Configure PolyBase to access external data in Azure Blob Storage

Applies to: SQL Server (Windows only) Not supported Azure SQL Database Not supported Azure Synapse Analytics Not supported Analytics Platform System (PDW)

The article explains how to use PolyBase on a SQL Server instance to query external data in Azure Blob Storage.


If you haven't installed PolyBase, see PolyBase installation. The installation article explains the prerequisites.

SQL Server 2022

In SQL Server 2022 (16.x), configure your external data sources to use new connectors when you connect to Azure Storage. The table below summarizes the change:

External Data Source From To
Azure Blob Storage wasb[s] abs
ADLS Gen 2 abfs[s] adls

Configure Azure Blob Storage connectivity

First, configure SQL Server PolyBase to use Azure Blob Storage.

  1. Run sp_configure with 'hadoop connectivity' set to an Azure Blob Storage provider. To find the value for providers, see PolyBase Connectivity Configuration. By Default, the Hadoop connectivity is set to 7.

    -- Values map to various external data sources.  
    -- Example: value 7 stands for Hortonworks HDP 2.1 to 2.6 on Linux,
    -- 2.1 to 2.3 on Windows Server, and Azure Blob Storage  
    sp_configure @configname = 'hadoop connectivity', @configvalue = 7;
  2. Restart SQL Server using services.msc. Restarting SQL Server restarts these services:

    • SQL Server PolyBase Data Movement Service
    • SQL Server PolyBase Engine

    stop and start PolyBase services in services.msc

Configure an external table

To query the data in your Hadoop data source, you must define an external table to use in Transact-SQL queries. The following steps describe how to configure the external table.

  1. Create a master key on the database. The master key is required to encrypt the credential secret.

  2. Create a database scoped credential for Azure Blob Storage; IDENTITY can be anything as it's not used.

    -- IDENTITY: any string (this is not used for authentication to Azure storage).  
    -- SECRET: your Azure storage account key.  
    WITH IDENTITY = 'user', Secret = '<azure_storage_account_key>';
  3. Create an external data source with CREATE EXTERNAL DATA SOURCE. Note that when connecting to the Azure Storage via the WASB[s] connector, authentication must be done with a storage account key, not with a shared access signature (SAS).

    -- LOCATION:  Azure account storage account name and blob container name.  
    -- CREDENTIAL: The database scoped credential created above.  
    CREATE EXTERNAL DATA SOURCE AzureStorage with (  
          TYPE = HADOOP,
          LOCATION ='wasbs://<blob_container_name>@<azure_storage_account_name>',  
          CREDENTIAL = AzureStorageCredential  
  4. Create an external file format with CREATE EXTERNAL FILE FORMAT.

    -- FORMAT TYPE: Type of format in Hadoop (DELIMITEDTEXT,  RCFILE, ORC, PARQUET).
                USE_TYPE_DEFAULT = TRUE))  
  5. Create an external table pointing to data stored in Azure storage with CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE. In this example, the external data contains car sensor data; LOCATION can't be / but /Demo/ as in this example doesn't need to exist previously.

    -- LOCATION: path to file or directory that contains the data (relative to HDFS root).  
    CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE [dbo].[CarSensor_Data] (  
          [SensorKey] int NOT NULL,
          [CustomerKey] int NOT NULL,
          [GeographyKey] int NULL,
          [Speed] float NOT NULL,
          [YearMeasured] int NOT NULL  
    WITH (LOCATION='/Demo/',
          DATA_SOURCE = AzureStorage,  
          FILE_FORMAT = TextFileFormat  
  6. Create statistics on an external table.

    CREATE STATISTICS StatsForSensors on CarSensor_Data(CustomerKey, Speed)  

PolyBase queries

There are three functions that PolyBase is suited for:

  • Ad hoc queries against external tables.
  • Importing data.
  • Exporting data.

The following queries provide example with fictional car sensor data.

Ad hoc queries

The following ad hoc query joins relational with Hadoop data. It selects customers who drive faster than 35 mph, and joins to structured customer data stored in SQL Server with car sensor data stored in Hadoop.

SELECT DISTINCT Insured_Customers.FirstName,Insured_Customers.LastName,
       Insured_Customers. YearlyIncome, CarSensor_Data.Speed  
FROM Insured_Customers, CarSensor_Data  
WHERE Insured_Customers.CustomerKey = CarSensor_Data.CustomerKey and CarSensor_Data.Speed > 35
ORDER BY CarSensor_Data.Speed DESC  

Import data with PolyBase

The following query imports external data into SQL Server. This example imports data for fast drivers into SQL Server to do more in-depth analysis. To improve performance, it leverages 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 with PolyBase

The following query exports data from SQL Server to Azure Blob Storage. First enable PolyBase export. Then, create an external table for the destination before exporting data to it.

-- Enable INSERT into external table  
sp_configure 'allow polybase export', 1;  
-- 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_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;  

PolyBase export with this method may create multiple files.

View PolyBase objects in SSMS

In SSMS, external tables are displayed in a separate folder External Tables. External data sources and external file formats are in subfolders under External Resources.

PolyBase objects in SSMS

Next steps

For more tutorials on creating external data sources and external tables to a variety of data sources, see PolyBase Transact-SQL reference.

Explore more ways to use and monitor PolyBase in the following articles: