To the implementor, OpenGL is a set of commands that affect the operation of graphics hardware. If the hardware consists only of an addressable framebuffer, then OpenGL must be implemented almost entirely on the host CPU. More typically, the graphics hardware may comprise varying degrees of graphics acceleration, from a raster subsystem capable of rendering two-dimensional lines and polygons to sophisticated floating-point processors capable of transforming and computing on geometric data. The OpenGL implementor's task is to provide the CPU software interface while dividing the work for each OpenGL command between the CPU and the graphics hardware. This division must be tailored to the available graphics hardware to obtain optimum performance in carrying out OpenGL calls.
OpenGL maintains a considerable amount of state information. This state controls how objects are drawn into the framebuffer. Some of this state is directly available to the user: he or she can make calls to obtain its value. Some of it, however, is visible only by the effect it has on what is drawn. One of the main goals of this specification is to make OpenGL state information explicit, to elucidate how it changes, and to indicate what its effects are.