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Foreign Function Interface API

As of Deno 1.13 and later, the FFI (foreign function interface) API allows users to call libraries written in native languages that support the C ABIs (C/C++, Rust, Zig, etc.) using Deno.dlopen.

Usage

Here's an example showing how to call a Rust function from Deno:

// add.rs
#[no_mangle]
pub extern "C" fn add(a: isize, b: isize) -> isize {
    a + b
}

Compile it to a C dynamic library (libadd.so on Linux):

rustc --crate-type cdylib add.rs

In C you can write it as:

// add.c
int add(int a, int b) {
  return a + b;
}

And compile it:

// unix
cc -c -o add.o add.c
cc -shared -W -o libadd.so add.o
// Windows
cl /LD add.c /link /EXPORT:add

Calling the library from Deno:

// ffi.ts

// Determine library extension based on
// your OS.
let libSuffix = "";
switch (Deno.build.os) {
  case "windows":
    libSuffix = "dll";
    break;
  case "darwin":
    libSuffix = "dylib";
    break;
  default:
    libSuffix = "so";
    break;
}

const libName = `./libadd.${libSuffix}`;
// Open library and define exported symbols
const dylib = Deno.dlopen(
  libName,
  {
    "add": { parameters: ["isize", "isize"], result: "isize" },
  } as const,
);

// Call the symbol `add`
const result = dylib.symbols.add(35, 34); // 69

console.log(`Result from external addition of 35 and 34: ${result}`);

Run with --allow-ffi and --unstable flag:

deno run --allow-ffi --unstable ffi.ts

Non-blocking FFI

There are many use cases where users might want to run CPU-bound FFI functions in the background without blocking other tasks on the main thread.

As of Deno 1.15, symbols can be marked nonblocking in Deno.dlopen. These function calls will run on a dedicated blocking thread and will return a Promise resolving to the desired result.

Example of executing expensive FFI calls with Deno:

// sleep.c
#ifdef _WIN32
#include <Windows.h>
#else
#include <time.h>
#endif

int sleep(unsigned int ms) {
  #ifdef _WIN32
  Sleep(ms);
  #else
  struct timespec ts;
  ts.tv_sec = ms / 1000;
  ts.tv_nsec = (ms % 1000) * 1000000;
  nanosleep(&ts, NULL);
  #endif
}

Calling it from Deno:

// nonblocking_ffi.ts
const library = Deno.dlopen(
  "./sleep.so",
  {
    sleep: {
      parameters: ["usize"],
      result: "void",
      nonblocking: true,
    },
  } as const,
);

library.symbols.sleep(500).then(() => console.log("After"));
console.log("Before");

Result:

$ deno run --allow-ffi --unstable unblocking_ffi.ts
Before
After

Callbacks

Deno FFI API supports creating C callbacks from JavaScript functions for calling back into Deno from dynamic libraries. An example of how callbacks are created and used is as follows:

// callback_ffi.ts
const library = Deno.dlopen(
  "./callback.so",
  {
    set_status_callback: {
      parameters: ["function"],
      result: "void",
    },
    start_long_operation: {
      parameters: [],
      result: "void",
    },
    check_status: {
      parameters: [],
      result: "void",
    },
  } as const,
);

const callback = new Deno.UnsafeCallback(
  {
    parameters: ["u8"],
    result: "void",
  } as const,
  (success: number) => {},
);

// Pass the callback pointer to dynamic library
library.symbols.set_status_callback(callback.pointer);
// Start some long operation that does not block the thread
library.symbols.start_long_operation();

// Later, trigger the library to check if the operation is done.
// If it is, this call will trigger the callback.
library.symbols.check_status();

If an UnsafeCallback's callback function throws an error, the error will get propagated up to the function that triggered the callback to be called (above it would be check_status()) and can be caught there. If a callback returning a pointer throws then Deno will set the return value to a nullptr. Other return types are not touched on throw and are thus returned in an undefined state after the callback throws.

UnsafeCallback is not deallocated by default as it can cause use-after-free bugs. To properly dispose of an UnsafeCallback its close() method must be called.

const callback = new Deno.UnsafeCallback(
  { parameters: [], result: "void" } as const,
  () => {},
);

// After callback is no longer needed
callback.close();
// It is no longer safe to pass the callback as a parameter.

It is also possible for native libraries to setup interrupt handlers and to have those directly trigger the callback. However, this is not recommended and may cause unexpected side-effects and undefined behaviour. Preferably any interrupt handlers would only set a flag that can later be polled similarly to how check_status() is used above.

Supported types

Here's a list of types supported currently by the Deno FFI API.

FFI Type Deno C Rust
i8 number char / signed char i8
u8 number unsigned char u8
i16 number short int i16
u16 number unsigned short int u16
i32 number int / signed int i32
u32 number unsigned int u32
i64 number | bigint long long int i64
u64 number | bigint unsigned long long int u64
usize number | bigint size_t usize
f32 number | bigint float f32
f64 number | bigint double f64
void[1] undefined void ()
pointer[2] number | bigint | null const uint8_t * *const u8
buffer[3] TypedArray | null const uint8_t * *const u8
function[4] bigint | null void (*fun)() Option<extern "C" fn()>

As of Deno 1.25, the pointer type has been split into a pointer and a buffer type to ensure users take advantage of optimizations for Typed Arrays.

  • [1] void type can only be used as a result type.
  • [2] pointer type accepts both number and bigint as parameter, while it always returns the latter when used as result type.
  • [3] buffer type accepts Typed Arrays as parameter, while it always returns a bigint when used as result type like the pointer type.
  • [4] function type parameters and return types are defined using objects, and are passed in as parameters and returned as result types as BigInt pointer values.

deno_bindgen

deno_bindgen is the official tool to simplify glue code generation of Deno FFI libraries written in Rust.

It is similar to wasm-bindgen in the Rust WASM ecosystem.

Here's an example showing its usage:

// mul.rs
use deno_bindgen::deno_bindgen;

#[deno_bindgen]
struct Input {
  a: i32,
  b: i32,
}

#[deno_bindgen]
fn mul(input: Input) -> i32 {
  input.a * input.b
}

Run deno_bindgen to generate bindings. You can now directly import them into Deno:

// mul.ts
import { mul } from "./bindings/bindings.ts";
mul({ a: 10, b: 2 }); // 20

Any issues related to deno_bindgen should be reported at https://github.com/denoland/deno_bindgen/issues