SQL Server XQuery: Functions (sql:variable() & sql:column())
Like most query languages, XQuery has several functions that can be used to manipulate and query data. SQL ServerвЂ™s implementation supports a limited subset of the XQuery specification, but thereвЂ™s a lot of power in the functions provided. I hope to cover some of those functions in more detail at a later date, but for now IвЂ™d like to focus on a couple of very specific functions (sql:variable() & sql:column()). These are proprietary extensions to XQuery, and they (like the xml methods I previously discussed) provide a bridge between the SQL engine and the XQuery engine.
For example, if you wanted to find the value of the third node of a simple XML document in SQL Server, you could do the following:
DECLARE @x XML ='<alpha>a</alpha><alpha>b</alpha><alpha>c</alpha>' SELECT @x.value('(//alpha)', 'varchar(1)')
The .value() method would return the letter вЂњcвЂќ in the form of a varchar to the SQL engine. However, if you wanted to do this dynamically, and specify which node to return based on a parameter, you would use the sql:variable() function, like so:
DECLARE @x XML ='<alpha>a</alpha><alpha>b</alpha><alpha>c</alpha>' DECLARE @node INT = 3 SELECT @x.value('(//alpha)[sql:variable("@node")]', 'varchar(1)')
The sql:variable() function uses a string literal (a value surrounded by double quotes) to reference a SQL parameter (in this case, @node) and concatenates it to the XQuery string. The above query is seen as:
by the XQuery engine. In English, we are looking for the 3rd node named alpha. You may wonder about the extra positional reference (вЂњвЂќ) ; the .value() method requires that a positional reference be explicitly defined. In this situation, we are telling the XQuery engine to return the first instance of the third node of the alpha node. Seems a bit clunky, but it works. Looking at the execution plan, we can see that this is a relatively complex process, with multiple calls between the two sides of the query processor:
The sql:column() function is similar, but is used to refer to a column instead of a parameter; this allows for the dynamic querying of an XML column on a row by row basis. For example:
DECLARE @T TABLE ( ID INT, x XML ) INSERT INTO @T ( ID, x ) VALUES ( 1, '<alpha>a</alpha><alpha>b</alpha><alpha>c</alpha>' ), ( 2, '<alpha>a</alpha><alpha>b</alpha><alpha>c</alpha>' ), ( 3, '<alpha>a</alpha><alpha>b</alpha><alpha>c</alpha>' ) SELECT ID, v=x.value('(//alpha)[sql:column("ID")]', 'varchar(1)') FROM @T
The above query will return a dataset like so:
SQL Server provides two functions for sharing information from the SQL engine to the XQuery engine: sql:variable() & sql:column(). The nature of these functions is pretty straight-forward; you pass the value of either a parameter or a column to an XML method, and it builds an XQuery string using the values of these functions.