Oracle SQL and PL/SQL: juggling with user defined types (ADT) and XMLType – for creating an ADT based XML Service API


Packages in the Oracle Database are a fine construct to use for creating a service API at PL/SQL level – that through JDBC or other connections into the database can quickly be exposed at other levels than just internally for PL/SQL. A service API has a number of characteristics, that typically include a structured, well documented contract – definition for the data that goes in and comes out of the service -, complex, nested message structures and the ability to communicate in terms of XML.

Using ADTs or user defined types in the Oracle RDBMS is quite often very useful. Presenting such a service-style interface from PL/SQL packages is quite easily realized using custom type definitions – easier both for the definition of the package’s “service contract”, the consumer of the package (at least the Database Adapter used in the SOA Suite) and the developers implementing the service contract. Such a contract in terms of nested types quite close resembles the typicall WebService contract that used nested XML documents.

So the first layer of service API can be one in terms of user defined types. However, many potential consumers of the service do not speak ‘Oracle type lingo’. They can deal with strings and numbers and a string may contain a complex block of data when it is constructed as XML, but Oracle Types are beyond them. So we may need a second layer on top of the user defined type service API – a second layer that speaks XML.

Fortunately it is rather simple to turn the XML input to this second layer and convert it to Oracle Object speak (user defined types) and also to take the result from the innner API that is in terms of the user defined types and turn it into [an]XML [message]. The mechanisms we can use for the conversion from UDT (or ADT) to XML and vice versa are XMLType, SYS_XMLGEN and the TOOBJECT operation on XMLType.

Let’s first create a nested user defined type structure that represents either the input to or the output from the service API:

create or replace
type person_t as object
( first_name varchar2(30)
, last_name  varchar2(30)
, birthdate  date
, gender     varchar2(1)

create or replace
type person_tbl_t as
table of person_t

create or replace
type team_t as object
( name varchar2(40)
, activity varchar2(40)
, members person_tbl_t

Next, we create a function that in this case portrays the service API – it returns an instance of team_t, our user defined object:

create or replace
function get_team
return team_t
  return team_t( 'The Flyers', 'Hockey'
               , person_tbl_t( person_t('Johnny', 'Sailing' , sysdate-30*365, 'M')
                        , person_t('Sarah', 'Jackson' , sysdate-25*365, 'F')
                        , person_t('Jim', 'Yates' , sysdate-35.43*365, 'M')

We can call this function from PL/SQL or SQL:

  1  select  get_team
  2* from   dual
SQL> /

TEAM_T('The Flyers', 'Hockey'
( PERSON_T('Johnny', 'Sailing', '11-SEP-79', 'M')
, PERSON_T('Sarah', 'Jackson', '09-SEP-84', 'F'), PERSON_T('Jim', 'Yates', '08-APR-74', 'M')

However, clients that do not know how to handle user defined types are at a loss when they try to leverage this service API. We need techniques to convert from the user defined type to XML and vice versa. First from user defined type to XML:

SELECT sys_XMLGEN(get_team, XMLFormat('TEAM'))
from   dual


<?xml version="1.0"?>
  <NAME>The Flyers</NAME>

The result from SYS_XMLGEN is an XMLType, on which we can perform operation such as XPath extract and XSLT transform

SELECT sys_XMLGen(get_team, XMLFormat('TEAM')).extract('/TEAM/NAME')
from   dual

<NAME>The Flyers</NAME>

Then the reverse operation – take the XMLType and create the user defined type instances that map to it:

  l_xml xmltype;
  l_team team_t;
  select sys_XMLGen(get_team, XMLFormat('TEAM'))
  into   l_xml
  from   dual
  dbms_output.put_line('number of players '||l_team.members.count);

SQL> /
The Flyers
number of players 3

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

We use the toobject operation on XMLType for this conversion.


XMLType API for PL/SQL (Oracle Documentation as of 9iR2)

About Author

Lucas Jellema, active in IT (and with Oracle) since 1994. Oracle ACE Director and Oracle Developer Champion. Solution architect and developer on diverse areas including SQL, JavaScript, Docker, Machine Learning, Java, SOA and microservices, events in various shapes and forms and many other things. Author of the Oracle Press books: Oracle SOA Suite 11g Handbook and Oracle SOA Suite 12c Handbook. Frequent presenter on community events and conferences such as JavaOne, Oracle Code and Oracle OpenWorld.