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Wrap a cursor function

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A Gauss posted a question on my from last year’s Utah Oracle User’s Group Training Days presentation. If I understood his question correctly, this should help him work with his legacy code. Honestly, as I wrote the example something Bryn Llewellyn said kept banging around in my head, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.” He was speaking of writing poorly engineered code.

Sometimes, we don’t get the opportunity to re-factor existing code. That leaves us with writing wrappers that aren’t pretty or effective. A realization and preface to showing everyone how to accomplish these tasks, and perhaps a watch out warning if you choose this path. I suspect that there may be a better way but I don’t know their code tree.

Here’s the question, as I understand it. They’ve got a library function in PL/SQL that returns a system reference cursor and is principally consumed by an external Java program. This type of architecture is more or less an Adapter OOAD pattern that I wrote about here, over a year and a half ago. The question comes to how to you wrap this approach and make it work in PL/SQL natively too.

The answer depends on some earlier posts because I don’t have a great deal of time to write new examples. It uses a COMMON_LOOKUP table, which is more or less a bunch of small tables grouped into a big table for use in user interaction forms. That way the values don’t get lost in a large code base and are always consistently maintained. These types of tables exist in all major ERP and CRM applications.

The base code for the example is found here, where I discussed how you can effectively use object tables – collections of user-defined object types (Oracle 9iR2 forward if I remember correctly). You can grab the full code at the bottom of the page by clicking the Code Script widget to unfold the code. That code also depends on the Oracle Database 11g PL/SQL Programming downloadable code, which you can download by clicking the link to the zip file location.

Here are the steps to wrap a function that returns a PL/SQL reference cursor so that it can also return a PL/SQL associative array.

  1. Create a package specification to hold all the components that are required to manage the process. Assuming that they may have anchored the system reference cursor to something other than a table like a shared cursor, which is a cumbersome implementation design. (I actually chose to exclude this from the book because it’s a stretch as a good coding practice. At least, it is from my perspective. Also, I couldn’t find an example in the Oracle documentation, which led me to believe they didn’t think it’s a great idea either or I could have glossed over it.) You should note that the PL/SQL RECORD, Associative Array (collection), and the REF CURSOR are defined in this package specification.
-- Create a package to hold the PL/SQL record structure.
CREATE OR REPLACE PACKAGE example IS
 
  -- Force cursors to be read as if empty every time.
  PRAGMA SERIALLY_REUSABLE;
 
  -- Package-level record structure that mimics SQL object type.
  TYPE common_lookup_record IS RECORD
  ( common_lookup_id      NUMBER
  , common_lookup_type    VARCHAR2(30)
  , common_lookup_meaning VARCHAR2(255));
 
  -- Package-level collection that mimics SQL object table.
  TYPE common_lookup_record_table IS TABLE OF common_lookup_record
  INDEX BY PLS_INTEGER;
 
  -- Cursor structure to support a strongly-typed reference cursor.
  CURSOR c IS
    SELECT   common_lookup_id
    ,        common_lookup_type
    ,        common_lookup_meaning
    FROM     common_lookup;
 
  -- Package-level strongly-typed system reference cursor.
  TYPE cursor_lookup IS REF CURSOR RETURN c%ROWTYPE;
 
END;
/
  1. Write a function to return a strongly typed system reference cursor that’s anchored to a cursor defined in the package. This is fairly straightforward when the package specification is done right. You should notice right away that anchoring the original cursor in the package was a horrible practice because you must repeat it all again in the function. In my opinion, you shouldn’t anchor any system reference cursor explicitly to anything other than a table. The cursor could have used the generic weak cursor data type – SYS_REFCURSOR. Doing so, saves all the extra lines required by a potential shared cursor.
CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION get_common_lookup_cursor
( TABLE_NAME VARCHAR2, column_name VARCHAR2)
RETURN example.cursor_lookup IS
 
  -- Define a local variable of a strongly-typed reference cursor.
  lv_cursor EXAMPLE.CURSOR_LOOKUP;
 
BEGIN
 
  -- Open the cursor from a static cursor
  OPEN lv_cursor FOR
    SELECT common_lookup_id
    ,      common_lookup_type
    ,      common_lookup_meaning
    FROM   common_lookup
    WHERE  common_lookup_table = TABLE_NAME
    AND    common_lookup_column = column_name;
 
  -- Return the cursor handle.
  RETURN lv_cursor;
 
END;
/
  1. Write a wrapper function that takes the reference cursor as a formal parameter and returns an Associative Array. You should note that this can’t be called from a SQL context. You must only use it in a PL/SQL context because system reference cursors are PL/SQL only data types.
CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION convert_common_lookup_cursor
( pv_cursor EXAMPLE.CURSOR_LOOKUP) 
RETURN example.common_lookup_record_table IS
 
  -- Declare a local counter variable.
  counter INTEGER := 1;
 
  -- Local PL/SQL-only variable.
  out_record  EXAMPLE.COMMON_LOOKUP_RECORD;
  out_table   EXAMPLE.COMMON_LOOKUP_RECORD_TABLE;
 
BEGIN
 
  -- Grab the cursor wrapper and return values to a PL/SQL-only record collection.
  LOOP
    FETCH pv_cursor INTO out_record;
    EXIT WHEN pv_cursor%NOTFOUND;
 
    -- Assign it one row at a time to an associative array.
    out_table(counter) := out_record;
 
