The ArcGIS Runtime, OpenGL and Metal

06-18-2018 10:39 AM
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At their annual developer's conference a couple of weeks ago, Apple announced that they will be deprecating OpenGL and OpenGL ES with the releases of macOS 10.14 and iOS 12 later this year. What does this mean for the ArcGIS Runtime SDKs, which use these technologies, and for your apps built on top of them?

Short version: just carry on as normal. Work is already underway at Esri to adopt Metal well in advance of Apple removing OpenGL and OpenGL ES. As a Runtime developer, you'll simply download an updated version of the Runtime SDK.

For the longer version, read on.

Runtime Engineering

The ArcGIS Runtime engineering team here at Esri began planning for Metal support earlier this year as part of a broader review of Runtime GPU performance and capabilities. Once complete this work will dispense with the need for OpenGL on iOS and macOS.

That said, it's also important to understand what Apple mean by "deprecation"…

Apple Deprecations

When Apple deprecates a technology, it's a warning that the technology will be removed in "some future version of the OS" (see Apple's notices here for OpenGL and here for OpenGL ES). That means it will work until at least Fall 2019 when iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 will be released.

But in Apple's own words, they take it even further:

Deprecated APIs typically remain present and usable in the system for a reasonable time past the release in which they were deprecated.

This means it's quite possible we'll see OpenGL and OpenGL ES stick around through iOS 13 and macOS 10.15, taking us to Fall 2020. Although Apple could always opt for a more aggressive timeline, experience tells us that's unlikely.

Update from WWDC 2019: As predicted, Apple will continue to include OpenGL in iOS 13. We continue to make great progress on Metal implementation in Runtime and will keep you posted.

Cross Platform ArcGIS Runtimes

What about the ArcGIS Runtime SDKs that target iOS and macOS as part of a cross-platform strategy? Well, thanks to the encapsulation of functionality in the common Runtime core, all of the above considerations and timelines also apply to the ArcGIS Runtime SDK for .NET (Xamarin.iOS) and to the ArcGIS Runtime SDK for Qt.

Your Apps

Once Esri releases a version of the Runtime SDK that includes support for Metal, you should plan on updating the Runtime SDK used by your apps before Apple removes support for OpenGL.

About the Author
Product Manager for the ArcGIS Runtime SDKs, focusing on the Runtime SDK for iOS. My background is in computer science, but my professional career has always been GIS, in particular Utilities.