The objective of the ‘oneAPI’ Level-Zero Application Programming Interface (API) is to provide direct-to-metal interfaces to offload accelerator devices. Its programming interface can be tailored to any device needs and can be adapted to support broader set of languages features such as function pointers, virtual functions, unified memory, and I/O capabilities.


Most applications should not require the additional control provided by the Level-Zero API. The Level-Zero API is intended for providing explicit controls needed by higher-level runtime APIs and libraries.

While initially influenced by other low-level APIs, such as OpenCL and Vulkan, the Level-Zero APIs are designed to evolve independently. While initially influenced by GPU architecture, the Level-Zero APIs are designed to be supportable across different compute device architectures, such as FPGAs and other types of accelerator architectures.


The Level-Zero core APIs provide the lowest-level, fine-grain and most explicit control over:

  • Device Discovery and Partitioning

  • Memory Allocation, Visibility and Caching

  • Kernel Execution and Scheduling

  • Peer-to-Peer Communication

  • Inter-Process Sharing

See the Core Programming Guide for more details.


The Level-Zero tool APIs provide low-level access to device capabilities in order to support both direct application use and 3rd-party tools:

  • Metrics Discovery and Reporting

  • Kernel Profiling, Instrumentation and Debug

See the Tools Programming Guide for more details.

System Management

The Level-Zero Sysman APIs provide in-band access to the following features for each accelerator device:

  • Query the performance, power and health of accelerator resources

  • Control the performance and power profile of accelerator resources

  • Maintenance facilities such as performing hardware diagnostics, updating firmware or resetting the device

By default, only administrator users have permissions to perform control operations on resources. Most queries are available to any user with the exception of those that could be used for side-channel attacks. The systems administrator can tighten/relax the default permissions.

See the Sysman Programming Guide for more details.


The following section provides fundamentals of the API design. For more detailed information, refer to the programming guides and detailed specification pages.

Header files can be found at:


This specification uses key words based on RFC2119 to indicate requirement level. In particular, the following words are used to describe the actions of an implementation of this specification:

  • May - the word may, or the adjective optional, mean that conforming implementations are permitted to, but need not behave as described.

  • Should - the word should, or the adjective recommended, mean that there could be reasons for an implementations to deviate from the behavior described, but that such deviation should be avoided.

  • Must - the word must, or the term required or shall, mean that the behavior described is an absolute requirement of the specification.

Naming Convention

The following naming conventions must be followed:

  • All functions must be prefixed with ze

  • All functions must use camel case zeObjectAction convention

  • All macros must use all caps ZE_NAME convention

  • All structures, enumerations and other types must follow ze_name_t snake case convention

  • All structure members and function parameters must use camel case convention

  • All enumerator values must use all caps ZE_ENUM_ETOR_NAME convention

  • All handle types must end with handle_t

  • All descriptor structures must end with desc_t

  • All property structures must end with properties_t

  • All flag enumerations must end with flags_t

The following coding conventions must be followed:

  • All descriptor structures must be derived from :ref:`ze-base-desc-t`

  • All property structures must be derived from :ref:`ze-base-properties-t`

  • All function input parameters must precede output parameters

  • All functions must return ze_result_t


There are multiple versions that should be used by the application to determine compatibility:

API Version - this is the version of the API supported by the device.

  • This is typically used to determine if the device supports the minimum set of APIs required by the application

  • There is a single 32-bit value that represents an entire collection of APIs

  • The value is encoded with 16-bit Major and 16-bit Minor parts

  • Major version increment consist of modified functionality, including deprecate features, and may break backwards-compatibility

  • Minor version increment consist of additional functionality, including promoted extensions, and must retain backwards-compatibility

  • The value is determined from calling zeDriverGetApiVersion

  • The value returned will be the minimum of the ze_api_version_t supported by the device and known by the driver

Driver Version - this is the version of the driver installed in the system.

