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Calling C plug-ins from SA Engine

Stream Analyze Sweden AB
Version 3.0

One important property of SA Engine is that it is designed to be tightly integrated with other systems. Tightly integrated here means that SA Engine can be linked to external programs using the plug in API where foreign OSQL functions can be implemented in C. The combination is also possible where foreign functions call SA Engine back through the client API. There are predefined APIs for interfacing code in several programming languages: C99, C++, Lisp, Java, Python and JavaScript. The system furthermore provides primitives for defining APIs to any other programming language based on the C99 API. This document describes the API to define plug-ins that extend the SA Engine core system.


There are two main kinds of external interfaces to SA Engine [5], the client and the plug-in interfaces:

  • With the client interface a program implemented in some programming language calls SA Engine. The client interface allows OSQL queries and function calls to be shipped from application programs to either i) remote SA Engine servers or ii) an embedded SA Engine system running in the same process as the application. The client interface is documented separately [2].
  • With the plug-in interface OSQL functions are implemented as code in some programming language. These foreign OSQL functions are executed in the same process and address space as SA Engine. The client interface can be used also in foreign OSQL function implementations. This document describes how the define foreign functions in C.

The plug-in API of SA Engine for C is presented in this document through a number of example programs whose source codes are in the folders sa.engine/demo/*/C of an installed SA Engine system. In that folder you will find a number of examples for how to compile, use and validate C plug in using the APIs. You are assumed to be familiar with OSQL.

Object handles

All access to objects inside SA Engine from C is made through object handles which are indirect identifiers for physical data structures, called storage objects, stored in the database image of SA Engine. Object handles in general are declared as C type ohandle in the header file sa_client.h.

Notice that object handles must always be initialized to nil, declared like this:

ohandle myhandle = nil;

There are specialized object handle C data types for different kinds of objects such as object streams, tuples, or connections, for example:

sa_stream mystream = nil;

sa_tuple mytuple = nil;

sa_connection myconnection = nil;

In order to make the application code both fast and independent of the internal representation of object handles, the object handles are always manipulated through a set of C macros and functions. The interface is connected to an automatic garbage collector inside SA Engine so that data no longer used is reclaimed when using those macros/functions.

Storage objects have an associated data type called a storage type represented as an integer. Each storage type has an associated type tag as a integer and each storage object is associated with a type tag. The type tag of object handle h can be accessed with the function:

int sa_typetag(ohandle h);

For a given type tag tt, the name of the corresponding storage type is retrieved by:

char *sa_storagetype(int tt);

The following storage type tags are predefined as macros:

Storage type name Type tag Represents

Storage type nameType tagRepresents
REALREALTYPE64-bit real numbers
ARRAYARRAYTYPE1D arrays of object handles
RECORDRECORDTYPERecords of key/value pairs
BINARYBINARYTYPEUnsigned byte arrays inside database image
MEMORYMEMORYTYPEUnsigned byte arrays outside database image

Some of the macros and functions for constructing and accessing different kinds of storage types are introduced in the examples of foreign functions below. See [4] for elaborate documentation.

Foreign functions

Foreign functions in C execute inside the SA Engine kernel. They are thus executing in the same address space as the local main memory database. The programmer has full access to the data structures accessible inside the database image described in [4]. There is no protection for destroying data inside the kernel, so the programmer must make sure that the C code is correct. This is the case if the conventions described below are followed.

For developing safe foreign functions where mistakes will not crash the system, it is recommended to implement them in e.g. Lisp [1][3], which, however, will make them somewhat slower. Thus C is recommended for very high performance foreign functions and for connecting to external systems through C when Lisp cannot be used. An alternative is to write them in a storage safe language such as Java [3], but this will make them slower and it may not be possible to run on small edge devices where there is no JVM.

When possible, regular OSQL-functions should be used rather than implementing foreign functions. There is an OSQL-compiler that can generate efficient binary code for a certain class of OSQL-functions, making them (almost) as fast as C for numeric expressions.

