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Create XML Data Type Variables and Columns

The xml data type is a built-in data type in SQL Server and is somewhat similar to other built-in types such as int and varchar. As with other built-in types, you can use the xml data type as a column type when you create a table as a variable type, a parameter type, a function-return type, or in CAST and CONVERT.

To create an xml type column as part of a table, use a CREATE TABLE statement, as shown in the following example:

CREATE TABLE T1(Col1 int primary key, Col2 xml) 

You can use a DECLARE statement to create a variable of xml type, as the following example shows.

DECLARE @x xml 

Create a typed xml variable by specifying an XML schema collection, as shown in the following example.

DECLARE @x xml (Sales.StoreSurveySchemaCollection)

To pass an xml type parameter to a stored procedure, use a CREATE PROCEDURE statement, as shown in the following example.

CREATE PROCEDURE SampleProc(@XmlDoc xml) AS ... 

You can use XQuery to query XML instances stored in columns, parameters, or variables. You can also use the XML Data Manipulation Language (XML DML) to apply updates to the XML instances. Because the XQuery standard did not define XQuery DML at the time of development, SQL Server introduces XML Data Modification Language extensions to XQuery. These extensions allow you to perform insert, update, and delete operations.

In a table, you can assign a default XML instance to a column of xml type. You can provide the default XML in one of two ways: by using an XML constant, or by using an explicit cast to the xml type.

To provide the default XML as an XML constant, use syntax as shown in the following example. Note that the string is implicitly CAST to xml type.

CREATE TABLE T (XmlColumn xml default N'<element1/><element2/>')

To provide the default XML as an explicit CAST to xml, use syntax as shown in the following example.

CREATE TABLE T (XmlColumn xml 
                  default CAST(N'<element1/><element2/>' AS xml))

SQL Server also supports NULL and NOT NULL constraints on columns of xml type. For example:

CREATE TABLE T (XmlColumn xml NOT NULL)

When you create columns of xml type, you can define column-level or table-level constraints. Use constraints in the following situations:

  • Your business rules cannot be expressed in XML schemas. For example, the delivery address of a flower shop must be within 50 miles of its business location. This can be written as a constraint on the XML column. The constraint may involve xml data type methods.

  • Your constraint involves other XML or non-XML columns in the table. An example is the enforcement of the ID of a Customer (/Customer/@CustId) found in an XML instance to match the value in a relational CustomerID column.

You can specify constraints for typed or untyped xml data type columns. However, you cannot use the XML data type methods when you specify constraints. Also, note that the xml data type does not support the following column and table constraints:

  • PRIMARY KEY/ FOREIGN KEY

  • UNIQUE

  • COLLATE

    XML provides its own encoding. Collations apply to string types only. The xml data type is not a string type. However, it does have string representation and allows casting to and from string data types.

  • RULE

An alternative to using constraints is to create a wrapper, user-defined function to wrap the xml data type method and specify user-defined function in the check constraint as shown in the following example.

In the following example, the constraint on Col2 specifies that each XML instance stored in this column must have a <ProductDescription> element that contains a ProductID attribute. This constraint is enforced by this user-defined function:

CREATE FUNCTION my_udf(@var xml) returns bit
AS BEGIN 
RETURN @var.exist('/ProductDescription/@ProductID')
END
GO

Note that the exist() method of the xml data type returns 1 if the <ProductDescription> element in the instance contains the ProductID attribute. Otherwise, it returns 0.

Now, you can create a table with a column-level constraint as follows:

CREATE TABLE T (
    Col1 int primary key, 
    Col2 xml check(dbo.my_udf(Col2)=1))
GO

The following insert succeeds:

INSERT INTO T values(1,'<ProductDescription ProductID="1" />')

Because of the constraint, the following insert fails:

INSERT INTO T values(1,'<Product />')

An xml data type column can be created in a table that contains other relational columns, or in a separate table with a foreign key relationship to a main table.

Create an xml data type column in the same table when one of the following conditions is true:

  • Your application performs data retrieval on the XML column and does not require an XML index on the XML column.

  • You want to build an XML index on the xml data type column and the primary key of the main table is the same as its clustering key. For more information, see XML Indexes (SQL Server).

Create the xml data type column in a separate table if the following conditions are true:

  • You want to build an XML index on the xml data type column, but the primary key of the main table is different from its clustering key, or the main table does not have a primary key, or the main table is a heap (no clustering key). This may be true if the main table already exists.

  • You do not want table scans to slow down because of the presence of the XML column in the table. This uses space whether it is stored in-row or out-of-row.

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