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  • Yiwei Zhang, Google

  • Jesse Hall, Google


This device extension allows registration of device memory event callbacks upon device creation, so that applications or middleware can obtain detailed information about memory usage and how memory is associated with Vulkan objects. This extension exposes the actual underlying device memory usage, including allocations that are not normally visible to the application, such as memory consumed by vkCreateGraphicsPipelines. It is intended primarily for use by debug tooling rather than for production applications.

New Function Pointers

New Enum Constants



  • Extending VkStructureType:





1) Should this be better expressed as an extension to VK_EXT_debug_utils and its general purpose messenger construct?

RESOLVED: No. The intended lifecycle is quite different. We want to make this extension tied to the device’s lifecycle. Each ICD just handles its own implementation of this extension, and this extension will only be directly exposed from the ICD. So we can avoid the extra implementation complexity used to accommodate the flexibility of VK_EXT_debug_utils extension.

2) Can we extend and use the existing internal allocation callbacks instead of adding the new callback structure in this extension?

RESOLVED: No. Our memory reporting layer that combines this information with other memory info it collects directly (e.g. bindings of resources to VkDeviceMemory) would have to intercept all entry points that take a VkAllocationCallbacks parameter and inject its own pfnInternalAllocation and pfnInternalFree. That’s maybe doable for the extensions we know about, but not for ones we don’t. The proposal would work fine in the face of most unknown extensions. But even for ones we know about, since apps can provide a different set of callbacks and userdata and those can be retained by the driver and used later (esp. for pool object, but not just those), we’d have to dynamically allocate the interception trampoline every time. That’s getting to be an unreasonably large amount of complexity and (possibly) overhead.

We’re interested in both alloc/free and import/unimport. The latter is fairly important for tracking (and avoiding double-counting) of swapchain images (still true with "native swapchains" based on external memory) and media/camera interop. Though we might be able to handle this with additional VkInternalAllocationType values, for import/export we do want to be able to tie this to the external resource, which is one thing that the memoryObjectId is for.

The internal alloc/free callbacks are not extensible except via new VkInternalAllocationType values. The VkDeviceMemoryReportCallbackDataEXT in this extension is extensible. That was deliberate: there’s a real possibility we’ll want to get extra information in the future. As one example, currently this reports only physical allocations, but we believe there are interesting cases for tracking how populated that VA region is.

The callbacks are clearly specified as only callable within the context of a call from the app into Vulkan. We believe there are some cases where drivers can allocate device memory asynchronously. This was one of the sticky issues that derailed the internal device memory allocation reporting design (which is essentially what this extension is trying to do) leading up to 1.0.

VkAllocationCallbacks is described in a section called "Host memory" and the intro to it is very explicitly about host memory. The other callbacks are all inherently about host memory. But this extension is very focused on device memory.

3) Should the callback be reporting which heap is used?

RESOLVED: Yes. It’s important for non-UMA systems to have all the device memory allocations attributed to the corresponding device memory heaps. For internally-allocated device memory, heapIndex will always correspond to an advertised heap, rather than having a magic value indicating a non-advertised heap. Drivers can advertise heaps that don’t have any corresponding memory types if they need to.

4) Should we use an array of callback for the layers to intercept instead of chaining multiple of the VkDeviceDeviceMemoryReportCreateInfoEXT structures in the pNext of VkDeviceCreateInfo?

RESOLVED No. The pointer to the VkDeviceDeviceMemoryReportCreateInfoEXT structure itself is const and you can’t just cast it away. Thus we can’t update the callback array inside the structure. In addition, we can’t drop this pNext chain either, so making a copy of this whole structure doesn’t work either.

5) Should we track bulk allocations shared among multiple objects?

RESOLVED No. Take the shader heap as an example. Some implementations will let multiple VkPipeline objects share the same shader heap. We are not asking the implementation to report VK_OBJECT_TYPE_PIPELINE along with a VK_NULL_HANDLE for this bulk allocation. Instead, this bulk allocation is considered as a layer below what this extension is interested in. Later, when the actual VkPipeline objects are created by suballocating from the bulk allocation, we ask the implementation to report the valid handles of the VkPipeline objects along with the actual suballocated sizes and different memoryObjectId.

6) Can we require the callbacks to be always called in the same thread with the Vulkan commands?

RESOLVED No. Some implementations might choose to multiplex work from multiple application threads into a single backend thread and perform JIT allocations as a part of that flow. Since this behavior is theoretically legit, we can’t require the callbacks to be always called in the same thread with the Vulkan commands, and the note is to remind the applications to handle this case properly.

7) Should we add an additional "allocation failed" event type with things like size and heap index reported?

RESOLVED Yes. This fits in well with the callback infrastructure added in this extension, and implementation touches the same code and has the same overheads as the rest of the extension. It could help debugging things like getting an VK_ERROR_OUT_OF_HOST_MEMORY error when ending a command buffer. Right now the allocation failure could have happened anywhere during recording, and a callback would be really useful to understand where and why.

Version History

  • Revision 1, 2020-08-26 (Yiwei Zhang)

    • Initial version

  • Revision 2, 2021-01-06 (Yiwei Zhang)

    • Minor description update

See Also

Document Notes

For more information, see the Vulkan Specification

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