The SA Engine kernel can execute code in many threads so the C code inside foreign functions may run in parallel to other foreign functions. For thread safety, the system puts locks around the when executing of each foreign C function so that when the code executes in different threads does not interfere or crash, given that the conventions below are followed. The user thus normally does not have to manage locks. Furthermore, C-code can execute in the background to allow for kernel execution on GPUs, waiting for events, or asynchronous I/O.

To prevent blocking when accessing external systems or performing long-running or parallel computations, the programmer can put the current thread in background mode to temporarily release its lock. This is for example used by the system when waiting for socket I/O.

There are several flavors of how foreign OSQL function can be defined:

  • A simple foreign function that takes zero, one or several atomic arguments and return a simple object, e.g. sqrt(Number x)-\>Number. The most simple one is a “Hello World” function with signature hello()-\>Charstring that returns the string “Hello World”. The implementation of the Hello World function is located in the folder sa.engine/demo/Hello/C. Once the Hello World function runs OK the other foreign functions usually are easy to make working as well.
  • A foreign function returning a tuple where more than one result is computed as a tuple containing several simple objects.
  • A foreign function returning a bag where a set objects, possibly containing duplicates, is returned as a stream of emitted objects.
  • A foreign function returning a stream where possibly an infinite stream of ordered objects is returned as a stream of emitted objects.
  • A foreign function over vectors where a vector is argument and/or result.
  • A foreign function over records where a record similar to JSON objects are operated upon.
  • An aggregate function where simple values are computed for given bag or stream argument(s).
  • A stream transformation function where an input stream is transformed into another result stream.

Next follows descriptions of a number of examples of how to implement the different kinds of foreign functions in C. The example code can be found in the folders sa.engine/demo/*/C. Notice that the example foreign functions also can be implemented more easily directly in OSQL in folders sa.engine/demo/*/OSQL.

Simple foreign functions

Simple foreign functions take atomic values as input parameters and produce one or several results computed from the inputs.

A Hello World foreign function

To get started making sure that you can successfully compile and load plug-ins there is a trivial “Hello World” foreign function implementation in the folder sa.engine/demo/Hello/C/Hello.c. The C function implementation helloB in Hello.c implements in C a trivial foreign OSQL function with signature hello()->Charstring that has no argument and returns the string "Hello world!". It is compiled into a shared object bin/ (Unix) or DLL bin/hello.dll (Windows):

#include "sa_core.h"

ohandle helloF(a_callcontext cxt)

/* Bind result tuple element one to "Hello world!" handle */
a_bind(cxt, 1, mkstring("Hello world!"));
/* Emit result tuple */
/* Always return nil from foreign C function implementations: */
return nil;

// This initialization function is called when dynamically loading the shared
// object sa.engine/bin/ or DLL sa.engine/bin/hello.dll:
EXPORT void a_initialize_extension()
a_extimpl("hello+", helloF); // Bind implementation to symbol "C:hello+"

A foreign C function implementation ff always has the signature

ohandle ff(a_callcontext cxt)

The call context cxt provides an interface between the state of the SA Engine system kernel and the foreign function implementation. It contains a parameter tuple that holds both the arguments and results of the called foreign function. It allows the foreign function implementation both to access the argument parameters of the called OSQL function and to bind result parameters of one or several computed result tuples emitted to SA Engine by the implementation.

In the example, the foreign function implementation emits an object stream containing a single element, a handle to the string "Hello world!".

The following macro binds position p in the parameter tuple of cxt to object handle h.

a_bind(cxt, p, h)

In the example the first and only element of the parameter tuple is bound to the object handle representing the result string "Hello world!". The macro mkstring(s) makes an object handle of the C string s.

A parameter tuple is emitted by calling


In the example a single result tuple containing the string "Hello world!" is emitted by a_result().

In order to register the foreign function fn an OSQL statement

create function fn(arguments) -> result as foreign ‘impl’;`

It associates the foreign function with a symbolic name om the implementation impl. The case insensitive symbolic name impl of the implementation of a foreign function cfn in C is registered with the kernel by calling the C function:

a_extimpl(char *impl, external_implementation cfn)

When the extension id defined as a DLL or shared object an extension initializer always named a_initialize_extension is defined in the implementation and called once by SA Engine when the DLL or shared object is loaded. The registration of the foreign function implementation is called in the extension initializer. In the “hello world” plug-in the foreign function implementation helloF is associated the symbolic name hello+.

