Handling data in bindings

Since version 4, afb-binding has introduced the types afb_data_t and afb_type_t to handle any kind of data.

The reason of introducing these new types is to allow invocation of procedures with any data type.

An important design decision is that the framework AFB can ignore anything of the data it transports between clients and services.

Basis of data

The type afb_data_t is a pointer to an opaque structure defined as below:

typedef struct afb_data *afb_data_t;

So, the real data can not be accessed directly but through functions. The functions for accessing the real data are:

  • afb_data_type: get the type of the data
  • afb_data_size: get the size of the data
  • afb_data_ro_pointer: get a read only pointer to the data
  • afb_data_rw_pointer: get a read/write pointer to the data
  • afb_data_get_constant: get a read only pointer to the data, its size and a status
  • afb_data_get_mutable: get a read/write pointer to the data, its size and a status

The 3 important characteristics of the data are its type, its address, its size.

The type of the data

As for programming languages, the types summarize the characteristics of a data. It means that all the data of a specific type have the same set of characteristics. As an example, the predefined type AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_U32 refers to addresses of unsigned integers of 32 bits so of 4 bytes size.

Types are described more deeply below.

The address of the data

The address of the data is the location in memory where the data live. Addresses are presented as pointers either only readable or readable and writable.

The size of the data

The size is used for many types to indicates the real size of the data in memory.

But for some types, the size of the data is not used because of one of the following reasons: it is unknown, it is well known, it does not care. Int that cases the size can be set to zero. As example, for the predefined type AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_JSON_C defines the data pointer as being a pointer of type struct json_object * whose size is unknown, the size is unused and should be set to zero.

Live cycle of data

The data are reference counted. At creation, their reference count is 1. The function afb_data_addref increments the reference count of the data by one unit. The function afb_data_unref decrements the reference count of one unit and if the reference count falls to the value zero, the data is automatically destroyed and its used memory is released.

Figure: Live cycle of data

Creation of data

There are 3 functions for creating instances of data:

  • afb_create_data_raw: the most basic creation function but it has the advantage of being able to track the destruction of the data when itsd reference count falls to 0.
  • afb_create_data_alloc: it just allocates the memory initialized with zeros and records how to free it.
  • afb_create_data_copy: it is like the function afb_create_data_alloc but instead of initializing the memory with zeros, it copies a given value.

The functions afb_create_data_alloc and afb_create_data_copy are basic helpers aound the primitive function afb_create_data_raw that is declared as below:

	afb_data_t *data,            /* pointer for receiving the created data    */
	afb_type_t  type,            /* type    of the created data               */
	const void *pointer,         /* pointer of the created data               */
	size_t      size,            /* size    of the created data               */
	void      (*dispose)(void*), /* a function to call when data is destroyed */
	void       *closure          /* the parameter to pass to function dispose */

On error, the function returns a negative value.

On success, that function returns zero and creates the data whose 3 important characteristics are the one given as parameter: type, pointer, size.

If the parameter dispose is not NULL, it must be a function that takes only one parameter of type void *. That function is called with the argument closure at the end of the life of the data to destroy it. For convenience, it is also called if the creation of the data fails.

example: the function afb_create_data_copy

Here is how could be defined the function afb_create_data_copy:

	afb_data_t *data,
	afb_type_t type,
	const void *buffer,
	size_t size
) {
	void *pointer = malloc(size);
	if (pointer == NULL)
	memcpy(pointer, buffer, size);
	return afb_create_data_raw(data, type, pointer, size, free, pointer);

If the call to afb_create_data_raw fails, the function free is automatically called with the pointer.

example: creating data linked to an other object

An important property is that the given closure can be the given pointer or not. This allows to create data that are part of something else.

In this example, we create a JSON string data representing a json object:

int str_data_of_jsonc(afb_data *data, json_object *jso)
	const char *str = json_object_to_json_string(jso);
	return afb_create_data_raw(data,
	                  AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_JSON, str, 1+strlen(str),
			  json_object_put, json_object_get(jso));

This uses the fact that json-c keeps the JSON string representation inside the JSON object until the object is released.

creation of subdata or data linked to other data

Caution as to be taken when a data is created that depend of an other data. In that case, it is required to explicit the dependency to the framework in order to ensure that the data remain lively as needed.

This is achieved using the functions below:

  • afb_data_dependency_add: adds a dependency from one data to another
  • afb_data_dependency_sub: removes a previously added dependency
  • afb_data_dependency_drop_all: drops all the dependency of a data

Basis of data types

The data are created with a type. The type of a data tells how to interpret the pointer and size values of the data. For example the pointer of a data of type AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_STRINGZ is a unicode string terminated with the nul character.

