NAG Technical Report TR 1/04

Calling NAG Library Routines from Java

Mick Pont
Numerical Algorithms Group, Ltd.

February 2004
(This report supersedes NAG Technical Report TR3/00 (NP3489))


This report gives detailed instructions on how to call routines in the NAG C and Fortran Libraries from the Java programming language. We show examples using Java running on both UNIX and Microsoft Windows platforms.


  1. Motivation
  2. The Java Native Interface
  3. Use of an interface library
  4. Examples
  5. Building more interfaces
  6. References

  1. Motivation
  2. The NAG C Library [1] and NAG Fortran Library [2] contain many mathematical and statistical routines which are useful for package builders. Areas covered include linear algebra, optimization, quadrature, differential equations, regression analysis, and time series analysis. Although written in C or Fortran, the functionality of the libraries can be accessed from other languages, including C++, and on PCs, DLL versions of the libraries can be exploited in many ways [3]. It is natural, then, to wonder whether it is possible to call the NAG Libraries from the Java programming language [4].

    For someone needing to perform numerical computations, one approach is to create Java classes implementing the required functionality; a group who have made progress in this direction, partly by writing new code and partly by converting pre-existing code from other languages into Java, is the Numerics Working Group of the Java Grande Forum. The JavaNumerics web page [5] gives much useful information, including discussion of the difficulties of using Java for numerical computation due to constraints imposed by Java as it currently stands.

    In this report, we use the alternative approach of calling the NAG Libraries directly from Java, thus evading the job of writing or rewriting code, and everything that that entails in the way of testing. Of course, since we propose to call the NAG Libraries, our application will no longer be portable in the sense that it would have been had it been exclusively written in Java, because now it will rely on the presence of a machine-dependent implementation of a NAG Library at run time. However, it will still be portable in the sense that the NAG Libraries are available on almost all commercially significant machines.

    Apart from avoiding the need to first write Java versions of numerical routines, using the NAG Libraries has another advantage. Java has been designed to be portable; a compiled program will run on any machine which has an implementation of the Java Virtual Machine (VM). To accomplish this, the Java compiler does not compile to machine-dependent assembler, as do traditional languages such as C or C++, but to a machine-independent byte code. This byte code then gets interpreted at run time by the VM. Although the Java interpreter is efficient, it is clear that it would be hard for any interpreted program to run as fast as a program compiled to assembler code. For many applications this does not matter; but for applications that perform cpu-intensive operations on large amounts of data, it may be significant. By moving those operations out of Java and into the NAG Libraries, we may therefore hope to cut execution time.

    In order to access the NAG Libraries from a Java program, we will make use of the Java Native Interface.

  3. The Java Native Interface
  4. The Java Native Interface (JNI), which comes as part of the Java Software Development Kit (SDK), gives compile- and run-time support to anyone who would like to call native code from a Java program. By native code, we mean non-Java code, typically C or C++; in this report we will assume C.

    At compile time, the JNI defines the way that Java data types correspond to C data types C programs get this information from JNI header files that come with the Java SDK. A tool, javah, that comes with the SDK, aids in creating application-specific header files which aim to eliminate mistakes in communication between Java and C routines.

    At run time, the JNI allows the passing of Java objects to the C code, and allows the C code access to Java properties and methods. Thus, for example, the C code can set properties of Java classes, and it is possible to call a Java method from C.

    During preparation of this report, we tested code on two machines

    Working on UNIX platforms other than Sun/Solaris should be similar to Solaris; the main differences are likely to be in the location of Java include files, and the method of creating a shared object (dynamic library).

    A good introduction to the Java Native Interface can be found at the Sun Microsystems Java Tutorial web site [6].

  5. Use of an interface library
  6. Use of the JNI entails creation of an intermediate shared library (on UNIX systems) or DLL (Microsoft Windows systems). This library acts as the interface between the Java code and the NAG C Library code.

    The interface library is required because when a native method (i.e. function or subroutine) is called from Java, extra arguments are prepended to the argument list of the native routine being called. These extra arguments give the native code access to Java methods and properties, but of course the NAG Libraries were not designed to handle these arguments. Furthermore, the types of the arguments passed from Java do not always correspond exactly to standard C or Fortran types, and so the NAG Libraries cannot use them directly. The interface library must handle these issues, make its own calls to the NAG Library, and then send the results back to Java.

    The Java Native Interface as a link between Java and a NAG Library

    Implementation of a call from Java to a NAG Library is a three-stage process

    When the interface library has been built, the Java code that uses it is still machine-independent even though the interface library is not. Thus, we need to build the interface library on all platforms that we are interested in, but we do not have to edit or rebuild the Java code that uses it.

  7. Examples
  8. The process of creating an interface library is most easily understood by demonstration. We give four examples, each showing different aspects of use of the JNI with the NAG Libraries.

  9. Building more interfaces
  10. If you have studied all the examples above, you will have learned the basic techniques for passing information between Java and the NAG C and Fortran Libraries. You should be able to use these techniques, and perhaps re-use some of the source code presented here, to create interfaces to many other of the routines in the NAG Library. It should be relatively easy to enhance the interfaces presented, for example to return an error message to Java when a NAG routine has failed, instead of just returning an integer code.

    If you are interested in calling NAG Fortran routines from Java, NAG supplies header files [7] that can help to make it easier to call NAG Fortran 77 Library routines from an interface library written in C.

  11. References

Copyright 2004 Numerical Algorithms Group