Greenplum PL/Java Language Extension

Greenplum PL/Java Language Extension

About PL/Java

With the Greenplum Database PL/Java extension, you can write Java methods using your favorite Java IDE and install the JAR files that contain those methods into Greenplum Database.

Greenplum Database PL/Java package is based on the open source PL/Java 1.4.0. Greenplum Database PL/Java provides the following features.

  • Ability to execute PL/Java functions with Java 1.7 or higher.
  • Ability to specify Java runtime.
  • Standardized utilities (modeled after the SQL 2003 proposal) to install and maintain Java code in the database.
  • Standardized mappings of parameters and result. Complex types as well as sets are supported.
  • An embedded, high performance, JDBC driver utilizing the internal Greenplum Database SPI routines.
  • Metadata support for the JDBC driver. Both DatabaseMetaData and ResultSetMetaData are included.
  • The ability to return a ResultSet from a query as an alternative to building a ResultSet row by row.
  • Full support for savepoints and exception handling.
  • The ability to use IN, INOUT, and OUT parameters.
  • Two separate Greenplum Database languages:
    • pljava, TRUSTED PL/Java language
    • pljavau, UNTRUSTED PL/Java language
  • Transaction and Savepoint listeners enabling code execution when a transaction or savepoint is committed or rolled back.
  • Integration with GNU GCJ on selected platforms.

A function in SQL will appoint a static method in a Java class. In order for the function to execute, the appointed class must available on the class path specified by the Greenplum Database sever configuration parameter pljava_classpath. The PL/Java extension adds a set of functions that helps installing and maintaining the java classes. Classes are stored in normal Java archives, JAR files. A JAR file can optionally contain a deployment descriptor that in turn contains SQL commands to be executed when the JAR is deployed or undeployed. The functions are modeled after the standards proposed for SQL 2003.

PL/Java implements a standardized way of passing parameters and return values. Complex types and sets are passed using the standard JDBC ResultSet class.

A JDBC driver is included in PL/Java. This driver calls Greenplum Database internal SPI routines. The driver is essential since it is common for functions to make calls back to the database to fetch data. When PL/Java functions fetch data, they must use the same transactional boundaries that are used by the main function that entered PL/Java execution context.

PL/Java is optimized for performance. The Java virtual machine executes within the same process as the backend to minimize call overhead. PL/Java is designed with the objective to enable the power of Java to the database itself so that database intensive business logic can execute as close to the actual data as possible.

The standard Java Native Interface (JNI) is used when bridging calls between the backend and the Java VM.

About Greenplum Database PL/Java

There are a few key differences between the implementation of PL/Java in standard PostgreSQL and Greenplum Database.


The following functions are not supported in Greenplum Database. The classpath is handled differently in a distributed Greenplum Database environment than in the PostgreSQL environment.
  • sqlj.install_jar
  • sqlj.replace_jar
  • sqlj.remove_jar
  • sqlj.get_classpath
  • sqlj.set_classpath

Greenplum Database uses the pljava_classpath server configuration parameter in place of the sqlj.set_classpath function.

Server Configuration Parameters

The following server configuration parameters are used by PL/Java in Greenplum Database. These parameters replace the pljava.* parameters that are used in the standard PostgreSQL PL/Java implementation:

  • pljava_classpath

    A colon (:) separated list of the jar files containing the Java classes used in any PL/Java functions. The jar files must be installed in the same locations on all Greenplum Database hosts. With the trusted PL/Java language handler, jar file paths must be relative to the $GPHOME/lib/postgresql/java/ directory. With the untrusted language handler (javaU language tag), paths may be relative to $GPHOME/lib/postgresql/java/ or absolute.

    The server configuration parameter pljava_classpath_insecure controls whether the server configuration parameter pljava_classpath can be set by a user without Greenplum Database superuser privileges. When pljava_classpath_insecure is enabled, Greenplum Database developers who are working on PL/Java functions do not have to be database superusers to change pljava_classpath.

    Warning: Enabling pljava_classpath_insecure exposes a security risk by giving non-administrator database users the ability to run unauthorized Java methods.
  • pljava_statement_cache_size

    Sets the size in KB of the Most Recently Used (MRU) cache for prepared statements.

  • pljava_release_lingering_savepoints

    If TRUE, lingering savepoints will be released on function exit. If FALSE, they will be rolled back.