The sa.engine/demo/Hello/Makefile compiles Hello.c under Unix and makes the shared object sa.engine/bin/ For Windows there is a Visual Studio solution Hello.sln that can be compiled from the console using the script compile.cmd (see README for details).

Once the foreign function implementation is compiled, the shared object sa.engine/bin/ can be dynamically loaded into SA Engine by the OSQL statement:


Now the signature of the foreign OSQL function is defined by:

create function hello() -\> Charstring
as foreign 'hello+';

The new OSQL function can then be tested by calling


If this works you have successfully implemented, compiled, and defined your first foreign function in C. It is recommended that you make an OSQL script that validates that the foreign function works as expected, as in sa.engine/demo/Hello/validation.osql. That script is run by issuing this (Unix) command in the folder Hello/C:

make test

Under Windows the test is made by running the batch script test.cmd.

Error handling

SA Engine has its own exception and error handling mechanisms. It is utilizing C’s setjmp/longjmp functions to catch and throw exceptions when they happen. Errors can be thrown from inside foreign C functions by using one of the functions:

int a_throw_errormsg(bindtype env, const char *msg, ohandle obj);

int a_throw_errorno(bindtype env, int no, ohandle obj);

The first argument env is a binding environment used when throwing the error so that a proper backtrace can be made. The binding environment is passed as first argument for foreign Lisp functions. For foreign OSQL functions, the binding environment of a context cxt is accessed with the macro:


If you don’t have access to the binding environment you can just pass NULL, in which case the system will search the stack of variable bindings to find the most general binding environment.

Basic kernel system errors have error numbers associated with corresponding error messages. Choose a_throw_errornumber() when you know the error number (some of them are macros defined in C/sa_storage.h) and use a_throw_errormsg() when you want the system to assign the error number. Error messages are truncated to max 100 bytes. The built-in error messages are stored in an internal error table, which is looked up by a_throw_errormsg(). The error table can be extended when initializing the system by calling:

int a_register_error(const char *msg);

Special care has to be taken when embedding SA Engine in programming languages or other advanced systems having its own exception handling, e.g. Java, Python, or C++. If the embedding system calls a foreign OSQL function and there is an error happening it is usually not allowed to immediately throw an SA Engine error exception, as that would bypass the exception handling of the embedding system that can cause very obscure bugs to occur. Therefore, for advanced plug ins where SA Engine is embedded in other systems having their own exception handling or where setjmp/longjmp is forbidden, delaying error handling by raising errors must be used to avoid throwing errors through the exception handling of the embedding system. This is used, e.g., in the embedding of SA Engine in the programming languages Java and C++.

For error handling the client API [2] provides a number of primitives to access and set error codes. There you can only inspect and raise errors without actually throwing them to invoke the error handling. The corresponding functions are available in foreign functions:

int a_raise_errormsg(const char \*msg, ohandle obj);

int a_raise_errorno(int no, ohandle obj);

It is marked in the thread where the foreign function is executing that the error has occurred. To actually throw a raised error call:

ohandle a_throw_error(void);

Trapping errors

Since throwing errors immediately exits the foreign function, special care has to be taken in order to properly deallocate resources allocated in a foreign function when exceptions happen, e.g. when objects allocated with C’s malloc() should be freed or when connections to servers must be closed when a foreign function is finished.

For this the system provides an error trapping facility, called unwind-protection, that provides a simple way to trap all SA Engine kernel errors and always execute clean-up code before exiting a C-block. To unwind-protect a piece of C-code use the following code skeleton:


/* Place code to be protected here */


/* This code will always be executed. If an SA Engine error happened in the protected code the system will process the error, then trap the error and pass the control here */


/* The control comes here ONLY if the execution of the protected code was successful */

Make sure you always free all resources with an unwind_protect_end code section. Notice that even a_result() may fail, e.g. if a stream is terminated.

