Using PL/pgSQL in HAWQ

SQL is the language of most other relational databases use as query language. It is portable and easy to learn. But every SQL statement must be executed individually by the database server.

PL/pgSQL is a loadable procedural language. PL/SQL can do the following:

  • create functions
  • add control structures to the SQL language
  • perform complex computations
  • inherit all user-defined types, functions, and operators
  • be trusted by the server

You can use functions created with PL/pgSQL with any database that supports built-in functions. For example, it is possible to create complex conditional computation functions and later use them to define operators or use them in index expressions.

Every SQL statement must be executed individually by the database server. Your client application must send each query to the database server, wait for it to be processed, receive and process the results, do some computation, then send further queries to the server. This requires interprocess communication and incurs network overhead if your client is on a different machine than the database server.

With PL/pgSQL, you can group a block of computation and a series of queries inside the database server, thus having the power of a procedural language and the ease of use of SQL, but with considerable savings of client/server communication overhead.

  • Extra round trips between client and server are eliminated
  • Intermediate results that the client does not need do not have to be marshaled or transferred between server and client
  • Multiple rounds of query parsing can be avoided

This can result in a considerable performance increase as compared to an application that does not use stored functions.

PL/pgSQL supports all the data types, operators, and functions of SQL.

Note: PL/pgSQL is automatically installed and registered in all HAWQ databases.

Supported Data Types for Arguments and Results

Functions written in PL/pgSQL accept as arguments any scalar or array data type supported by the server, and they can return a result containing this data type. They can also accept or return any composite type (row type) specified by name. It is also possible to declare a PL/pgSQL function as returning record, which means that the result is a row type whose columns are determined by specification in the calling query. See Table Functions.

PL/pgSQL functions can be declared to accept a variable number of arguments by using the VARIADIC marker. This works exactly the same way as for SQL functions. See SQL Functions with Variable Numbers of Arguments.

PL/pgSQLfunctions can also be declared to accept and return the polymorphic typesanyelement,anyarray,anynonarray, and anyenum. The actual data types handled by a polymorphic function can vary from call to call, as discussed in Section 34.2.5. An example is shown in Section 38.3.1.

PL/pgSQL functions can also be declared to return a “set” (or table) of any data type that can be returned as a single instance. Such a function generates its output by executing RETURN NEXT for each desired element of the result set, or by using RETURN QUERY to output the result of evaluating a query.

Finally, a PL/pgSQL function can be declared to return void if it has no useful return value.

PL/pgSQL functions can also be declared with output parameters in place of an explicit specification of the return type. This does not add any fundamental capability to the language, but it is often convenient, especially for returning multiple values. The RETURNS TABLE notation can also be used in place of RETURNS SETOF .

This topic describes the following PL/pgSQLconcepts:

Table Functions

Table functions are functions that produce a set of rows, made up of either base data types (scalar types) or composite data types (table rows). They are used like a table, view, or subquery in the FROM clause of a query. Columns returned by table functions can be included in SELECT, JOIN, or WHERE clauses in the same manner as a table, view, or subquery column.

If a table function returns a base data type, the single result column name matches the function name. If the function returns a composite type, the result columns get the same names as the individual attributes of the type.

A table function can be aliased in the FROM clause, but it also can be left unaliased. If a function is used in the FROM clause with no alias, the function name is used as the resulting table name.

Some examples:

CREATE TABLE foo (fooid int, foosubid int, fooname text);

CREATE FUNCTION getfoo(int) RETURNS SETOF foo AS $$
    SELECT * FROM foo WHERE fooid = $1;
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

SELECT * FROM getfoo(1) AS t1;

SELECT * FROM foo
    WHERE foosubid IN (
                        SELECT foosubid
                        FROM getfoo(foo.fooid) z
                        WHERE z.fooid = foo.fooid
                      );

CREATE VIEW vw_getfoo AS SELECT * FROM getfoo(1);

SELECT * FROM vw_getfoo;

In some cases, it is useful to define table functions that can return different column sets depending on how they are invoked. To support this, the table function can be declared as returning the pseudotype record. When such a function is used in a query, the expected row structure must be specified in the query itself, so that the system can know how to parse and plan the query. Consider this example:

SELECT *
    FROM dblink('dbname=mydb', 'SELECT proname, prosrc FROM pg_proc')
      AS t1(proname name, prosrc text)
    WHERE proname LIKE 'bytea%';

The dblink function executes a remote query (see contrib/dblink). It is declared to return record since it might be used for any kind of query. The actual column set must be specified in the calling query so that the parser knows, for example, what * should expand to.

