Python UDF (User-Defined Functions)

User-defined functions (UDFs) are a feature that extends SQream DB’s built in SQL functionality. SQream DB’s Python UDFs allow developers to create new functionality in SQL by writing the lower-level language implementation in Python.

A simple example

Most databases have an UPPER function, including SQream DB. However, assume that this function is missing for the sake of this example.

You can write a function in Python to uppercase a text value using the CREATE FUNCTION syntax.

CREATE FUNCTION my_upper (x1 text)
  RETURNS text
  AS $$
return x1.upper()

Let’s break down this example:

  • CREATE FUNCTION my_upper - Create a function called my_upper. This name must be unique in the current database

  • (x1 text) - the function accepts one argument named x1 which is of the SQL type TEXT. All data types are supported.

  • RETURNS text - the function returns the same type - TEXT. All data types are supported.

  • AS $$ - what follows is some code that we don’t want to quote, so we use dollar-quoting ($$) instead of single quotes (').

  • return x1.upper() - the Python function’s body is the argument named x1, uppercased.

  • $$ LANGUAGE PYTHON - this is the end of the function, and it’s in the Python language.

Running this example

After creating the function, you can use it in any SQL query.

For example:

master=>CREATE TABLE jabberwocky(line text);
master=> INSERT INTO jabberwocky VALUES
.   ('''Twas brillig, and the slithy toves '), ('      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: ')
.   ,('All mimsy were the borogoves, '), ('      And the mome raths outgrabe. ')
.   ,('"Beware the Jabberwock, my son! '), ('      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! ')
.   ,('Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun '), ('      The frumious Bandersnatch!" ');
master=> SELECT line, my_upper(line) FROM jabberwocky;
line                                             | my_upper
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves              | 'TWAS BRILLIG, AND THE SLITHY TOVES
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:           |       DID GYRE AND GIMBLE IN THE WABE:
All mimsy were the borogoves,                    | ALL MIMSY WERE THE BOROGOVES,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.               |       AND THE MOME RATHS OUTGRABE.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!                  | "BEWARE THE JABBERWOCK, MY SON!
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!  |       THE JAWS THAT BITE, THE CLAWS THAT CATCH!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun                 | BEWARE THE JUBJUB BIRD, AND SHUN
      The frumious Bandersnatch!"                |       THE FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH!"

Why use UDFs?

  • They allow simpler statements - You can create the function once, store it in the database, and call it any number of times in a statement.

  • They can be shared - UDFs can be created by a database administrator, and then used by other roles.

  • They can simplify downstream code - UDFs can be modified in SQream DB independently of program source code.

SQream DB’s UDF support

Scalar functions

SQream DB’s UDFs are scalar functions. This means that the UDF returns a single data value of the type defined in the RETURNS clause. For an inline scalar function, the returned scalar value is the result of a single statement.


At this time, SQream DB’s UDFs are supported for Python.

Python 3.6.7 is installed alongside SQream DB, for use exclusively by SQream DB. You may have a different version of Python installed on your server.

To find which version of Python is installed for use by SQream DB, create and run this UDF:

master=> CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION py_version()
.  RETURNS text
.  AS $$
. import sys
. return ("Python version: " + sys.version + ". Path: " + sys.base_exec_prefix)
master=> SELECT py_version();
Python version: 3.6.7 (default, Jul 22 2019, 11:03:54) [GCC 5.4.0].
Path: /opt/sqream/python-3.6.7-5.4.0

Using modules

To import a Python module, use the standard import syntax in the first lines of the user-defined function.

Finding existing UDFs in the catalog

The user_defined_functions catalog view contains function information.

Here’s how you’d list all UDFs in the system:

master=> SELECT * FROM sqream_catalog.user_defined_functions;
database_name | function_id | function_name
master        |           1 | my_upper

Getting the DDL for a function

master=> SELECT GET_FUNCTION_DDL('my_upper');
create function "my_upper" (x1 text) returns text as
   return x1.upper()
language python volatile;

See GET_FUNCTION_DDL for more information.

Error handling

In UDFs, any error that occurs causes the execution of the function to stop. This in turn causes the statement that invoked the function to be canceled.

Permissions and sharing

To create a UDF, the creator needs the CREATE FUNCTION permission at the database level.

For example, to grant CREATE FUNCTION to a non-superuser role:


To execute a UDF, the role needs the EXECUTE FUNCTION permission for every function.

For example, to grant the permission to the r_bi_users role group, run:

GRANT EXECUTE ON FUNCTION my_upper TO r_bi_users;


Functions are stored for each database, outside of any schema.

See more information about permissions in the Access control guide.

Best practices

Although user-defined functions add flexibility, they may have some performance drawbacks. They are not usually a replacement for subqueries or views.

In some cases, the user-defined function provides benefits like sharing extended functionality which makes it very appealing.

Use user-defined functions sparingly in the WHERE clause. SQream DB can’t optimize the function’s usage, and it will be called once for every value. If possible, you should narrow down the number of results before the UDF is called by using a subquery.