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Today’s 3D API landscape is fragmented. For developers wishing to use the new generation of explicit 3D APIs there is no single API that runs on all desktop and mobile systems.
One possible path forward to help resolve this dilemma is to define a portability solution that enables rendering code to be written and run, at close to full efficiency, over Vulkan®, DX12 and Metal-based systems. Such a solution would need to address differences between both rendering APIs and shading languages.
A portable API definition could evolve from an analysis of the three existing explicit APIs to identify the intersection of common functionality that can be efficiently run over the native API present on any platform. Early discussions at Khronos indicate that this could be a usable API surface, lacking only the more esoteric performance machinery of the underlying APIs – which could be a worthwhile tradeoff for portability, while also resulting in an API that is easier to learn and use.
There have also been significant advances in the evolution and convergence of shading languages in recent years. Khronos has the defined SPIR-V™ intermediate language that complements LLVM by defining an open representation that natively expresses graphics and parallel computation constructs. Multiple open source tools enable the compilation of the GLSL, HLSL and Metal Shading Languages to SPIR-V. There are also cross–translation tools to convert between various intermediate formats and SPIR-V. A portability solution could leverage and catalyze further developments in this open source ecosystem so developers can use their choice of shading language while enjoying deployment flexibility.
Khronos brings together the world’s leaders in GPU API design under a proven collaborative framework. Additionally, Khronos has the organizational flexibility to establish multiple working groups. A 3D Portability working group could cooperate with the SPIR-V working group to coordinate the evolution and development of open sourced shading language portability solutions, and take requirements from the needs of the next generation WebGL API for GPU graphics and compute acceleration.
The information above represents initial discussions within Khronos. Final details of any finalized specifications and solutions may differ from the directions discussed here.
Fast-paced work on detailed proposals and designs will start after the current exploratory phase to define the standard’s scope and key objectives. The work has just started – this is your chance to influence its direction!