Functions with both arguments and result

Both arguments and results of a foreign OSQL function in C are stored in the same parameter tuple. For example, the OSQL function myconcat(Charstring x, Charstring y) -> Charstring concatenates strings x and y. It has the following implementation in sa.engine/demo/Basic/C/Basic.c:

ohandle myconcatBBF(a_callcontext cxt)
ohandle x = a_arg(cxt, 1); // Pick up 1st argument in para tuple
ohandle y = a_arg(cxt, 2); // Pick up 2nd argument in para tuple
char *dx, *dy, *res;
IntoString(x, dx, a_env(cxt)); // Dereference x to string dx
IntoString(y, dy, a_env(cxt)); // Dereference y to string dy
res = alloca(strlen(dx)+strlen(dy)+1); // Stack allocate result string
strcpy(res, dx);
strcat(res, dy);
a_bind(cxt, 3, mkstring(res)); // Bind result the 3rd element in para tuple
a_result(cxt); // Emit result
return nil;

In this case the arguments x and y of myconcat(x,y) are in positions one and two of the parameter tuple and the computed result is bound in position three.

The macro

IntoString(x, dx, env)

dereferences (converts) an object handle x containing a string into a C string dx. It throws an error in case x is not a string, in which case the foreign function call is aborted

This macro creates an object handle of a C string x:


The implementation is bound to the symbol myconcat--+ by the following call in the extension initializer:

a_extimpl("myconcat--+", myconcatBBF);

Compile Basic.c with

make compile

The function myconcat() is registered by the OSQL statement:

create function myconcat(Charstring x, Charstring y) -\> Charstring
as foreign 'myconcat--+';

Functions returning tuples

Foreign functions can return more than one result through tuples. For example, the OSQL function sqrt2(Number x) -> (Number neg, Number pos) returns a tuple of the negative and positive square roots of x. It has the following definition in sa.engine/demo/Basic/C/Basic.c:

ohandle sqrt2BFF(a_callcontext cxt)
ohandle x = a_arg(cxt, 1);
double dx, root;
IntoDouble(x, dx, a_env(cxt));
root = sqrt(dx);
if(dx >= 0)
a_bind(cxt, 2, mkreal(-root));
a_bind(cxt, 3, mkreal(root));
return nil;

This macro dereferences a number handle x into a C double dx:

IntoDouble(x, dx, env)

An error is thrown if x is not a number.

This macro makes an object handle of a C double dx:


In the code above a_bind() is called twice to bind the values to the two roots. The implementation is bound to the symbol sqrt2-++ by calling:

a_bind("sqrt2-++", sqrtBFF);

The OSQL definition is:

create function sqrt2(Number x) -> (Number neg, Number pos)
as foreign 'sqrt2-++';

Foreign functions over vectors

Vectors represent ordered collections of objects of any type. They are represented as object handles with type identifier ARRAYTYPE.

Foreign function returning a vector

The function vsqrt2(Number x) -> Vector returns the negative and positive square root of number x as a vector. It is implemented in sa.engine/demo/Basic/C/Basic.c as:

ohandle vsqrt2BF(a_callcontext cxt)
ohandle x = a_arg(cxt, 1);
double dx;
IntoDouble(x, dx, a_env(cxt));
if(dx >= 0) {
double root = sqrt(dx);
ohandle roots = new_array(2,nil);
a_seta(roots, 0, mkreal(-root));
a_seta(roots, 1, mkreal(root));
a_bind(cxt, 2, roots);
return nil;

Here the vector holding the two roots are created by call new_array(2,nil). The elements are initialized to the handle nil representing null in OSQL.

The function

a_seta(ohandle v, int pos, ohandle val)

sets element i of vector v to handle val (vector elements in C are enumerated from 0 and up).

