The architecture doc mentions that Farrago Java code communicates with the Fennel C++ kernel via JNI. This document presents the detailed design for that integration.

Design Goals

The JNI interface wrapping Fennel is necessarily quite wide, as it has to deal with a variety of storage objects and operations which will be extended over time. This implies that the interface should be designed carefully with a number of goals in mind.


A well known approach which addresses most of the above design goals is the proxy/peer system in which C++ code is generated from Java interfaces. For Java code that needs to call C++, the developer fills in implementations for generated peer classes. Conversely, C++ code that needs to access Java makes calls on generated proxy objects which wrap hidden JNI method invocations. The code generation step addresses productivity, safety, and expressiveness.

Generic tools such as Jace are available which automate the Java-to-C++ code generation process. For Farrago, a lightweight homebrew solution was developed along similar lines, but tailored to take full advantage of available metadata.

The approach starts with a UML model for the data structures to be communicated between Java and C++. This model is a subpackage of FEM (TODO: link to FEM docs), so from it Java interfaces and implementation classes are generated automatically as part of the overall catalog build process (TODO: link to build docs). However, these classes are marked with the org.netbeans.mdr.transient tag, so instances created at runtime will never be stored in the catalog.

Once the MDR-based catalog is created, a custom C++ code generator is run which produces C++ proxy classes (peers are not yet supported as there has been little need so far). The code generator uses a combination of Java reflection and JMI metadata access to transform the source model. The available metadata allows us to take full advantage of the type safety afforded by C++ generics. For example, in Java, an JMI association is accessed via a weakly-typed Collection, requiring typecasting. The code generator knows the true type of the association end, so it generates an appropriate instantiation of a C++ template which hides all typecasting. The generated classes make use of a small runtime framework for calling JNI.

TODO: diagram

It should be noted that the choice of this model-driven approach brings some design goals into competition. The extra complexity of dealing with a modeling tool introduces a learning curve and may add a small drag on productivity (although it's still far superior to straight JNI programming). However, the benefits for safety, documentation, and expressiveness are worth the extra hassle.

FennelStorage Native Interface

The only Java class which declares any native methods is net.sf.farrago.fennel.FennelStorage (TODO: javadoc link). Only a few native methods are defined. The most important one is a generic execution method for the command pattern described in the next section. The other methods are special cases for efficient execution of tuple streams.


Execution of Fennel storage manager operations is accomplished via the Command pattern. Java code instantiates a command object describing the operation to be performed, and then passes this object to FennelDbHandle.executeCmd. C++ code interprets the command via the corresponding generated proxies and executes it. Here's a UML diagram of the command class hierarchy:

TODO: links to detailed docs for available commands


Fennel commands usually need to refer to existing storage objects such as databases and transactions, and sometimes create new ones. These inter-command references are accomplished via handles. A handle has two parts: The command model defines associations which allow commands to refer to input handles or return output handles:

Since specific associations are defined between individual command and handle subclasses, safety is guaranteed (i.e. a command can't accidentally pass a transaction handle where a stream handle is expected).

Commands may refer to more than one handle (e.g. CmdRollback always refers to a transaction handle, but may also refer to a savepoint handle).

Complex Return Types

In most cases encountered so far, complex structures are passed from Java to C++ but not in the other direction. The current code generation infrastructure supports proxies with limited mutator support. Mutators are only generated for attributes with simple types (primitives and Strings) whose names begin result. The few instances where the storage manager must return complex information are special-cased, e.g. by constructing an XMI string which is transformed into Java object representation via the MDR import facility.

Tuple Stream Definition

One of the commands, CmdOpenTupleStream, deserves individual mention. Its single innocent-looking attribute, tupleStreamDef, is really an entire submodel. Execution of CmdOpenTupleStream results in the construction of an entire query execution graph of specialized TupleStream nodes. The only graph topology currently supported is a tree, which is why the Input/Consumer association in the model below is 1-to-n rather than m-to-n:

The leaf nodes derived from TupleStreamDef in the above inheritance hierarchy represent instantiable Fennel TupleStream types. When Fennel interprets CmdOpenTupleStream, it walks the recursive TupleStreamDataflowDef association, constructing the appropriate type of TupleStream for each node visited, initializing it with the defined parameters. It also ties the streams together into a dataflow graph mirroring the TupleStreamDef associations and returns a handle to this graph as the result of the command.

Tuple Stream Execution

When a TupleStream graph is executed, it may process a very large number of tuples, and in some cases, these tuples must flow through the Java virtual machine for filtering, transformation, etc. FennelStorage defines a separate native interface for this purpose; the interface is designed for efficiency to the extent allowed by Java. There are two cases to consider: Java processing of tuples produced by Fennel, and Fennel processing of tuples produced by Java.

From Fennel to Java

For this case, FennelStorage provides the tupleStreamFetch method, which takes a stream handle and a byte array as input. The Fennel implementation fills the byte array with data in the same tuple format used by Fennel internally. Tuples are stored contiguously, and only complete tuples are returned. A separate method tupleStreamDescribe can be called to retrieve a physical description of the stream output format. This, together with java.nio.ByteBuffer, is used by implementations of net.sf.farrago.query.FennelTupleReader to unmarshal the data returned by Fennel.

From Java to Fennel

In the opposite direction, things are a little more complicated. First of all, the stream definition must tell Fennel how to call back into Java in order to retrieve tuples. This is accomplished by specifying an instance of JavaTupleStreamDef in the stream definition passed to CmdOpenTupleStream. [TBD: Java object handles or class names or whatever ends up being used.] Fennel uses the attributes in JavaTupleStreamDef to locate an instance of Java class JavaTupleStream. During query execution, when a consumer of this stream requests tuples, Fennel makes a call to JavaTupleStream.fillBuffer, passing a ByteBuffer. (Note that this call sequence bypasses the usual proxy code generation infrastructure for control and efficiency.) This ByteBuffer is actually a direct reference to C++ memory compliments of java.nio, eliminating the need to copy (TBD: why we don't do the same thing in the tupleStreamFetch case). The JavaTupleStream implementation writes into this ByteBuffer via an instance of net.sf.farrago.query.FennelTupleWriter which has been provided with the target tuple format. Once the buffer is filled or no more tuples are available, JavaTupleStream.fillBuffer returns to Fennel, which continues execution with the consumer stream.

TODO: diagram of a tree involving dataflow in both directions

Configuration Parameters




Exception Handling



End $Id: //open/dev/farrago/doc/design/jni.html#3 $