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IRIS External Table

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IRIS External Table allows you to access files in the local filesystem and cloud BLOB storage such as AWS S3 and Azure BLOB Storage as regular IRIS SQL tables.

What's new in this version

Switch to AWS V4 signature, JSON, Quoted CSV support, ORDER BY, SELECT TOP fixes.

IRIS External Table

IRIS External Table allows you to access files in local filesystem and cloud BLOB storage such as AWS S3 and Azure BLOB Storage as regular IRIS SQL tables. The resulting tables are full-featured IRIS tables and can be JOINed with other tables, used in subselects, used for bulk loading the data with INSERT INTO localtable SELECT FROM external_table etc.

External Table

External tables can be based on a single file or directory/bucket. Using tables, based on multiple files is ideal for situations like log processing, where data is constantly added as new files.

Let's say you have the following text file, located in S3 bucket at s3:/mybucket/myfile.csv:


You can execute the following SQL statements:

CREATE TABLE person.firstname (
    firstname VARCHAR(50), 
    personid INT

CALL EXT.ConvertToExternal(
        "delimiter": ",",
        "skipHeaders": 1
-- change "s3:/mybucket/myfile.csv" to "/myfolder/myfile.csv" and "EXT.AWSS3" to "EXT.LocalFile" to use the local filesystem instead

SELECT * FROM person.firstname
firstname	personid
anton	    1
john	    2
bill	    3

3 Rows(s) Affected

Delimited files and JSON can be used as data sources. Local filesystem, AWS S3, Google Storage Bucket and Azure BLOB storage data sources implemented.


git clone https://github.com/antonum/IRIS-ExternalTable.git
iris session iris
USER>set sc = ##class(%SYSTEM.OBJ).LoadDir("<path-to>/IRIS-ExternalTable", "ck",,1)

IRIS Package Manager (ZPM) - based installation

IRIS External Table can be installed with ObjectScript Package Manager. https://openexchange.intersystems.com/package/ObjectScript-Package-Manager-2

USER> zpm
zpm: USER>install external-table


Create table as usual:

CREATE TABLE test.table1
    (field1 VARCHAR(50), 
    int1 INT, 
    float1 DOUBLE, 
    field2 VARCHAR(50))

Then convert it to "External" table using EXT.ConvertToExternal stored procedure, specifying existing table name and table configuration in JSON format.

call EXT.ConvertToExternal(
        "delimiter": ","

Table configuration can also be specified by using reference to the file.

CALL EXT.ConvertToExternal('test.table1','<path-to>/multifile-gs.json')

Where multifile-gs.json is:

    "delimiter": ","

adapter and location are required parameters.

location can point to a single file or directry/bucket. For directory/bucket, make sure to include tailing slash "location":"<path-to>/"

Supported adapters:

  • EXT.LocalFile - files on the local file system. Location format: /<path-to>/<filename.csv>
  • EXT.AWSS3 - AWS S3 Buckets. Location format: s3://<bucketname>/<filename.csv>
  • EXT.GoogleStorage - Google Cloud Storage Buckets. Location format: gs://<bucketname>/<filename.csv>
  • EXT.Azure - Azure BLOB Storage containers. Location format: https://<bucketname>.blob.core.windows.net/<containername>/<filename.csv>


For all the tables, the additional hidden %PATH field is created, containing the underlying filename. It can be useful for processing log data where file name itself contains data such as date/time. %PATH is not included in SELECT * FROM TableName query and must be explicitly specified.

SELECT %PATH, * FROM myExternalTable

CSV files

You must specify "delimiter": ","

"skipHeaders": 1 is optional and identifies number of lines to skip at the beginning og the file. Default is 0.

Quoted CSV files

Quoted CSV allows for values to have comma inside the fields, as long as the entire field is enclosed in double quotes. For performance reasons you might prefer to use "type": "csv" where possible.

1997,Ford,E350,"ac, abs, moon",3000.00
1999,Chevy,"Venture Extended Edition","",4900.00
1999,Chevy,"Venture Extended Edition, Very Large",,5000.00
1996,Jeep,Grand Cherokee,"MUST SELL! air, moon roof, loaded",4799.00

You must specify "delimiter": "," and "type": "quoted_csv".

"skipHeaders": 1 is optional and identifies number of lines to skip at the beginning og the file. Default is 0.

 create table cars ( 
    year INT,
    make char(10),
    model varchar(50),
    description varchar(50),
    price float
call EXT.ConvertToExternal(
        "type": "quoted_csv", 
        "delimiter": ",", 
        "skipHeaders": 1
select * from cars

JSON files

JSON Lines http://jsonlines.org/ format supported. File contains multiple lines, every line is a single JSON document, converted to the row.

