PolyBase Queries

THIS TOPIC APPLIES TO: yesSQL ServernoAzure SQL DatabasenoAzure SQL Data Warehouse noParallel Data Warehouse

This article provides examples of queries using the PolyBase feature of SQL Server (starting with 2016). Before using these examples, you must also understand the T-SQL statements required to set up PolyBase (See PolyBase T-SQL objects.)


Run Transact-SQL statements against external tables or use BI tools to query external tables.

SELECT from external table

A simple query that returns data from a defined external table.

SELECT TOP 10 * FROM [dbo].[SensorData];   

A simple query that includes a predicate.

SELECT * FROM [dbo].[SensorData]
WHERE Speed > 65;

JOIN external tables with local tables

SELECT InsuranceCustomers.FirstName,   
FROM InsuranceCustomers INNER JOIN SensorData    
ON InsuranceCustomers.CustomerKey = SensorData.CustomerKey   
WHERE SensorData.Speed > 65   
ORDER BY SensorData.Speed DESC  

Pushdown computation to Hadoop

Variations of pushdown are shown here.

Pushdown for selecting a subset of rows

Use predicate pushdown to improve performance for a query that selects a subset of rows from an external table.

In this example, SQL Server 2016 initiates a map-reduce job to retrieve the rows that match the predicate customer.account_balance < 200000 on Hadoop. Because the query can complete successfully without scanning all of the rows in the table, only the rows that meet the predicate criteria are copied to SQL Server. This saves significant time and requires less temporary storage space when the number of customer balances < 200000 is small in comparison with the number of customers with account balances >= 200000.

SELECT * FROM customer WHERE customer.account_balance < 200000
SELECT * FROM SensorData WHERE Speed > 65;  

Pushdown for selecting a subset of columns

Use predicate pushdown to improve performance for a query that selects a subset of columns from an external table.

In this query, SQL Server initiates a map-reduce job to pre-process the Hadoop delimited-text file so that only the data for the two columns, customer.name and customer.zip_code, will be copied to SQL Server PDW.

SELECT customer.name, customer.zip_code FROM customer WHERE customer.account_balance < 200000

Pushdown for basic expressions and operators

SQL Server allows the following basic expressions and operators for predicate pushdown.

  • Binary comparison operators ( <, >, =, !=, <>, >=, <= ) for numeric, date, and time values.

  • Arithmetic operators ( +, -, *, /, % ).

  • Logical operators (AND, OR).

  • Unary operators (NOT, IS NULL, IS NOT NULL).

The operators BETWEEN, NOT, IN, and LIKE might be pushed-down. The actual behavior depends on how the query optimizer rewrites the operator expressions as a series of statements that use basic relational operators.

The query in this example has multiple predicates that can be pushed down to Hadoop. SQL Server can push map-reduce jobs to Hadoop to perform the predicate customer.account_balance <= 200000. The expression BETWEEN 92656 and 92677 is also composed of binary and logical operations that can be pushed to Hadoop. The logical AND in customer.account_balance and customer.zipcode is a final expression.

Given this combination of predicates, the map-reduce jobs can perform all of the WHERE clause. Only the data that meets the SELECT criteria is copied back to SQL Server PDW.

SELECT * FROM customer WHERE customer.account_balance <= 200000 AND customer.zipcode BETWEEN 92656 AND 92677

Force pushdown

SELECT * FROM [dbo].[SensorData]
WHERE Speed > 65

Disable pushdown

SELECT * FROM [dbo].[SensorData]
WHERE Speed > 65

Import data

Import data from Hadoop or Azure Storage into SQL Server for persistent storage. Use SELECT INTO to import data referenced by an external table, for persistent storage in SQL Server. Create a relational table on-the-fly, and then create a column-store index on top of the table in a second step.

-- PolyBase scenario - import external data into SQL Server
-- Import data for fast drivers into SQL Server to do more in-depth analysis
-- Leverage columnstore technology

        Insured_Customers.FirstName, Insured_Customers.LastName,   
        Insured_Customers.YearlyIncome, Insured_Customers.MaritalStatus  
INTO Fast_Customers from Insured_Customers INNER JOIN   
        SELECT * FROM CarSensor_Data where Speed > 35   
) AS SensorD  
ON Insured_Customers.CustomerKey = SensorD.CustomerKey  
ORDER BY YearlyIncome  


Export data

Export data from SQL Server to Hadoop or Azure Storage.

First, enable export functionality by setting the sp_configure value of 'allow polybase export' to 1. Next, create an external table that points to the destination directory. The CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE statement creates the destination directory, if it doesn't already exist. Then, use INSERT INTO to export data from a local SQL Server table to the external data source.

The results of the SELECT statement are exported to the specified location in the specified file format. The external files are named QueryID_date_time_ID.format, where ID is an incremental identifier and format is the exported data format. For example, one file name might be QID776_20160130_182739_0.orc.


When exporting data to Hadoop or Azure Blob Storage via PolyBase, only the data is exported, not the column names (metadata) as defined in the CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE command.

-- PolyBase scenario  - export data from SQL Server to Hadoop
-- Create an external table
CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE [dbo].[FastCustomers2009] (  
        [FirstName] char(25) NOT NULL,   
        [LastName] char(25) NOT NULL,   
        [YearlyIncome] float NULL,   
        [MaritalStatus] char(1) NOT NULL  
WITH (  
        DATA_SOURCE = HadoopHDP2,  
        FILE_FORMAT = TextFileFormat,  
        REJECT_TYPE = VALUE,  
        REJECT_VALUE = 0  

-- Export data: Move old data to Hadoop while keeping it query-able via an external table.  
INSERT INTO dbo.FastCustomer2009  
SELECT T.* FROM Insured_Customers T1 JOIN CarSensor_Data T2  
ON (T1.CustomerKey = T2.CustomerKey)  
WHERE T2.YearMeasured = 2009 and T2.Speed > 40;  

New catalog views

The following new catalog views show external resources.

SELECT * FROM sys.external_data_sources;   
SELECT * FROM sys.external_file_formats;  
SELECT * FROM sys.external_tables;  

Determine if a table is an external table by using is_external

SELECT name, type, is_external FROM sys.tables WHERE name='myTableName'   

Next steps

To learn more about troubleshooting, see PolyBase troubleshooting.