  • This is typically used to mitigate driver implementation issues for a feature

  • The value encoding is vendor-specific but must be monotonically increasing

  • The value is determined from calling zeDriverGetProperties

Error Handling

The following design philosophies are adopted in order to reduce Host-side overhead:

  • By default, the driver implementation may not perform parameter validation of any kind

    • This should be handled by validation layer(s)

  • By default, neither the driver nor device provide may provide any protection against the following:

    • Invalid API programming

    • Invalid function arguments

    • Function infinite loops or recursions

    • Synchronization primitive deadlocks

    • Non-visible memory access by the Host or device

    • Non-resident memory access by the device

  • The driver implementation is not required to perform API validation of any kind

    • The driver should ensure well-behaved applications are not burdened with the overhead needed for non-behaving applications

    • Unless otherwise specified, the driver behavior is undefined when APIs are improperly used

    • For debug purposes, API validation can be enabled via the loader’s validation layer(s)

  • All API functions return ze_result_t

    • This enumeration contains error codes for the Level-Zero APIs and validation layers

    • This allows for a consistent pattern on the application side for catching errors; especially when validation layer(s) are enabled

Multithreading and Concurrency

The following design philosophies are adopted in order to maximize Host thread concurrency:

  • APIs are free-threaded when the driver’s object handle is different.

    • the driver should avoid thread-locks for these API calls

  • APIs are not thread-safe when the driver’s object handle is the same, except when explicitly noted.

    • the application must ensure multiple threads do not enter an API when the handle is the same

  • APIs are not thread-safe with other APIs that use the same driver’s object handle

    • the application must ensure multiple threads do not enter these APIs when the handle is the same

  • APIs do not support reference counting of handles.

    • the application must track ownership and explicitly free handles and memory

    • the application must ensure that all driver objects and memory are no longer in-use by the device before freeing; otherwise the Host or device may fault

    • no implicit garabage collection is supported by the driver

In general, the API is designed to be free-threaded rather than thread-safe. This provides multithreaded applications with complete control over both threading and locks. This also eliminates unnecessary driver overhead for single threaded applications and/or very low latency usages.

The exception to this rule is that all memory allocation APIs are thread-safe since they allocate from a single global memory pool. If an application needs lock-free memory allocation, then it could allocate a per-thread pool and implement its own sub-allocator.

An application is in direct control over all Host thread creation and usage. The driver should never implicitly create threads. If there is a need for an implementation to use a background thread, then that thread should be created and provided by the application.

Each API function must document details on the multithreading requirements for that call.

The primary usage-model enabled by these rules is:

  • multiple, simultaneous threads may operate on independent driver objects with no implicit thread-locks

  • driver object handles may be passed between and used by multiple threads with no implicit thread-locks

Application Binary Interface

The Level-Zero C APIs are provided to applications by a shared import library. C/C++ applications must include “ze_api.h” and link with “ze_api.lib”. The Level-Zero C Device-Driver Interfaces (DDIs) are provided to the import library by the shared loader and driver libraries. C/C++ loaders and drivers must include “ze_ddi.h”.

The implementation of these libraries must use the default Application Binary Interface (ABI) of the standard C compiler for the platform. An ABI in this context means the size, alignment, and layout of C data types; the procedure calling convention; and the naming convention for shared library symbols corresponding to C functions. The ABI is backward-compatible for API minor version increments such as adding new functions, appending new enumerators, and using reserved bits in bitfields. ABI is not guaranteed to be backward-compatible for API major version increments such as modifying existing function signatures and structures, removing functions and structures, etc.

On platforms where Level-Zero is provided as a shared library, library symbols beginning with “ze”, “zet” or “zes” and followed by a digit or uppercase letter are reserved for use by the implementation. Applications which use Level-Zero must not provide definitions of these symbols. This allows the Level-Zero shared library to be updated with additional symbols for new API versions or extensions without causing symbol conflicts with existing applications.