JSON Interface to Silo Objects


JSON support in Silo is experimental. Silo must be configured with --enable-json to enable JSON support.

The interface may be dramatically re-worked, eliminated or replaced with something like Conduit. In addition, applications using Silo’s JSON interface will have to us the json-c library which is also built when Silo is configured, -I<silo-install>/json/include -L<silo-install>/json/lib -ljson.

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation. The json-c library is a C implementation of JSON.

Silo’s JSON interface consists of two parts. The first part is just the json-c library interface which includes methods such as json_object_new_int() which creates a new integer valued JSON object and json_object_to_json_string() which returns an ascii string representation of a JSON object as well as many other methods. This interface is documented with the json-c library and is not documented here.

The second part is some extensions to the json-c library we have defined for the purposes of providing a higher performance JSON interface for Silo objects. This includes the definition of a new JSON object type; a pointer to an external array. This is called an extptr object and is actually a specific assemblage of the following 4 JSON sub-objects…

Member name

JSON-C type




Value is one of Silo’s DBdatatype indicating type of data pointed to by ptr



Value is number of dimensions of array data pointed to by ptr



An array of json_type_int values indicating size in each dimension of data pointed to by ptr



An ASCII hexadecimal representation of the void* pointer holding the array of data.

An example of the JSON representation of the extptr object for the data for a DB_FLOAT, zone-centered, variable on a 3D quad mesh of 10 x 20 x 31 zones is…

  "datatype": 19,
  "ndims": 3,
  "dims": [10, 20, 31],
  "string": "0xFFFFFFFFAC76211B"

The extpr object is used for all Silo data representing problem-sized array data. For example, it is used to hold coordinate data for a mesh object, or variable data for a variable object or nodelist data for a zonelist object.

Another extension of JSON we have defined for Silo is a binary format for serialized JSON objects and methods to serialize and unserialize a JSON object to a binary buffer. Although JSON implementations other than json-c also define a binary format (see for example, BSON) we have defined one here as an extension to json-c. Silo’s binary format can be used, for example, by a parallel application to conveniently send Silo objects between processors by serializing to a binary buffer at the sender and then unserializing at the receiver.

Any application wishing to use the JSON Silo interface must include the silo_json.h header file.

In this section we describe only those methods we have defined beyond those that come with the json-c library. The functions in this part of the library are

json-c Extensions

  • Summary: Extensions to json-c library to support Silo

  • C Signature:

        /* Create/delete extptr object */
        json_object* json_object_new_extptr(void *p, int ndims,
        int const *dims, int datatype);
        void json_object_extptr_delete(json_object *jso);
        /* Inspect various members of an extptr object */
        int json_object_is_extptr(json_object *obj);
        int json_object_get_extptr_datatype(json_object *obj);
        int json_object_get_extptr_ndims(json_object *obj);
        int json_object_get_extptr_dims_idx(json_object *obj, int idx);
        void* json_object_get_extptr_ptr(json_object *obj);
        /* binary serialization */
        int json_object_to_binary_buf(json_object *obj, int flags,
        void **buf, int *len);
        json_object* json_object_from_binary_buf(void *buf, int len);
        /* Read/Write raw binary data to a file */
        int json_object_to_binary_file(char const *filename,
        json_object *obj);
        json_object* json_object_from_binary_file(char const *filename);
        /* Fix extptr members that were ascii-fied via standard json
        string serialization */
        void json_object_reconstitute_extptrs(json_object *o);
  • Fortran Signature:

  • Description:

    As described in the introduction to this Silo API section, Silo defines a new JSON object type called an extptr object. It is a pointer to an external array of data. Because the json-c library Silo uses permits us to override the delete method for a JSON object, if you use the standard json-c method of deleting a JSON object, json_object_put(), it will have the effect of deleting any external arrays referenced by extptr objects.

    Note that the binary serialization defined here can be UN-serialized only by this (Silo) implementation of JSON. If you serialize to a standard JSON string using the json-c library’s json_object_to_json_string() the resulting serialization can be correctly interpreted by any JSON implementation. However, in so doing, all extptr objects (which are unique to Silo) are converted to the standard JSON array type. All performance advantages of extptr objects are lost. They can, however, be re-constituted after UN-serializing a standard JSON string by the json_object_reconstitute_extprs() method.


  • Summary: Write a JSON object to a Silo file

  • C Signature:

    DBWriteJsonObject(DBfile *db, json_object *jobj)
  • Fortran Signature:

  • Arguments:

    Arg name



    Silo database file handle


    JSON object pointer

  • Description:

    This call takes a JSON object pointer and writes the object to a Silo file.

    If the object is constructed so as to match one of Silo’s standard objects (any Silo object ordinarily written with a DBPutXXX() call), then the JSON object will be written to the file such that any Silo reader calling the matching DBGetXXX() method will successfully read the object. In other words, it is possible to use this method to write first-class Silo objects to a file such as a ucd-mesh or a quad-var, etc. All that is required is that the JSON object be constructed in such a way that it holds all the metadata members Silo requires/uses for that specific object. See documentation for the companion DBGetJsonObject().

    Note that because there is no char const *name argument to this method, the JSON object itself must indicate the name of the object. This is done by defining a string valued member with key "silo_name".


  • Summary: Get an object from a Silo file as a JSON object

  • C Signature:

    json_object *DBGetJsonObject(DBfile *db, char const *name)
  • Fortran Signature:

  • Arguments:

    Arg name



    Silo database file handle


    Name of object to read

  • Description:

    This method will read an object from a Silo file and return it as a JSON object. It can read any Silo object from a Silo file including objects written to the file using DBPutXXX().

    Note, however, that any problem-sized data associate with the object is returned as extptr sub-objects. See introduction to this API section for a description of extptr objects.