  • pljava_vmoptions

    Defines the start up options for the Greenplum Database Java VM.

See the Greenplum Database Reference Guide for information about the Greenplum Database server configuration parameters.

Enabling PL/Java and Installing JAR Files

Perform the following steps as the Greenplum Database administrator gpadmin.

  1. Enable PL/Java by running the SQL script $GPHOME/share/postgresql/pljava/install.sql in the databases that will use PL/Java. For example, this example enables PL/Java on the database mytestdb:
    $ psql -d mytestdb \
      -f $GPHOME/share/postgresql/pljava/install.sql

    The script install.sql registers both the trusted and untrusted PL/Java language.

  2. Copy your Java archives (JAR files) to the same directory on all Greenplum Database hosts. This example uses the Greenplum Database gpscp utility to copy the file myclasses.jar to the directory $GPHOME/lib/postgresql/java/:
    $ gpscp -f gphosts_file myclasses.jar 

    The file gphosts_file contains a list of the Greenplum Database hosts.

  3. Set the pljava_classpath server configuration parameter in the master postgresql.conf file. For this example, the parameter value is a colon (:) separated list of the JAR files. For example:
    $ gpconfig -c pljava_classpath 
    -v \'examples.jar:myclasses.jar\'

    The file examples.jar is installed when you install the PL/Java extension package with the gppkg utility.

    Note: If you install JAR files in a directory other than $GPHOME/lib/postgresql/java/, you must specify the absolute path to the JAR file. Each JAR file must be in the same location on all Greenplum Database hosts. For more information about specifying the location of JAR files, see the information about the pljava_classpath server configuration parameter in the Greenplum Database Reference Guide.
  4. Reload the postgresql.conf file.
    $ gpstop -u
  5. (optional) Greenplum provides an examples.sql file containing sample PL/Java functions that you can use for testing. Run the commands in this file to create the test functions (which use the Java classes in examples.jar).
    $ psql -f $GPHOME/share/postgresql/pljava/examples.sql

Writing PL/Java functions

SQL Declaration

A Java function is declared with the name of a class and a static method on that class. The class will be resolved using the classpath that has been defined for the schema where the function is declared. If no classpath has been defined for that schema, the public schema is used. If no classpath is found there either, the class is resolved using the system classloader.

The following function can be declared to access the static method getProperty on java.lang.System class:

  AS 'java.lang.System.getProperty'
  LANGUAGE java;

Run the following command to return the Java user.home property:

SELECT getsysprop('user.home');

Type Mapping

Scalar types are mapped in a straight forward way. This table lists the current mappings.

Table 1. PL/Java data type mapping
PostgreSQL Java
bool boolean
char byte
int2 short
int4 int
int8 long
varchar java.lang.String
text java.lang.String
bytea byte[ ]
date java.sql.Date
time java.sql.Time (stored value treated as local time)
timetz java.sql.Time
timestamp java.sql.Timestamp (stored value treated as local time)
timestamptz java.sql.Timestamp
complex java.sql.ResultSet
setof complex java.sql.ResultSet

All other types are mapped to java.lang.String and will utilize the standard textin/textout routines registered for respective type.

NULL Handling

The scalar types that map to Java primitives can not be passed as NULL values. To pass NULL values, those types can have an alternative mapping. You enable this mapping by explicitly denoting it in the method reference.

CREATE FUNCTION trueIfEvenOrNull(integer)
  RETURNS bool
  AS 'foo.fee.Fum.trueIfEvenOrNull(java.lang.Integer)'
  LANGUAGE java;

The Java code would be similar to this:

package foo.fee;
public class Fum
  static boolean trueIfEvenOrNull(Integer value)
    return (value == null)
      ? true
      : (value.intValue() % 2) == 0;

The following two statements both yield true:

SELECT trueIfEvenOrNull(NULL);
SELECT trueIfEvenOrNull(4);

In order to return NULL values from a Java method, you use the object type that corresponds to the primitive (for example, you return java.lang.Integer instead of int). The PL/Java resolve mechanism finds the method regardless. Since Java cannot have different return types for methods with the same name, this does not introduce any ambiguity.

