Saturday, January 17, 2015

Skip the FFI: Embedding Clang for C Interoperability

Jordan Rose:

Most languages that aren’t a superset of C provide a Foreign Function Interface (FFI) that allows one to interface with existing C libraries. FFIs are often an afterthought, requiring manual or source-to-source translation from C header files to a subset of the target language, resulting in complicated build processes, frequent manual tweaking, and numerous implementation challenges.

This talk will discuss an alternative approach that embeds Clang into an LLVM-based compiler front end to provide C compatibility without the traditional FFI. Embedding Clang provides seamless access to C APIs, moving the translation of APIs from external tools into the compiler itself. Moreover, one can leverage Clang’s deep knowledge of C record layout and calling conventions to simplify the C interface and make both bring up and porting of a new compiler front end simpler.

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