The next-generation version of OpenGL is based on AMD's proprietary Mantle API. It has been designed as a cross-platform rival to Microsoft’s Windows-only DirectX 12. Vulkan promises huge performance gains in 3D applications by giving developers low-level control of graphics and CPU hardware, much in the same way that games consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One do.
The new API allows developers to manage memory and commands themselves, rather than leave it up to the driver, as well as allow the GPU to process commands in parallel, amongst other improvements.
Multiple Vulkan 1.0 hardware drivers and SDKs are available immediately for developers to begin creating Vulkan applications and engines.
AMD is releasing a beta driver for its Radeon graphics cards, which enables the use of the new API on PC. Rival Nvidia has also released its Vulkan beta driver for download.
Intel is also supporting this new technology by providing industry-certified drivers for multiple generations of Intel graphics platforms, all readily available to developers and end users. These platforms include 5th Generation Intel Core Processors and 6th Generation Intel Core Processors.
Apple introduced its Metal API with iOS 8, which again focused on reduced API overhead. But unlike both of those APIs, Vulkan is essentially platform agnostic, supporting Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and Linux.