The C function vsqrt2BF is bound to the symbol vsqrt2-+ by calling:

a_extimpl("vsqrt2-+", vsqrt2BF);

The OSQL definition is:

create function vsqrt2(Number x) -> Vector roots
as foreign 'vsqrt2-+';

Functions taking vectors as arguments

The function dotprod(Vector v, Vector w) -> Number takes two vectors of numbers, v and w, and computes their scalar product. It has the following definition in sa.engine/demo/Basic/C/Basic.c:

ohandle dotprodBBF(a_callcontext cxt)
ohandle v = a_arg(cxt, 1);
ohandle w = a_arg(cxt, 2);
int dim, i;
double prod=0;
OfType(v, ARRAYTYPE, a_env(cxt));
OfType(w, ARRAYTYPE, a_env(cxt));
dim = a_arraysize(v);
if(dim != a_arraysize(w))
return a_throw_errormsg(a_env(cxt),"Array index out of bounds", v);
for(i=0; i<dim; i++) {
ohandle ev = a_elt(v, i); // Access v[i]
ohandle ew = a_elt(w, i); // Access w[i]
double dev, dew;
IntoDouble(ev, dev, a_env(cxt));
IntoDouble(ew, dew, a_env(cxt));
prod = prod + dev*dew;
a_bind(cxt, 3, mkreal(prod));
return nil;

The following macro checks that the handle h has type identifier tp and throws an error otherwise:

OfType(h, tp, env)

In the code above, OfType is called twice to check that the two arguments are vectors.

The function a_arraysize(ohandle v) returns the number of elements of vector v.

If the number of elements of v and w are not the same an error is thrown by calling the C function:

ohandle a_throw_errormsg(bindtype env, const char *msg, ohandle v)

The function a_throw_errormsg() throws an error with message msg for handle v. The argument env is the binding environment in which the error is thrown. In the example, the error message has a number in the error table. In the example the error table is looked up for the error message "Array index out of bounds". Normally a_throw_errormsg() throws an exception and does not return.

The following function accesses element i of vector v:

ohandle a_elt(ohandle v, int i)

It raises an exception if handle v is not a vector. The elements in the vector are enumerated starting from zero.

The C function dotprodBBF is bound to symbol dotprod--+ by calling

a_extimpl("dotprod--+", dotprodBBF);

The OSQL definition is:

create function dotprod(Vector v, Vector w) -> Number
as foreign 'dotprod--+';

Foreign functions over bags

Bags represent sets of objects possibly with duplicates. Foreign functions usually generate the bags iteratively by calling a_result several times as shown below.

Functions generating bags

The foreign function natural(Number m, Number n) -> Bag of Number generates a bag of the natural numbers from m to n. It is implemented in sa.engine/demo/Basic/C/Basic.c as

ohandle naturalBBF(a_callcontext cxt)
int m = a_arg(cxt, 1); // Pick up first argument
int n = a_arg(cxt, 2); // Pick up second argument
int dm, dn, i;
IntoInteger32(m, dm, a_env(cxt));
IntoInteger32(n, dn, a_env(cxt));
for(i=dm; i<=dn; i++) {
// Bind the result element of the parameter tuple:
a_bind(cxt, 3, mkinteger(i));
a_result(cxt); // emit the result
return nil;

The macro IntoInteger32 dereferences a integer handle into a 32-bit C integer and mkinteger(i) makes an object handle of a C integer.

In the code a_bind and a_result are called m-n+1 times, once per element of the result bag.

This call associates the implementation with the symbol natural--+:

a_extimpl("natural--+", naturalBBF)

The OSQL definition is:

create function natural(Number m, Number n) -> Bag of Number
as foreign 'natural--+';

Aggregate functions

Aggregate functions such as sum(Bag b) -> Number compute a single object for a given bag b. The foreign function sqsum(Bag b)->Number computes the sum of the square of the elements in the bag of number b. It has the following C implementation in Basic.c:

ohandle sqsumBFmapper(a_callcontext cxt, int arity, ohandle *restpl,void *xa)
double *sum = (double *)xa;
double x;
IntoDouble(restpl[0], x, a_env(cxt));
// Element must be double or exception will be raised
*sum += x*x;
return nil; // Always return nil

ohandle sqsumBF(a_callcontext cxt)
double sqs = 0;
ohandle collection = a_arg(cxt, 1);
// a_mapstream can map over both bags, streams, and vectors:
a_mapstream(cxt, collection, sqsumBFmapper, (void *)&sqs);
a_bind(cxt, 2, mkreal(sqs)); // Bind result to total sqs
a_result(cxt); // Emit result tuple
return nil; // Always return nil

The main function sqsumBF initializes the square sum in the variable sqs and then calls the function:

a_mapstream(a_callcontext cxt, ohandle coll, mapper_function cb, void *xa)

The function a_mapstream calls a mapper function mf for each element of a collection coll, which is a bag in this case. A mapper function mf always has the signature:

ohandle mf(a_callcontex cxt, int width, ohandle tpl[], void \*xa)

The function is called for every tuple tpl in the bag, with width being the size of the tuple. The variable xa is passed unchanged from the a_mapstream call to the mapper function call.