Complex Types

A complex type will always be passed as a read-only java.sql.ResultSet with exactly one row. The ResultSet is positioned on its row so a call to next() should not be made. The values of the complex type are retrieved using the standard getter methods of the ResultSet.


CREATE TYPE complexTest
  AS(base integer, incbase integer, ctime timestamptz);
CREATE FUNCTION useComplexTest(complexTest)
  AS 'foo.fee.Fum.useComplexTest'

In the Java class Fum, we add the following static method:

public static String useComplexTest(ResultSet complexTest)
throws SQLException
  int base = complexTest.getInt(1);
  int incbase = complexTest.getInt(2);
  Timestamp ctime = complexTest.getTimestamp(3);
  return "Base = \"" + base +
    "\", incbase = \"" + incbase +
    "\", ctime = \"" + ctime + "\"";

Returning Complex Types

Java does not stipulate any way to create a ResultSet. Hence, returning a ResultSet is not an option. The SQL-2003 draft suggests that a complex return value should be handled as an IN/OUT parameter. PL/Java implements a ResultSet that way. If you declare a function that returns a complex type, you will need to use a Java method with boolean return type with a last parameter of type java.sql.ResultSet. The parameter will be initialized to an empty updateable ResultSet that contains exactly one row.

Assume that the complexTest type in previous section has been created.

CREATE FUNCTION createComplexTest(int, int)
  RETURNS complexTest
  AS 'foo.fee.Fum.createComplexTest'

The PL/Java method resolve will now find the following method in the Fum class:

public static boolean complexReturn(int base, int increment, 
  ResultSet receiver)
throws SQLException
  receiver.updateInt(1, base);
  receiver.updateInt(2, base + increment);
  receiver.updateTimestamp(3, new 
  return true;

The return value denotes if the receiver should be considered as a valid tuple (true) or NULL (false).

Functions That Return Sets

When returning result set, you should not build a result set before returning it, because building a large result set would consume a large amount of resources. It is better to produce one row at a time. Incidentally, that is what the Greenplum Database backend expects a function with SETOF return to do. You can return a SETOF a scalar type such as an int, float or varchar, or you can return a SETOF a complex type.

Returning a SETOF <scalar type>

In order to return a set of a scalar type, you need create a Java method that returns something that implements the java.util.Iterator interface. Here is an example of a method that returns a SETOF varchar:

CREATE FUNCTION javatest.getSystemProperties()
  AS 'foo.fee.Bar.getNames'

This simple Java method returns an iterator:

package foo.fee;
import java.util.Iterator;

public class Bar
    public static Iterator getNames()
        ArrayList names = new ArrayList();
        return names.iterator();

Returning a SETOF <complex type>

A method returning a SETOF <complex type> must use either the interface org.postgresql.pljava.ResultSetProvider or org.postgresql.pljava.ResultSetHandle. The reason for having two interfaces is that they cater for optimal handling of two distinct use cases. The former is for cases when you want to dynamically create each row that is to be returned from the SETOF function. The latter makes is in cases where you want to return the result of an executed query.

Using the ResultSetProvider Interface

This interface has two methods. The boolean assignRowValues(java.sql.ResultSet tupleBuilder, int rowNumber) and the void close() method. The Greenplum Database query evaluator will call the assignRowValues repeatedly until it returns false or until the evaluator decides that it does not need any more rows. Then it calls close.

You can use this interface the following way:

CREATE FUNCTION javatest.listComplexTests(int, int)
  RETURNS SETOF complexTest
  AS 'foo.fee.Fum.listComplexTest'

The function maps to a static java method that returns an instance that implements the ResultSetProvider interface.

public class Fum implements ResultSetProvider
  private final int m_base;
  private final int m_increment;
  public Fum(int base, int increment)
    m_base = base;
    m_increment = increment;
  public boolean assignRowValues(ResultSet receiver, int 
  throws SQLException
    // Stop when we reach 12 rows.
    if(currentRow >= 12)
      return false;
    receiver.updateInt(1, m_base);
    receiver.updateInt(2, m_base + m_increment * currentRow);
    receiver.updateTimestamp(3, new 
    return true;
  public void close()
   // Nothing needed in this example
  public static ResultSetProvider listComplexTests(int base, 
int increment)
  throws SQLException
    return new Fum(base, increment);

The listComplextTests method is called once. It may return NULL if no results are available or an instance of the ResultSetProvider. Here the Java class Fum implements this interface so it returns an instance of itself. The method assignRowValues will then be called repeatedly until it returns false. At that time, close will be called

Using the ResultSetHandle Interface

This interface is similar to the ResultSetProvider interface in that it has a close() method that will be called at the end. But instead of having the evaluator call a method that builds one row at a time, this method has a method that returns a ResultSet. The query evaluator will iterate over this set and deliver the RestulSet contents, one tuple at a time, to the caller until a call to next() returns false or the evaluator decides that no more rows are needed.

