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5.6. Atomic and Batch Fetching

Atomic and batch fetching are two slightly more interesting ways of getting data out of your database. The two procedures are somewhat related to each other, in that they potentially make life a lot easier for you, but they do it in radically different ways.

5.6.2. Batch Fetching

Batch fetching is the ability to fetch the entire result set from an SQL query in one call, as opposed to iterating through the result set using row-oriented methods such as fetchrow_array( ), etc.

The DBI defines several methods for this purpose, including fetchall_arrayref( ) and selectall_arrayref( ) , which basically retrieve the entire result set into a Perl data structure for you to manipulate. They are invoked against a prepared and executed statement handle.

fetchall_arrayref( ) operates in three different modes depending on what arguments have been passed to it. It can be called with no arguments, with a reference to an array slice as an argument, and with a reference to a hash slice as an argument. We'll discuss these modes in the following sections.

5.6.2.1. No arguments

When fetchall_arrayref( ) is invoked with no arguments, it returns a reference to an array containing references to each row in the result set. Each of those references refers to an array containing the field values for that row. Figure 5-1 illustrates the data structure returned.

Figure 5-1

Figure 5-1. fetchall_arrayref( ) data structure

This looks pretty convoluted, but it is, in fact, extremely simple to access the data stored within the data structure. For example, the following code shows how to dereference the data structure returned by fetchall_arrayref( ) when run with no arguments:

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
#
# ch05/fetchall_arrayref/ex1: Complete example that connects to a database,
#                             executes a SQL statement, then fetches all the
#                             data rows out into a data structure. This
#                             structure is then traversed and printed.

use DBI;

### The database handle
my $dbh = DBI->connect( "dbi:Oracle:archaeo", "username", "password" , {
    RaiseError => 1
});

### The statement handle
my $sth = $dbh->prepare( " SELECT name, location, mapref FROM megaliths " );

### Execute the statement
$sth->execute(  );

### Fetch all the data into a Perl data structure
my $array_ref = $sth->fetchall_arrayref(  );

### Traverse the data structure and dump each piece of data out
###
### For each row in the returned array reference ...
foreach my $row (@$array_ref) {
    ### Split the row up and print each field ...
    my ( $name, $type, $location ) = @$row;
    print "\tMegalithic site $name, found in $location, is a $type\n";
}

exit;

Therefore, if you want to fetch all of the result set from your database, fetchall_arrayref( ) is an efficient and easy way of doing it. This is doubly true if you were planning on building an in-memory data structure containing the returned rows for post-processing. Instead of doing it yourself, you can simply use what fetchall_arrayref( ) returned instead.

5.6.2.2. Slice array reference argument

It is also possible to use fetchall_arrayref( ) to return a data structure containing only certain columns from each row returned in the result set. For example, we might issue an SQL statement selecting the name, site_type, location, and mapref fields, but only wish to build an in-memory data structure for the rows name and location.

This cannot be done by the standard no-argument version of fetchall_arrayref( ), but is easily achieved by specifying an array slice as an argument to fetchall_arrayref( ).

Therefore, if our original SQL statement was:

SELECT meg.name, st.site_type, meg.location, meg.mapref
FROM megaliths meg, site_types st
WHERE meg.site_type_id = st.id

then the array indices for each returned row would map as follows:

name       -> 0
site_type  -> 1
location   -> 2
mapref     -> 3

By knowing these array indices for the columns, we can simply write:

### Retrieve the name and location fields...
$array_ref = $sth->fetchall_arrayref( [ 0, 2 ] );

The array indices are specified in the form standard to Perl itself, so you can quite easily use ranges and negative indices for special cases. For example:

### Retrieve the second last and last columns
$array_ref = $sth->fetchall_arrayref( [ -2, -1 ] );

### Fetch the first to third columns
$array_ref = $sth->fetchall_arrayref( [ 0 .. 2 ] );

The actual data structure created when fetchall_arrayref( ) is used like this is identical in form to the structure created by fetchall_arrayref( ) when invoked with no arguments.

5.6.2.3. Slice hash reference argument

The final way that fetchall_arrayref( ) can be used is to selectively store columns into an array reference by passing a hash reference argument containing the columns to store. This is similar to the fetchrow_hashref( ) method but returns a reference to an array containing hash references for all rows in the result set.

If we wished to selectively store the name and location columns from an SQL statement declared as:

SELECT name, location, mapref
FROM megaliths

we can instruct fetchall_arrayref( ) to store the appropriate fields by passing an anonymous hash as an argument. This hash should be initialized to contain the names of the columns to store.

For example, storing the name and location columns can be written easily as:

### Store the name and location columns
$array_ref = $sth->fetchall_arrayref( { name => 1, location => 1 } );

The data structure created by fetchall_arrayref( ) running in this mode is a reference to an array of hash references, with each hash reference keyed by the column names and populated with the column values for the row in question. Traversing this data structure is quite straightforward. The following code illustrates a technique to do it:

#!/usr/bin/perl -w
#
# ch05/fetchall_arrayref/ex3: Complete example that connects to a database,
#                             executes a SQL statement, then fetches all the
#                             data rows out into a data structure. This
#                             structure is then traversed and printed.

use DBI;

### The database handle
my $dbh = DBI->connect( "dbi:Oracle:archaeo", "username", "password" , {
    RaiseError => 1,
} );

### The statement handle
my $sth = $dbh->prepare( " SELECT name, location, mapref FROM megaliths " );

### Execute the statement
$sth->execute(  );

### Fetch all the data into an array reference of hash references!
my $array_ref = $sth->fetchall_arrayref( { name => 1, location => 1 } );

### Traverse the data structure and dump each piece of data out
###
### For each row in the returned array reference.....
foreach my $row (@$array_ref) {
    ### Get the appropriate fields out the hashref and print...
    print "\tMegalithic site $row->{name}, found in $row->{location}\n";
}

exit;

There are a couple of important points to be noted with this form of result set fetching:

To sum up, batch value fetching is a convenient way to retrieve all the data in the result set into Perl data structures for future processing. Do keep in mind, though, that large results sets will eat large amounts of memory. If you try to fetch too large a data set, you will run out of memory before the method returns to you. Your system administrator may not be amused.



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