JSON table configuration must specify "type": "jsonlines"

Fields in JSON data are matched to the field names in SQL table by default. Names are case sensitive.

For complex/non-flat JSON structures you can specify optional "jsonParser" section, where table field name is matched to the ObjectScript code, extracting field data from the %jsonline object. Use https://docs.intersystems.com/irislatest/csp/docbook/DocBook.UI.Page.cls?KEY=GJSON_create for the reference. Field names with underscores, dashes etc. must be enclosed in quoted double quotes.

 create table toronto.greenparking (
    address varchar(150),
    enable_streetview char(3),
    lat float,
    lng float,
    rate varchar(50),
    payment_options varchar(50),
    rate_details_periods varchar(150)

call EXT.ConvertToExternal(
        "type": "jsonlines",
        "jsonParser": {
            "payment_options": "%jsonline.\"payment_options\"",
            "rate_details_periods": "%jsonline.\"rate_details\".periods"

For the tables of jsonlines type additional hidden %DOCUMENT field is created, similar to %PATH. %DOCUMENT contains the entire JSON document that can be used for extracting data from documents in downstram processing.

SELECT %DOCUMENT, * FROM myExternalTable

Data Migration

External table can be used to migrate data into internal table, using INSER INTO .. SELECT FROM syntax.

INSERT INTO internal_table SELECT * FROM external_table

INSERT INTO internal_table (firstname, personid) SELECT firstname, personid*10 FROM external_table

Cloud Support - Authentication

All cloud providers expect you to use authenticated requests to access data. IRIS-ExternalTable supports the following authentication methods for the cloud providers:


AWS Uses Account Key/Secret authentication to sign requests. https://docs.aws.amazon.com/general/latest/gr/aws-sec-cred-types.html#access-keys-and-secret-access-keys

If you are running IRIS External Table on EC2 instance, the recommended way of dealing with authentication is using EC2 Instance Roles https://docs.aws.amazon.com/AWSEC2/latest/UserGuide/iam-roles-for-amazon-ec2.html IRIS External Table would be able to use permissions of that role. No extra setup required.

On a local/non EC2 instance you need to specify AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID and AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY by either specifying environment variables or installing and configuring AWS CLI client.

export AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY=111222333abcdefghigklmnopqrst

Make sure that environment variable is visible within your IRIS process. You can verify it by running:

USER>write $system.Util.GetEnviron("AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID")

It should output the value of the key.

or install AWS CLI, following instruction here https://docs.aws.amazon.com/cli/latest/userguide/install-cliv2-linux.html and run:

aws configure

Google Cloud

IRIS instance running on GCP Virtual Machine needs no additional steps to allow IRIS External Table to access Google Storage Buckets. Just make sure the following command on the instance returns valid token and instance itself has the permissions to read data from Google Storage.

gcloud auth print-access-token

If IRIS is running not on Google Cloud VM - you need to install Google Cloud SDK on the machine https://cloud.google.com/sdk/install , create Google Service Account https://cloud.google.com/iam/docs/service-accounts and download JSON key for that account. Activate the key on the instance:

gcloud auth activate-service-account --key-file=my-service-account-key.json


Work in progress... Check back for updates.

Authentication is based on Azure AD. The following parameters need to be set: azure-client-id, azure-client-secret, azure-tenant-id. (See EXT.Azure for details. Subject to change!!!) Currently using ^EXT.Config(parameter-name) global.

You can use the following commands to gather this information:

az login --use-device-code
az ad sp create-for-rbac --sdk-auth


^EXT.Config("LocalDir") global can be used to set common path part for table configuration files and EXT.LocalFile based locations.

For instance, if the full path to your table config is /home/irisowner/config/mytable.json and data is located in /home/irisowner/data/mydata.csv, then setting:

set ^EXT.Config("LocalDir")="/home/irisowner/" 

would allow you to refer to them as:

call EXT.ConvertToExternal('person.firstname','config/mytable.json')

    "delimiter": ","


External table is designed to support full range of SELECT queries. They can be used along with other external and internal queries in the SELECT statements.

These tables are READ-ONLY and only support FULL-TABLE-SCAN execution plan.

DROP TABLE must be used with %NODELDATA flag

DROP TABLE external_table  %NODELDATA
Made with
zpm install external-table download archive
0.3.024 May, 2020
Developer Environment
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CachéEnsembleHealthShareInterSystems IRISInterSystems IRIS for Health
First published
13 May, 2020
Last checked by moderator
27 Jun, 2023Works