# More alternatives to openxml

Following up on my earlier post, here are some alternate usage scenarios for the UDF I wrote to avoid openxml in SQL Server 2000.

The most obvious variation is to create different versions to return various data types, such as INTEGER or DATETIME or whatnot. I started to do this, but then realized it’s silly. If I duplicate the code for every datatype, what have I accomplished besides duplicating code? The input is VARCHAR, so it’s getting implicitly converted at some point no matter what. It’s better for me to let the end user do the conversion, and not duplicate any code.

My next thought was a function to split apart name-value pairs, such as width=100 height=200 color=blue. Such a function should return three columns: name, value and ident. Again, once I wrote the code, I felt silly. There are at least two fine ways to do it without a new function. One is to pass the names in one input and the values in another. The other is to use two delimiters and just use SUBSTRING to split them apart. In either case, it’s pretty simple; the UDF is doing the looping, and the rest can be done with standard SQL. Here are two ways to do this:

declare @Names varchar(8000),
@Values varchar(8000),
@NameValues varchar(8000),
@Delim1 char(1),
@Delim2 char(1)
select @Names = 'width height color',
@Values = '100 200 blue',
@NameValues = 'width=100 height=200 color=blue',
@Delim1 = ' ',
@Delim2 = '='

select l.word as name, r.word as value, l.ident
from dbo.fn_SplitWords(@Names, @Delim1) as l
inner join dbo.fn_SplitWords(@Values, @Delim1) as r
on l.ident = r.ident

select
substring(word, 1, charindex(@Delim2, word) - 1) as name,
substring(word,
charindex(@Delim2, word) + 1,
len(word) - charindex(@Delim2, word)) as value,
ident
from dbo.fn_SplitWords(@NameValues, @Delim1)
where charindex(@Delim2, word) > 0

Both queries yield the same results:

These methods both have a shortcoming: it’s not possible to pass missing or zero-length values for a given name. Here is a query that does:

declare @NameValues varchar(8000),
@Delim1 char(1),
@Delim2 char(1)
select @NameValues = 'width=100 height=200 color=blue weight= length',
@Delim1 = ' ',
@Delim2 = '='

select
case when charindex(@Delim2, word) > 0
then substring(word, 1, charindex(@Delim2, word) - 1)
else word end
as name,
case when charindex(@Delim2, word) > 0
then substring(word,
charindex(@Delim2, word) + 1,
len(word) - charindex(@Delim2, word)) end
as value,
ident
from dbo.fn_SplitWords(@NameValues, @Delim1)

From first to last, each of these queries is more flexible and complex than the preceding one. Therefore I prefer them in that order.

I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and many open-source tools for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB.