How To Use SQL to Query an XML Document Using Oracle External Tables

11/14/2012 in HowTos using tags oracle , xml , sql , external tables

Oracle’s external table feature allows you to treat structured files on the database server as tables for query and DML purposes. To use an example from the linked documentation, a tab-delimited file like this:

56   november, 15, 1980  baker             mary       alice     09/01/2004
87   december, 20, 1970  roper             lisa       marie     01/01/1999

…could be queried like this:

SELECT employee_number,
       employee_first_name,
       substr(employee_middle_name, 1, 1),
       employee_last_name,
       employee_hire_date,
       to_date(employee_dob,'month, dd, yyyy')
  FROM employees;

After defining the external table like this:

    CREATE TABLE employees
           (employee_number      CHAR(5),
            employee_dob         CHAR(20),
            employee_last_name   CHAR(20),
            employee_first_name  CHAR(15),
            employee_middle_name CHAR(15),
            employee_hire_date   DATE)
         ORGANIZATION EXTERNAL
           (TYPE ORACLE_LOADER
            DEFAULT DIRECTORY def_dir1
            ACCESS PARAMETERS
              (RECORDS DELIMITED BY NEWLINE
               FIELDS (employee_number      CHAR(2),
                       employee_dob         CHAR(20),
                       employee_last_name   CHAR(18),
                       employee_first_name  CHAR(11),
                       employee_middle_name CHAR(11),
                       employee_hire_date   CHAR(10) date_format DATE mask "mm/dd/yyyy"
                      )
              )
            LOCATION ('info.dat')
           );

Assuming of course that the file’s name is info.dat, and its path on the filesystem has already been created as a directory object DEF_DIR1 in the database.

A similar technique exists for querying simple XML files, taking advantage of Oracle’s XML DB features. _HT to odie_63 on the XML DB forums for introducing me to this method._

Suppose you have a simple XML file (elements, but no attributes; no complex column types - it could work for the preceding, but I’m not sure) like so.

    <Employees>
        <Employee>
            <id>1234</id>
            <lastname>Jetson</lastname>
            <firstname>George</firstname>
            <department>10</department>
            <salary>50000.00</salary>
        </Employee>
        <Employee>
            <id>1235</id>
            <lastname>Crackorn</lastname>
            <firstname>James</firstname>
            <department>10</department>
            <salary>40000.00</salary>
        </Employee>
        <Employee>
            <id>1236</id>
            <lastname>Hoffman</lastname>
            <firstname>Burl</firstname>
            <department>20</department>
            <salary>75000.00</salary>
        </Employee>
    </Employees>

Place it on the database server in a readable directory, e.g. /home/oracle. Name it employees.xml.

Now execute the following in SQL*Plus:

    SQL> CREATE OR REPLACE DIRECTORY XML_DIR AS '/home/oracle';

    SQL> CREATE OR REPLACE VIEW employees_v AS
    SELECT *
    FROM XMLTable('/Employees/Employee'
            passing xmltype(
                     bfilename('XML_DIR','employees.xml')
                    , nls_charset_id('AL32UTF8')
                    )
            columns id           number path 'id'
                  , lastname     varchar2(30) path 'lastname'
                  , firstname    varchar2(30) path 'firstname'
                  , department   number path 'department'
                  , salary       number path 'salary'
           );

    SQL> SELECT * FROM employees_v;
    ID   LASTNAME FIRSTNAME DEPARTMENT SALARY
    ---- -------- --------- ---------- ------
    1234 Jetson   George    10         50000    
    1235 Crackorn James     10         40000
    1236 Hoffman  Burl      20         75000

You can modify construction of the view to read from multiple files by using a simple UNION operator, or you can make the source filename dynamic so you can switch datasets at runtime. Here’s how you might do something like that:

    SQL> CREATE OR REPLACE VIEW employees_v AS
    SELECT *
    FROM XMLTable('/Employees/Employee'
            passing xmltype(
                     bfilename('XML_DIR', userenv('CLIENT_INFO'))
                    , nls_charset_id('AL32UTF8')
                    )
            columns id           number path 'id'
                  , lastname     varchar2(30) path 'lastname'
                  , firstname    varchar2(30) path 'firstname'
                  , department   number path 'department'
                  , salary       number path 'salary'
           );

Then at runtime, specify the file you want to use like this:

    SQL> exec dbms_application_info.set_client_info('employees_01.xml');

    SQL> SELECT * FROM employees_v;
    ID   LASTNAME FIRSTNAME DEPARTMENT SALARY
    ---- -------- --------- ---------- ------
    1234 Jetson   George    10         50000    
    1235 Crackorn James     10         40000
    1236 Hoffman  Burl      20         75000

    SQL> exec dbms_application_info.set_client_info('employees_02.xml');

    SQL> SELECT * FROM employees_v;
    ID   LASTNAME FIRSTNAME DEPARTMENT SALARY
    ---- -------- --------- ---------- ------
    1234 Ringwald Malory    30         63000    
    1235 Dulles   Bob       10         100000
    1236 Stein    Frank     50         55000

Why might this be useful? Suppose you have an arbitrary number of identically structured XML files in a directory that you want to import into a relational database table. Using a shell script you can, for each file in the directory,

  • log in to SQL*Plus
  • set the CLIENT_INFO variable to the name of the current file
  • perform a simple insert into your table reading all records from the view

You might even create a cron job to monitor a particular directory for new XML files, processing them into tables and then deleting or archiving the files when done.


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