Here is an example that executes a query using a statement that it obtained using the default connection. The SQL suitable for the deployment descriptor looks like this:

CREATE FUNCTION javatest.listSupers()
  AS 'org.postgresql.pljava.example.Users.listSupers'
  LANGUAGE java;
CREATE FUNCTION javatest.listNonSupers()
  AS 'org.postgresql.pljava.example.Users.listNonSupers'
  LANGUAGE java;

And in the Java package org.postgresql.pljava.example a class Users is added:

public class Users implements ResultSetHandle
  private final String m_filter;
  private Statement m_statement;
  public Users(String filter)
    m_filter = filter;
  public ResultSet getResultSet()
  throws SQLException
    m_statement = 
    return m_statement.executeQuery("SELECT * FROM pg_user 
       WHERE " + m_filter);

  public void close()
  throws SQLException

  public static ResultSetHandle listSupers()
    return new Users("usesuper = true");

  public static ResultSetHandle listNonSupers()
    return new Users("usesuper = false");

Using JDBC

PL/Java contains a JDBC driver that maps to the PostgreSQL SPI functions. A connection that maps to the current transaction can be obtained using the following statement:

Connection conn = 

After obtaining a connection, you can prepare and execute statements similar to other JDBC connections. These are limitations for the PL/Java JDBC driver:

  • The transaction cannot be managed in any way. Thus, you cannot use methods on the connection such as:
    • commit()
    • rollback()
    • setAutoCommit()
    • setTransactionIsolation()
  • Savepoints are available with some restrictions. A savepoint cannot outlive the function in which it was set and it must be rolled back or released by that same function.
  • A ResultSet returned from executeQuery() are always FETCH_FORWARD and CONCUR_READ_ONLY.
  • Meta-data is only available in PL/Java 1.1 or higher.
  • CallableStatement (for stored procedures) is not implemented.
  • The types Clob or Blob are not completely implemented, they need more work. The types byte[] and String can be used for bytea and text respectively.

Exception Handling

You can catch and handle an exception in the Greenplum Database backend just like any other exception. The backend ErrorData structure is exposed as a property in a class called org.postgresql.pljava.ServerException (derived from java.sql.SQLException) and the Java try/catch mechanism is synchronized with the backend mechanism.

Important: You will not be able to continue executing backend functions until your function has returned and the error has been propagated when the backend has generated an exception unless you have used a savepoint. When a savepoint is rolled back, the exceptional condition is reset and you can continue your execution.


Greenplum Database savepoints are exposed using the java.sql.Connection interface. Two restrictions apply.

  • A savepoint must be rolled back or released in the function where it was set.
  • A savepoint must not outlive the function where it was set


PL/Java uses the standard Java Logger. Hence, you can write things like:

Logger.getAnonymousLogger().info( "Time is " + new 

At present, the logger uses a handler that maps the current state of the Greenplum Database configuration setting log_min_messages to a valid Logger level and that outputs all messages using the Greenplum Database backend function elog().

Note: The log_min_messages setting is read from the database the first time a PL/Java function in a session is executed. On the Java side, the setting does not change after the first PL/Java function execution in a specific session until the Greenplum Database session that is working with PL/Java is restarted.

The following mapping apply between the Logger levels and the Greenplum Database backend levels.

Table 2. PL/Java Logging Levels
java.util.logging.Level Greenplum Database Level



Only a database superuser can install PL/Java. The PL/Java utility functions are installed using SECURITY DEFINER so that they execute with the access permissions that where granted to the creator of the functions.

Trusted Language

PL/Java is a trusted language. The trusted PL/Java language has no access to the file system as stipulated by PostgreSQL definition of a trusted language. Any database user can create and access functions in a trusted language.

