External Code Execution

The std-lib includes a function called run_external that allows Sway contracts to execute arbitrary external Sway code.

This functionality enables features like upgradeable contracts and proxies.

Upgradeable Contracts

Upgradeable contracts are designed to allow the logic of a smart contract to be updated after deployment.

Consider this example proxy contract:

storage {
    target_contract: Option<ContractId> = None,

impl Proxy for Contract {
    fn set_target_contract(id: ContractId) {

    fn double_input(_value: u64) -> u64 {
        let target = storage.target_contract.read().unwrap();

The contract has two functions:

  • set_target_contract updates the target_contract variable in storage with the ContractId of an external contract.
  • double_input reads the target_contract from storage and uses it to run external code. If the target_contract has a function with the same name (double_input), the code in the external double_input function will run. In this case, the function will return a u64.

Notice in the Proxy example above, the storage block has a namespace attribute. Using this attribute is considered a best practice for all proxy contracts in Sway, because it will prevent storage collisions with the implementation contract, as the implementation contract has access to both storage contexts.

Below is what an implementation contract could look like for this:

storage {
    value: u64 = 0,
    // to stay compatible, this has to stay the same in the next version

impl Implementation for Contract {
    fn double_input(value: u64) -> u64 {
        let new_value = value * 2;

This contract has one function called double_input, which calculates the input value times two, updates the value variable in storage, and returns the new value.

How does this differ from calling a contract?

There are a couple of major differences between calling a contract directly and using the run_external method.

First, to use run_external, the ABI of the external contract is not required. The proxy contract has no knowledge of the external contract except for its ContractId.

Upgradeable Contract Storage

Second, the storage context of the proxy contract is retained for the loaded code. This means that in the examples above, the value variable gets updated in the storage for the proxy contract.

For example, if you were to read the value variable by directly calling the implementation contract, you would get a different result than if you read it through the proxy contract. The proxy contract loads the code and executes it in its own context.

Fallback functions

If the function name doesn't exist in the target contract but a fallback function does, the fallback function will be triggered.

If there is no fallback function, the transaction will revert.

You can access function parameters for fallback functions using the call_frames module in the std-lib. For example, to access the _foo input parameter in the proxy function below, you can use the called_args method in the fallback function:

    fn does_not_exist_in_the_target(_foo: u64) -> u64 {
fn fallback() -> u64 {
    use std::call_frames::*;
    __log(called_method() == "double_value");
    let foo = called_args::<u64>();
    foo * 3

In this case, the does_not_exist_in_the_target function will return _foo * 3.


Some limitations of run_external function are:

  • It can only be used with other contracts. Scripts, predicates, and library code cannot be run externally.
  • If you change the implementation contract, you must maintain the same order of previous storage variables and types, as this is what has been stored in the proxy storage.
  • You can't use the call stack in another call frame before you use run_external. You can only use the call stack within the call frame that contains run_external.