Difference Between OpenGL and OpenCL

Difference Between OpenGL and OpenCL

Open Graphics Library and Open Computing Language or OpenGL and OpenCL are open-source application programming interfaces or APIs that have become popular among software developers, hardware designers and manufacturers, and power users of computers because of their open standard and cross-platform compatibility. These two compete against proprietary alternatives such as CUDA from Nvidia, DirectX from Microsoft, Metal from Apple, and other free and permissive counterparts like Vulkan. This article explains the difference between OpenGL and OpenCL in terms of their characteristics and specific applications.

Explaining Open GL vs Open CL: What is the Difference?

1. Origin and Current Status

OpenGL was introduced by Silicon Graphics in 1992 as an open-source and cross-platform standard and alternative to its proprietary graphics API called IRIS GL. Further development was handled by the OpenGL Architecture Review Board before its control was transferred to the Khronos Group in 2006. Active development stopped in 2016 in favor of Vulkan.

Apple was the initial developer of OpenCL. The company made an initial proposal together with other tech companies which included AMD, Intel, IBM, Nvidia, and Qualcomm. This proposal was submitted to the Khronos Group for review and it was formally released to the public in 2009. It remains under active development under an open-standard model.

2. General Purpose and Focus

The main difference between OpenGL and OpenCL centers on their general purpose. The former is a graphics API and the latter is a compute API. OpenGL is specifically a cross-language and cross-platform API for rendering 2D and 3D vector graphics. This means that it is used to interface with a graphics processor to enable hardware-accelerated graphics rendering.

OpenCL is a compute API that provides a standard interface for enabling parallel computing using task-based and data-based parallelism. Hence, in simpler terms, it is an API used to enable general-purpose computing across diverse processors like graphics processors. This allows developers to develop programs that can tap into the processing capabilities of coprocessors.

3. Processors and Platforms

Remember that OpenGL is a graphics API developed to enable hardware-accelerated 2D and 3D graphics rendering. It allows developers to maximize the capabilities of graphics processors and offload work from the central processor. OpenCL is a compute API that serves as a framework for writing programs that can be executed across different types of processors.

Another difference between OpenGL and OpenCL is platform support. The former is supported by Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS or iPadOS, and Android. It runs on a range of integrated and discrete graphics processors from AMD, Nvidia, and Intel. The latter is supported by Windows, macOS, and Linux and runs on most processors but is not as universal as the former.

4. Languages and Applications

Both OpenGL and OpenCL support C and C++ programming languages. The two do not have direct support for other programming languages like Java and Phyton but allow these languages to be used through wrapper libraries or extensions. The former also uses a shader language called GLSL and the latter uses a subset of the C language called OpenCL C for writing kernels.

It is important to reiterate the fact that the OpenGL is for graphics rendering. It is used in the development of video games and other graphics-intensive programs such as computer and visualization applications. OpenCL is used for image and video editing, scientific computing, cryptocurrency mining, and running artificial intelligence workloads.

In a Nutshell: Difference Between OpenGL and OpenCL

The main and most important difference between OpenGL and OpenCL is their purpose. The former is a graphics API for hardware-accelerated graphics rendering. It can be used by developers to write programs or applications that can maximize the full potential of a graphics processor. The latter is a compute API intended to enable general-purpose computing and parallel processing across different types of processors. It can be used by developers and power users to develop or run programs that can exploit the advantages of all involved processors.