The type framework is used for also for the transfering data during remote procedure calls, for converting and updating data from one type to an other.

creation of types

A type can be created using the function afb_type_register.

	afb_type_t *type,      /* resulting registered type   */
	const char *name,      /* registered name of the type */
	afb_type_flags_t flags /* characteristics of the type */

This creates a type of the given name and characteristics. Names starting with the character # are reserved for predefined types.

The possible characteristics are given by flags using a bitwise or of the values below:

  • Afb_Type_Flags_Shareable: Data of that type can be shared through memory
  • Afb_Type_Flags_Streamable: Data of that type can be streamed
  • Afb_Type_Flags_Opaque: Data of that type can be represented with an opaaque handler

When the data is transmitted in remote procedure call, its opaque handler or its content if streamable is transmitted as well as its type name. The type’s name must be unique.

predefined types

The predefined types are:

type name C macro name description
#opaque AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_OPAQUE The opaque type is anything represented by its address
#stringz AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_STRINGZ Type of zero terminated string
#json AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_JSON Type of json string terminated by a zero
#json_c AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_JSON_C Type of json object as handled by libjson-c
#bytearray AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_BYTEARRAY Type for arrays of bytes
#bool AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_BOOL Type of boolean values
#i32 AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_I32 Type of signed 32 bit integers
#u32 AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_U32 Type of unsigned 32 bit integers
#i64 AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_I64 Type of signed 64 bit integers
#u64 AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_U64 Type of unsigned 64 bit integers
#double AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_DOUBLE Type of doubles

For more details, check the specific documentation about predefined types.

type family

A type can be a kind of an other type. In the predefined type, the only example is given by AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_JSON that is of the family AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_STRINGZ.

It means that any instance of AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_JSON is also an instance of AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_STRINGZ. The opposite is not true because not any string is a valid JSON string.

It is possible to set the family of a type using the function afb_type_set_family.

converters and updaters

It is possible for a type to define procedure for converting its data instance to or from an other type. For example, the type AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_I32 converts any of its instances to AFB_PREDEFINED_TYPE_I64.

It is possible to register converters to/from types using the functions afb_type_add_convert_to and afb_type_add_convert_from.

The conversion returns a new data instance of data.

Updaters are like converters but instead of returning a new data instance, it updates an existing data instance. It is possible to register updaters to/from types using the functions afb_type_add_update_to and afb_type_add_update_from.

assigning and updating value

The framework offers two functions for setting values of data from an other data:

  • afb_data_assign: This basic function replace a data by an other data.

  • afb_data_update: This function changes the value of the updated data using an updating function. There is no conversion of type except if an update function exists.

Converting data from one type to another

The framework offers two functions for automatic conversion of data:

  • afb_data_convert: converts (if possible) a data to the given type. This is an explicit conversion. If the data is already of the required type, no conversion is needed.

  • afb_req_param_convert: converts (if possible) the ith data parameter of the request to a data of the given type and return it. The returned data replace the parameter and is released when the request is released.

conversions of predefined types are shown in the figure below:

Figure: Predefined conversion

Once a data is converted, it is silently linked to the original value for the purpose of avoiding a new conversion in case the same conversion is later required. If the original value changes, these links can be removed using the function afb_data_notify_changed.

properties of data

Here the 2 properties of data:

  • constant: a data is constant if its value can not be changed
  • volatile: a data is volatile if its value can change at any time, without calling the data function for changing the value.

A constant data will always return NULL as result of invoking functions afb_data_rw_pointer and afb_data_get_mutable.

A volatile data will never cache the converted values. conversion of value is documented below.

The property constant is managed with the functions below:

  • afb_data_is_constant: test if a dathas the constant property
  • afb_data_set_constant: set the constant property of the data
  • afb_data_set_not_constant: unset the constant property of the data

The property volatile is managed with the functions below:

  • afb_data_is_volatile: test if a dathas the volatile property
  • afb_data_set_volatile: set the volatile property of the data
  • afb_data_set_not_volatile: unset the volatile property of the data

managing access to data

Access to data in reading or writing can be controled using the functions below that implement a simple reader/writer exclusion mechanism:

  • afb_data_lock_read: block until the data is locked for read but not write
  • afb_data_try_lock_read: same as afb_data_lock_read but does not block
  • afb_data_lock_write: block until the data is locked for write and read
  • afb_data_try_lock_write: same as afb_data_lock_write but does not block
  • afb_data_unlock: unlock the currently locked data