    -- Increment the counter.
    counter := counter + 1;
 
  END LOOP;
 
  -- Return the record collection.
  RETURN out_table;
 
END;
/
  1. You can test the program in an anonymous block, like the one below. It defines a local Associative Array variable and then assigns the system reference cursor through the wrapper.
-- Open the session to see output from PL/SQL blocks.
SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
 
DECLARE
 
  -- Define a local associative array.
  process_table  EXAMPLE.COMMON_LOOKUP_RECORD_TABLE;
 
BEGIN
  -- Print title block.
  dbms_output.put_line('Converting a SYS_REFCURSOR to TABLE');
  dbms_output.put_line('---------------------------------------------------');
 
  -- Run the dynamic variables through the cursor generating function and then convert it.
  process_table := convert_common_lookup_cursor(get_common_lookup_cursor('ITEM','ITEM_TYPE'));
 
  -- Read the content of the Associative array.  
  FOR i IN 1..process_table.COUNT LOOP
    dbms_output.put('['||process_table(i).common_lookup_id||']');
    dbms_output.put('['||process_table(i).common_lookup_type||']');
    dbms_output.put_line('['||process_table(i).common_lookup_meaning||']');
  END LOOP;
 
END;
/

I hope this answers Gauss’s question. While writing it, I could envision another question that might pop-up. How do you convert an object table type to a PL/SQL context. It was an omission not to include it in that original post on object table types. Here’s how you wrap an object table type into a PL/SQL scope collection.

You might have guessed. It’s done with another wrapper function. At least this is the easiest way to convert the SQL data type to a PL/SQL data type that I see. If you’ve another approach, a better way, let us know.

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION get_common_lookup_record_table
( TABLE_NAME  VARCHAR2
, column_name VARCHAR2 )
RETURN example.common_lookup_record_table IS
 
  -- Declare a local counter variable.
  counter INTEGER := 1;
 
  -- Define a dynamic cursor that takes two formal parameters.
  CURSOR c (table_name_in VARCHAR2, table_column_name_in VARCHAR2) IS
    SELECT   *
    FROM     TABLE(get_common_lookup_object_table(UPPER(table_name_in),UPPER(table_column_name_in)));
 
  -- A local PL/SQL-only collection variable.
  list EXAMPLE.COMMON_LOOKUP_RECORD_TABLE;
 
BEGIN
 
  -- Grab the cursor wrapper and return values to a PL/SQL-only record collection.
  FOR i IN c(TABLE_NAME, column_name) LOOP
    list(counter) := i;
    counter := counter + 1;
  END LOOP;
 
  -- Return the record collection.
  RETURN list;
END get_common_lookup_record_table;
/

You can then test this in an anonymous block, like so:

-- Open the session to see output from PL/SQL blocks.
SET SERVEROUTPUT ON
 
DECLARE
 
  -- Declare a local PL/SQL-only collection and assign the value from the function call.
  list EXAMPLE.COMMON_LOOKUP_RECORD_TABLE;
 
  BEGIN
 
  -- Print title block.
  dbms_output.put_line('Converting a SQL Collection to a PL/SQL Collection');
  dbms_output.put_line('---------------------------------------------------');
 
  -- Assign wrapped SQL collection to a PL/SQL-only collection.
  list := get_common_lookup_record_table('ITEM','ITEM_TYPE');
 
  -- Call the record wrapper function.
  FOR i IN 1..list.COUNT LOOP
    dbms_output.put('['||list(i).common_lookup_id||']');
    dbms_output.put('['||list(i).common_lookup_type||']');
    dbms_output.put_line('['||list(i).common_lookup_meaning||']');
  END LOOP;
 
END;
/

As always, I hope this helps somebody without paying a fee for content. ;-)

Written by maclochlainn

March 7th, 2010 at 9:14 pm

3 Responses to 'Wrap a cursor function'

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  1. Thanks so much Maclochlainn, you are a kind person! :)

    I’ve had something like that already and refined a little more with this article.

    Now I’m able to pass the ref cursor to other PL function but I still have a question. Is it possible to output a PL/SQL-only collection (created from the package-level record structure that mimics an SQL object type) as a ref cursor so that it could be handled by Java?

    I know that functions like ‘Table’ only work with SQL objects so I haven’t had success as to open a ref cursor for a collection with the function Table. What I’m about to try is to pass the collection to Java and read it with Oracle libraries instead than working with a result set. Anyway I still wonder if it’s possible to output a ref cursor to avoid this.

    BTW, I’m using Oracle 9.2.0.4.0.

    Thanks again!

    Gauss

    8 Mar 10 at 1:11 pm

  2. The OCI only supports a single dimension PL/SQL-only collection (the old PL/SQL Tables from Oracle 8i documentation). There’s no record support in the OCI and it has been on the request queue for more than 5 years. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    You can pass a collection of PL/SQL scalar collections in parallel. I actually put an example of that in the Oracle Database 10g Express Edition PHP Programming book. It’s not a downloadable code set because it shipped with a CD, but I’ll fix that and post the code tonight. Then, I’ll update this note with the files you’ll want to look at.

    maclochlainn

    8 Mar 10 at 1:34 pm

  3. Hey, Gauss! This came up again today. I think today’s post may work for you.

    maclochlainn

    16 Dec 10 at 2:01 am

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