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Introduction

The InterSystems Callout Gateway allows InterSystems IRIS® applications to invoke shell or operating system commands, run external programs in spawned processes, and call functions from specially written shared libraries. The Callout Gateway is implemented as a suite of related functions contained in the InterSystems IRIS $ZF system function.

This chapter discusses the following topics:

Callout Gateway Concepts and Terminology

Here are some important concepts that you should understand before reading the rest of this book:

Callout Libraries

In this book, the term shared library refers to a dynamically linked file (a DLL file on Windows or an SO file on UNIX® and related operating systems). A Callout library is a shared library that includes hooks to the Callout Gateway, allowing various $ZF functions to load it at runtime and invoke library functions. Callout libraries are usually written in C (see“Compatible Languages and Compilers”), but could potentially be written in any other compiled language that uses a calling convention understood by your C compiler.

See “Creating an InterSystems Callout Library” for details about how to write a Callout library.

Identifying individual $ZF functions

The InterSystems IRIS $ZF system function is a container for a suite of related functions. Most functions in the $ZF suite are identified by the first argument of the function call, which will be a negative number, -100 or -3 through -6. For example, the function that calls an operating system command has the form $ZF(-100, <oscommand>), where <oscommand> is a string containing the command to be executed. When this function is discussed, it will be referred to as $ZF(-100). In the same way, the other functions will be referred to as $ZF(-3) through $ZF(-6), using only the first parameter of the actual function call. The $ZF() function can also be called without a negative number parameter, in which case it invokes functions from a special Callout library named iriszf.

The $ZF(-4) function provides a set of services for $ZF(-5) and $ZF(-6). It is a container for eight utility functions identified by the first two parameters: $ZF(-4,1) through $ZF(-4,8).

See “Overview of $ZF Functions” below for a brief summary of these functions. See the “InterSystems Callout Quick Reference” for a complete list of all $ZF functions, information on how they are used, and links to more detailed information and examples.

Callout library interfaces

All of the $ZF functions except $ZF(-100) are used to provide some form of access to Callout libraries. The $ZF(-3), $ZF(-5), $ZF(-6), and $ZF() functions provide four different interfaces for invoking functions from a specified Callout library, and $ZF(-4) is a container for various utility functions used with the $ZF(-5) and $ZF(-6) interfaces.

See “Invoking Callout Library Functions” for a details of the various ways to access a Callout library.

Overview of $ZF Functions

The $ZF function suite includes the following functions:

The $ZF() function (with no negative number argument)

The main $ZF() function provides direct access to functions from a special Callout library named iriszf. When you have defined and compiled this custom library, its functions can be invoked by specifying just the function name and arguments (for example, $ZF("myFunction",arg1)). Unlike $ZF(-3), $ZF(-5), or $ZF(-6), there is no need to load the library or specify a library identifier.

See “Using $ZF() to Access the iriszf Callout Library” for details.

The $ZF(-100) function

The $ZF(-100) function is used to run shell commands and operating system service calls. It is not used to access Callout libraries, and can be called without any previous setup.

See “Running Programs or System Commands with $ZF(-100)” for details.

The $ZF(-3) function

The $ZF(-3) function is a simple way to load a Callout library and invoke a library function with a single statement. Both the library and its functions are specified by name, and the library remains in memory until replaced by a call to a different library.

See “Using $ZF(-3) for Simple Library Function Calls” for details.

The $ZF(-4) function

The $ZF(-4) function is a container for a set of eight utility functions. The $ZF(-5) function interface uses functions $ZF(-4,1) through $ZF(-4,3), and the $ZF(-6) function interface uses functions $ZF(-4,5) through $ZF(-4,8). See the following descriptions for more details.

The $ZF(-5) function interface

The $ZF(-5) function and its utility functions allow multiple libraries to be handled efficiently. Both the library and its functions are identified by system-defined ID values. Several libraries can be in virtual memory at the same time. The following $ZF(-4) functions are used to load and unload libraries, and to obtain library and function ID values:

  • $ZF(-4,1) loads a library specified by name, and returns a library ID.

  • $ZF(-4,2) unloads a library.

  • $ZF(-4,3) returns a function ID for a specified library ID and function name.

See “Using $ZF(-5) to Access Libraries by System ID” for details.

The $ZF(-6) function interface

The $ZF(-6) function and its utility functions provide a way to write Callout applications that do not require hard-coded library names. Instead, the actual library filenames are contained in a separate index table, where each library is associated with a unique, user-defined index number. Once the index table is defined, it is available to all processes in an instance of InterSystems IRIS. Callout applications identify a library by index number and load it by reading the index table. Several libraries can be in memory at the same time. The following functions are used to manage indexes and load or unload libraries:

  • $ZF(-6) invokes a library function, and loads the library if it is not already in memory.

  • $ZF(-4,4) unloads a library.

  • $ZF(-4,5) and $ZF(-4,6) are used to create and maintain the system index table, which can be accessed by all processes in an instance of InterSystems IRIS.

  • $ZF(-4,7) and $ZF(-4,8) are used to create and maintain a process index table, which can be used to override the system index within a single process.

See “Using $ZF(-6) to Access Libraries by User Index” for details.

Compatible Languages and Compilers

Using the Callout Gateway you can call routines written in languages other than ObjectScript. On all platforms that support InterSystems IRIS you can call routines written in the C language. In theory you should be able to call routines written in any compiled language that is compatible with C. Two compatibility issues arise. First, the compiler must use an Application Binary Interface (ABI) that is compatible with C. Second, the compiler must generate code that does not rely on any runtime library features that are not compatible with InterSystems IRIS.

InterSystems supports using the same C compiler that we use to generate InterSystems IRIS on all platforms:

Platform Compiler
IBM AIX IBM XL C for AIX
Mac OS X (Darwin) Xcode
Microsoft Windows Microsoft Visual Studio
Linux (all variants) GNU Project GCC C

Most platforms have a standardized Application Binary Interface (ABI), making most compilers compatible. The Intel x86-32 and x86-64 platforms are major exceptions, Multiple calling conventions exist for these platforms. See (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X86_calling_conventions) for a discussion of calling conventions on these platforms.

Microsoft Windows uses the cdecl interface on x86-32 platforms and a calling convention that it documents in (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/9b372w95%28v=VS.80%29.aspx) for x86-64.

Many C compilers allow a different calling convention to be declared for an external routine. It may be possible to call a routine written in another language by writing a C wrapper routine that declares the appropriate calling convention.