendices, with an explanation of the deprecation and any features that are relevant.

Obsoletion

Occasionally, an extension will be marked as obsolete if a new version of the core API or a new extension is fundamentally incompatible with it. An obsoleted extension must not be used with the extension or core version that obsoleted it.

Extensions that are obsoleted are listed as being obsoleted in their extension appendices, with reference to what they were obsoleted by.

Aliases

When an extension is promoted or deprecated by a newer feature, some or all of its functionality may be replicated into the newer feature. Rather than duplication of all the documentation and definitions, the specification instead identifies the identical commands and types as aliases of one another. Each alias is mentioned together with the definition it aliases, with the older aliases marked as “equivalents”. Each alias of the same command has identical behavior, and each alias of the same type has identical meaning - they can be used interchangably in an application with no compatibility issues.

Note

For promoted types, the aliased extension type is semantically identical to the new core type. The C99 headers simply typedef the older aliases to the promoted types.

For promoted command aliases, however, there are two separate entry point definitions, due to the fact that the C99 ABI has no way to alias command definitions without resorting to macros. Calling via either entry point definition will produce identical behavior within the bounds of the specification, and should still invoke the same entry point in the implementation. Debug tools may use separate entry points with different debug behavior; to write the appropriate command name to an output log, for instance.