This tutorial explains what an User Defined Function (UDF) is, what it does and why/when they are useful.
1. What is an User Defined Function?
Basically an User Defined Function (UDF) is a piece code that extends the functionality of a MySQL server by adding a new function that behaves just like a native (built-in) MySQL function like
concat(). UDFs are written in C (or C++ if you really need to)! ... well maybe there is a way to write them in BASIC, .NET or whatever but I don't see why anybody would want to do that.
2. Why/When are UDFs useful?
As implied by the name UDFs are useful when you need to extend the functionality of your MySQL server. This little table should make it clear which method is best for a given situation:
~minutes (for small functions)
major pain in the ***
And by "slow" I mean: "slower than the others"! Stored Procedures are still much faster then normal SQL statements!
A little explanation on native functions: The code you have to write here is essentially the same as the one for an UDF. BUT you have to write it in the MySQL source code and recompile the whole thing. This will (believe me) be a lot of work because you have to do it again and again with every new version of MySQL.
3. How to use UDFs?
This part is really easy. When you have your UDF finished you just use it like every other native function. For example : "
SELECT MyFunction(data1, data2) FROM table"
4. Writing the UDF
Now let's get started on writing our first UDF in steps:
Create a new shared-library project (in the example I used VC++ 6.0 with a standard DLL)
First we need some headers. These headers are either standard library headers or from the MySQL Server's include directory
typedef unsigned __int64 ulonglong;
typedef __int64 longlong;
typedef unsigned long long ulonglong;
typedef long long longlong;
static pthread_mutex_t LOCK_hostname;
Now we have to decide what kind of function we want. There are essentially two choices to be made:
Let's talk about non-aggregate functions first. Now we have to declare and implement some functions the MySQL server needs to use our UDF. But first some structs we'll need for that:
1 if function can return NULL
for REAL functions
For string functions
free pointer for function data
0 if result is independent of argument
Number of argument
enum Item_result *
Array containing the types of the arguments
Array of pointer to the arguments
unsigned long *
Array of the argument's lengths (only needed for strings)
Array of "maybe_null" flags (1 if argument maybe null)
Array of pointers to the arguments' attributes (see chapter x for details)
unsigned long *
Array of attributes lengths
now let's take a look at the functions:
extern "C" my_bool MyTest_init(UDF_INIT *initid, UDF_ARGS *args,
longlong* i = new longlong;
*i = 0;
initid->ptr = (char*)i;
if (args->arg_count != 1)
strcpy(message,"MyTest() requires one arguments");
if (args->arg_type != INT_RESULT)
strcpy(message,"MyTest() requires an integer");
extern "C" void MyTest_deinit(UDF_INIT *initid)
The actual function:
extern "C" longlong MyTest(UDF_INIT *initid, UDF_ARGS *args,
char *is_null, char *error)
All done! Now we have to compile the library and copy it to a directory where our OS can find it. On Windows that would be anywhere the PATH System variable says. Personally I use the MySQL servers bin directory. You have to make sure that the library is in one of those directories otherwise MySQL can't use it! And also make sure to export all the functions MySQL needs!
And at last we have to tell MySQL about it. This is really straightforward: Just execute the following SQL command:
CREATE [AGGREGATE] FUNCTION MyTest
RETURNS [INTEGER|STRING|REAL|DECIMAL] SONAME the_libraries_exact_name
Now you can use it like any other function.
5. Aggregate functions
Now some words to aggregate functions. When your UDF is an aggregate function you have to add some more functions and some functions are used in a different way. The calling sequence is:
MyTest_init to allocate memory (just like a normal UDF)
- MySQL sorts the table according to the GROUP BY statement
MyTest_clear for the first row in each group
MyTest_add for each row that belongs to the same group
MyTest to get the result when the group changes or the last row has been processed
- Repeat 3 to 5 until all rows have been processed
MyTest_deinit to free any used memory
Now let's look at the new functions needed for the aggregate function. In this example we'll simply add up all the values. (like the native
void MyTest_clear(UDF_INIT *initid, char *is_null, char *error)
*((longlong*)initid->ptr) = 0;
void MyTest_add(UDF_INIT *initid, UDF_ARGS *args, char *is_null, char *error)
*((longlong*)initid->ptr) = *((longlong*)initid->ptr) +
longlong MyTest(UDF_INIT *initid, UDF_ARGS *args, char *is_null, char *error)
6. Advanced topics
Here are some things you should know when you write more complex UDFs:
A string function should return a pointer to the result and set
*length to the contents and length of the return value. For example:
memcpy(result, "result string", 13);
*length = 13;
The result buffer that is passed to the
MyTest function is 255 bytes long. If your result fits in this, you don't have to worry about memory allocation for results.
If your string function needs to return a string longer than 255 bytes, you must allocate the space for it with
malloc or new in your
MyTest_init function or your
MyTest function and free it in your
MyTest_deinit function. You can store the allocated memory in the ptr slot in the
UDF_INIT structure for reuse by future
To indicate an error return in the main function, set *error to 1: If MyTest() sets *error to 1 for any row, the function value is NULL for the current row and for any subsequent rows processed by the statement in which MyTest() was invoked.
For more information see the MySQL Online Manual
7. Some guidelines
Here are some guidelines that you should follow if you want to make sure your UDF runs smoothly ;-)
Do not call any other applications or processes inside an UDF!
Do not store any information locally! (This goes for shared libraries in general)
Do not allocate any global or static variables!
Always check the type of your arguments. As you can see MySQL converts everything to char pointers. This can lead to major troubles if you convert a string literal to a integer pointer and so on.
Be extra careful with the memory allocation! If you have memory leaks you can bring down the sever in no time.
8. Debugging UDFs
Debugging an UDF can be pretty nerve wracking because every time your UDF crashes it takes down the whole MySQL server along with it. So I wrote a little command line tool to work around that problem. Just execute it after compilation and it does the rest. Meaning, it emulates a call to the function by calling an "
SELECT" command and then passing the results to the library and printing out the result on the command line . So when the UDF produces some serious errors only the little helper goes down and not the whole server. It is still in "beta" so don't expect to much....
MySQL Online Manual