This call associates the implementation with the symbol sqsum-+:

a_extimpl("sqsum-+", sqsumBF);

The OSQL definition is:

create function sqsum(Bag b) -> Number
as foreign 'sqsum-+';

Terminating aggregation

Sometimes it may be necessary to terminate aggregations. One example is when an error exception is thrown in a mapper. For example, an exception is thrown by IntoDouble in sqsumBFmapper if the mapper receives a non-number in the object stream. The error can be trapped in the caller sqsumBF().

Another example is when an aggregate function only maps over a part of its bag. The mapper can then terminate the mapping by calling the function:

void a_map_done(a_callcontext cxt, ohandle res)

When a_map_done() is called the function issuing the mapping (e.g. a_mapstream()) immediately returns the value res. Thus a_map_done() does not return the control to the mapper function.

Aggregation over vectors

A foreign aggregate function implementation over bags can also be used for aggregating over vectors. For example, the aggregate function sqsum-+ above can also be used for computing the sum of the square of numbers in vector by defining the function:

create function sqsum(Vector v) -> Number
as foreign 'sqsum-+';

Aggregation over finite streams

A foreign aggregate function implementation over bags can also be used for aggregating over finite streams. For example, the aggregate function sqsum-+ above can also be used for computing the sum of the square of numbers in the finite stream s by defining the function:

create function sqsum(Stream s) -> Number
as foreign 'sqsum-+';

Foreign functions over records

Objects of OSQL type Record are collections representing sets of attribute/vale pairs. They are represented as handles with type id RECORDTYPE.

Functions returning records

The function rsqrt2(Number x) -> Record roots returns a record of the square roots of number x as a JSON object {"neg": -sqrt(x), "pos": sqrt(x)}. It has the following implementation in sa.engine/demo/Basic/C/Basic.c:

ohandle rsqrt2BF(a_callcontext cxt)
ohandle x = a_arg(cxt, 1);
double dx;
IntoDouble(x, dx, a_env(cxt));
if(dx >= 0) {
double root = sqrt(dx);
ohandle r = new_record();
record_put(r, "neg", mkreal(-root));
record_put(r, "pos", mkreal(root));
a_bind(cxt, 2, r);
return nil;

A handle holding a new empty record is created by calling new_record().

This function sets the attribute a of record r to value v:

ohandle record_put(ohandle r, char *a, ohandle v)

This call associates symbol rsqrt2-+ with the C implementation rsqrt2BF:

a_extimpl("rsqrt2-+", rsqrt2BF);

The OSQL definition is:

create function rsqrt2(Number x) -> Record roots
as foreign 'rsqrt2-+'

Functions accessing records

The function getnum(Record r, Charstring a) -> Number accesses attribute a of record r as a number. It has the following implementation in sa.engine/demo/Basic/C/Basic.c:

ohandle getnumBBF(a_callcontext cxt)
ohandle r = a_arg(cxt, 1);
ohandle attr = a_arg(cxt, 2);
ohandle val = record_get(r, getstring(attr));
double x;
if(val==nil) return nil;
IntoDouble(val, x, a_env(cxt)); // Just a type check
a_bind(cxt, 3, val); // Handle val is result
return nil;

The following function retrieves the value of attribute a in record r. The symbol nil is returned if there is no attribute a in r:

ohandle record_get(ohandle r, char *a)

This call associates symbol getnum--+ with the C implementation getnumBBF:

a_extimpl("getnum--+", getnumBBF);

The OSQL definition is:

create function getnum(Record r, Charstring field) -> Number
as foreign 'getnum--+';

Foreign functions over streams

OSQL objects of type Stream are represented in C by handles having the type identifier generatortype.