PL/Java also installs a language handler for the language javau. This version is not trusted and only a superuser can create new functions that use it. Any user can call the functions.

Some PL/Java Issues and Solutions

When writing the PL/Java, mapping the JVM into the same process-space as the Greenplum Database backend code, some concerns have been raised regarding multiple threads, exception handling, and memory management. Here are brief descriptions explaining how these issues where resolved.


Java is inherently multi-threaded. The Greenplum Database backend is not. There is nothing stopping a developer from utilizing multiple Threads class in the Java code. Finalizers that call out to the backend might have been spawned from a background Garbage Collection thread. Several third party Java-packages that are likely to be used make use of multiple threads. How can this model coexist with the Greenplum Database backend in the same process?


The solution is simple. PL/Java defines a special object called the Backend.THREADLOCK. When PL/Java is initialized, the backend immediately grabs this objects monitor (i.e. it will synchronize on this object). When the backend calls a Java function, the monitor is released and then immediately regained when the call returns. All calls from Java out to backend code are synchronized on the same lock. This ensures that only one thread at a time can call the backend from Java, and only at a time when the backend is awaiting the return of a Java function call.

Exception Handling

Java makes frequent use of try/catch/finally blocks. Greenplum Database sometimes use an exception mechanism that calls longjmp to transfer control to a known state. Such a jump would normally effectively bypass the JVM.


The backend now allows errors to be caught using the macros PG_TRY/PG_CATCH/PG_END_TRY and in the catch block, the error can be examined using the ErrorData structure. PL/Java implements a java.sql.SQLException subclass called org.postgresql.pljava.ServerException. The ErrorData can be retrieved and examined from that exception. A catch handler is allowed to issue a rollback to a savepoint. After a successful rollback, execution can continue.

Java Garbage Collector Versus palloc() and Stack Allocation

Primitive types are always be passed by value. This includes the String type (this is a must since Java uses double byte characters). Complex types are often wrapped in Java objects and passed by reference. For example, a Java object can contain a pointer to a palloc'ed or stack allocated memory and use native JNI calls to extract and manipulate data. Such data will become stale once a call has ended. Further attempts to access such data will at best give very unpredictable results but more likely cause a memory fault and a crash.


The PL/Java contains code that ensures that stale pointers are cleared when the MemoryContext or stack where they where allocated goes out of scope. The Java wrapper objects might live on but any attempt to use them will result in a stale native handle exception.


The following simple Java example creates a JAR file that contains a single method and runs the method.

Note: The example requires Java SDK to compile the Java file.

The following method returns a substring.

public static String substring(String text, int beginIndex,
  int endIndex)
    return text.substring(beginIndex, endIndex);

Enter the java code in a text file example.class.

Contents of the file manifest.txt:

Manifest-Version: 1.0
Main-Class: Example
Specification-Title: "Example"
Specification-Version: "1.0"
Created-By: 1.6.0_35-b10-428-11M3811
Build-Date: 01/20/2013 10:09 AM

Compile the java code:

javac *.java

Create a JAR archive named analytics.jar that contains the class file and the manifest file MANIFEST file in the JAR.

jar cfm analytics.jar manifest.txt *.class

Upload the jar file to the Greenplum master host.

Run the gpscp utility to copy the jar file to the Greenplum Java directory. Use the -f option to specify the file that contains a list of the master and segment hosts.

gpscp -f gphosts_file analytics.jar 

Use the gpconfig utility to set the Greenplum pljava_classpath server configuration parameter. The parameter lists the installed jar files.

gpconfig -c pljava_classpath -v \'analytics.jar\'

Run the gpstop utility with the -u option to reload the configuration files.

gpstop -u

From the psql command line, run the following command to show the installed jar files.

show pljava_classpath

The following SQL commands create a table and define a Java function to test the method in the jar file:

create table temp (a varchar) distributed randomly; 
insert into temp values ('my string'); 
--Example function 
create or replace function java_substring(varchar, int, int) 
returns varchar as 'Example.substring' language java; 
--Example execution 
select java_substring(a, 1, 5) from temp;

You can place the contents in a file, mysample.sql and run the command from a psql command line:

> \i mysample.sql 

The output is similar to this:

 y st
(1 row)


The PL/Java Github wiki page -

PL/Java 1.4.0 release -