SQL Functions with Variable Numbers of Arguments

SQL functions can be declared to accept variable numbers of arguments, so long as all the “optional” arguments are of the same data type. The optional arguments will be passed to the function as an array. The function is declared by marking the last parameter as VARIADIC; this parameter must be declared as being of an array type. For example:

CREATE FUNCTION mleast(VARIADIC numeric[]) RETURNS numeric AS $$
    SELECT min($1[i]) FROM generate_subscripts($1, 1) g(i);
$$ LANGUAGE SQL;

SELECT mleast(10, -1, 5, 4.4);
 mleast 
--------
     -1
(1 row)

Effectively, all the actual arguments at or beyond the VARIADIC position are gathered up into a one-dimensional array, as if you had written

SELECT mleast(ARRAY[10, -1, 5, 4.4]);    -- doesn't work

You can’t actually write that, though; or at least, it will not match this function definition. A parameter marked VARIADIC matches one or more occurrences of its element type, not of its own type.

Sometimes it is useful to be able to pass an already-constructed array to a variadic function; this is particularly handy when one variadic function wants to pass on its array parameter to another one. You can do that by specifying VARIADIC in the call:

SELECT mleast(VARIADIC ARRAY[10, -1, 5, 4.4]);

This prevents expansion of the function’s variadic parameter into its element type, thereby allowing the array argument value to match normally. VARIADIC can only be attached to the last actual argument of a function call.

Polymorphic Types

Four pseudo-types of special interest are anyelement,anyarray, anynonarray, and anyenum, which are collectively called polymorphic types. Any function declared using these types is said to be a*polymorphic function*. A polymorphic function can operate on many different data types, with the specific data type(s) being determined by the data types actually passed to it in a particular call.

Polymorphic arguments and results are tied to each other and are resolved to a specific data type when a query calling a polymorphic function is parsed. Each position (either argument or return value) declared as anyelement is allowed to have any specific actual data type, but in any given call they must all be the sam eactual type. Each position declared as anyarray can have any array data type, but similarly they must all be the same type. If there are positions declared anyarray and others declared anyelement, the actual array type in the anyarray positions must be an array whose elements are the same type appearing in the anyelement positions.anynonarray is treated exactly the same as anyelement, but adds the additional constraint that the actual type must not be an array type. anyenum is treated exactly the same as anyelement, but adds the additional constraint that the actual type must be an enum type.

Thus, when more than one argument position is declared with a polymorphic type, the net effect is that only certain combinations of actual argument types are allowed. For example, a function declared as equal(anyelement, anyelement) will take any two input values, so long as they are of the same data type.

When the return value of a function is declared as a polymorphic type, there must be at least one argument position that is also polymorphic, and the actual data type supplied as the argument determines the actual result type for that call. For example, if there were not already an array subscripting mechanism, one could define a function that implements subscripting assubscript(anyarray, integer) returns anyelement. This declaration constrains the actual first argument to be an array type, and allows the parser to infer the correct result type from the actual first argument’s type. Another example is that a function declared asf(anyarray) returns anyenum will only accept arrays of enum types.

Note that anynonarray and anyenum do not represent separate type variables; they are the same type as anyelement, just with an additional constraint. For example, declaring a function as f(anyelement, anyenum) is equivalent to declaring it as f(anyenum, anyenum); both actual arguments have to be the same enum type.

Variadic functions described in SQL Functions with Variable Numbers of Arguments can be polymorphic: this is accomplished by declaring its last parameter as VARIADIC anyarray. For purposes of argument matching and determining the actual result type, such a function behaves the same as if you had written the appropriate number of anynonarray parameters.