Functions returning infinite streams

The same mechanism to iteratively generate elements of bags can be used for returning (possibly infinite) streams of elements. For example, the function negative_numbers() -> Stream of Number returns an infinite stream of the negative numbers (integers from -1 and down). It is implemented in sa.engine/demo/Streams/C/Streams.c as:

ohandle negative_numbersF(a_callcontext cxt)
int i;
return nil; // Never reached

This call associates the symbol negative_numbers+ with the implementation:

a_extimpl("negative-numbers+", negative_numbersF);

The OSQL definition is:

create function negative_numbers() -> Stream of Number
as foreign 'negative-numbers+';

If you call negative_numbers() from the console REPL the system will print natural numbers until you interrupt it with CTRL-C. The call section(negative_numbers(), -10, -20) will return a finite stream.

Stream transformation functions

A stream transformation function takes a stream as argument and produces a new transformed stream as result. For example, the function power_stream(Stream s,Number n) -> Stream of Number generates a stream xnx^nof the numbers xx in stream s. It has the following implementation in sa.engine/demo/Streams/C/Streams.c:

ohandle power_streamBBFmapper(a_callcontext cxt, int width, ohandle tuple[],void *xa)
double x; // Stream element
double *exp = (double *)xa; // The exponent
if(width > 0) {
IntoDouble(tuple[0], x, a_env(cxt));
a_bind(cxt, 3, mkreal(pow(x,*exp)));
return nil;

ohandle power_streamBBF(a_callcontext cxt)
ohandle s = a_arg(cxt, 1);
ohandle n = a_arg(cxt, 2);
double exp;
IntoDouble(n, exp, a_env(cxt));
a_mapstream(cxt, s, power_streamBBFmapper, (void *)&exp);
return nil;

Here, a_mapstream calls power_streamBBFmapper for each tuple in stream s. The parameter xa of a_mapstream is used for passing the address of number exp to the mapper.

This call associates the symbol power-stream--+ with the implementation power_streamBBF:

a_extimpl("power-stream--+", power_streamBBF);

The OSQL definition is:

create function power_stream(Stream s, Number n) -> Stream of Number
as foreign 'power-stream--+';

Non-blocking parallelism

The image is normally locked by the SA Engine kernel while a foreign function is running so that the programmer can assume that all data in the image is available without further locking. Therefore, foreign functions will block while waiting for some resource, making the system perform badly or even hang when foreign functions in several threads wait for some resource. This is not acceptable if a foreign function waits for some event to occur or when long-running or parallel computations are made, e.g. by GPU co-processors.

To allow for non-blocking kernel computations, SA Engine provides the ability for C-code sections in foreign functions to run in parallel in the background. Two functions are provided for this, a_enterbg() and a_leavebg(). C-code executed in-between calls to these functions is NOT locked and can therefore execute in parallel if several instances of the function is called in different threads. For example, non-blocking polling of events and kernel execution of GPU code can be executed in such background sections. The typical code pattern is

ohandle mypollerBBF(a_callcontext cxt)
ohandle event = a_arg(cxt, 1);
int eid; // Numeric identifier for some event
int vid; // Polled value of eid
IntoInteger(event, eid, a_env(cxt)),

// Background code to poll eid and set vid to a received value
a_bind(cxt, 2, mkinteger(vid))
return nil;

An important limitation is that SA Engine kernel functions accessing the database image are not allowed to be called in background code sections of foreign functions. This include object de-referencing, which is why the variable eid is bound before entering the background section above. Errors can be reported but not thrown in background code.

It should also be noted that a_enterbg() and a_leavebg() are rather slow so that it should be avoided to switch between foreground and background very often.


[1] Stream Analyze Sweden AB: SA Lisp User’s Guide.

[2] Stream Analyze Sweden AB: Calling SA Engine from C.

[3] Stream Analyze Sweden AB: SA Engine Java Interfaces.

[4] sa.Storage 2.0 - A main-memory storage manager, Version 2.0, Stream Analyze Sweden AB, sa_Storage_2.0.pdf, 2020

[5] Stream Analyze Sweden AB: SA Engine Under the Hood.