DBA Tips Archive for Oracle


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by Michael New, MichaelNew@earthlink.net, Gradation LLC



Oracle provides the ability to call operating system commands from PL/SQL with a feature called external procedures. The external procedures feature was first introduced in Oracle8.

When calling an external routine from inside of Oracle PL/SQL, the program must run as a shared library. This type of program in Linux, Solaris, and AIX is known as a shared object with a .so file extension. Under HP-UX, the program is called a shared library with an .sl file extension while on the Microsoft operating system, the program is a DLL file (dynamically linked library). In general, the program can be written in any language as long as the compiler and linker can generate the appropriate shared library format that is callable from C. This includes C, C++, FORTRAN, COBOL, Visual Basic, and Java.

Once the shared library is generated, the external program is published by writing a special type of PL/SQL wrapper known as a call specification. If the external routine returns a value, it maps to a PL/SQL function. However, if the external routine returns no value, it is mapped to a PL/SQL procedure.

This article provides an overview of the steps involved in setting up external procedures using PL/SQL and the UNIX operating environment.


If you are using Oracle9i or higher, please read my article entitled "Changes in Configuring External Procedures in Oracle 9.2.0". It includes several security changes that have to be configured to enable PL/SQL External Procedures.


The following represents a typical listener.ora configuration. Details for your particular installation may vary.

SID_LIST_LISTENER = (SID_LIST = (SID_DESC = (SID_NAME = PLSExtProc) (ORACLE_HOME = /u01/app/oracle/product/10.2.0/db_1) (PROGRAM = extproc) (ENVS="EXTPROC_DLLS=ONLY:/u01/app/oracle/dba_scripts/extproc/shell.so") ) (SID_DESC = (GLOBAL_DBNAME = alexdb.idevelopment.info) (SID_NAME = alexdb) (ORACLE_HOME = /u01/app/oracle/product/10.2.0/db_1) ) ) INBOUND_CONNECT_TIMEOUT_LISTENER = 0 LISTENER = (DESCRIPTION_LIST = (DESCRIPTION = (ADDRESS = (PROTOCOL = TCP)(HOST = alex.idevelopment.info)(PORT = 1521)) (ADDRESS = (PROTOCOL = IPC)(KEY = EXTPROC0)) ) )


The following represents a typical tnsnames.ora configuration. Details for your particular installation may vary:


External Procedure Source Code

The following source code provides an example C program named shell.c which contains two subroutines. The first subroutine, named mailx, will send an email message using the provided parameters. The second subroutine, named sh, will run an O/S command that is passed in as a parameter.

/* * shell.c * Example program used to demonstrate how to call O/S * commands from PL/SQL using external procedures. * */ #include<stdio.h> #include<stdlib.h> #include<string.h> void mailx(char *to, char *subject, char *message) { int num; char command[50000]; strcpy(command, "echo \""); strcat(command, message); strcat(command, "\" | mailx -s \""); strcat(command, subject); strcat(command, "\" "); strcat(command, to); num = system(command); } void sh(char *command) { int num; num = system(command); }

Issue the following commands to compile the code and generate the shared library object:


-bash-3.00$ gcc -m64 -fPIC -c shell.c -bash-3.00$ gcc -m64 -shared -static-libgcc -o shell.so shell.o -bash-3.00$ chmod 775 shell.so


-bash-3.00$ gcc -G -c shell.c -bash-3.00$ ld -r -o shell.so shell.o -bash-3.00$ chmod 775 shell.so


[oracle@racnode2 extproc]$ gcc -fPIC -c shell.c [oracle@racnode2 extproc]$ gcc -shared -static-libgcc -o shell.so shell.o [oracle@racnode2 extproc]$ chmod 775 shell.so


[oracle@racnode2 extproc]$ gcc -fPIC -DSHARED_OBJECT -c shell.c [oracle@racnode2 extproc]$ ld -shared -o shell.so shell.o [oracle@racnode2 extproc]$ chmod 775 shell.so

Oracle Makefile

Oracle provides the demo_rdbms.mk makefile that can be used to build shared libraries for use in external procedures. Using this method insulates you from any operating system specific dependencies (e.g., which flags to use for ld).

For example:

Oracle 8.0.X

-bash-3.00$ make -f demo_rdbms.mk extproc_nocallback SHARED_LIBNAME=shell.so OBJS=shell.o

Oracle 8.1.X

-bash-3.00$ make -f demo_rdbms.mk extproc_no_context SHARED_LIBNAME=shell.so OBJS=shell.o

Library Definition

Log in as the application user and create the library definition using the CREATE LIBRARY command. Note that the directory in quotes is the current of location of the library that was created in the steps above.

CREATE LIBRARY shell_lib is '/u01/app/oracle/dba_scripts/extproc/shell.so'; / Library created.

PL/SQL Wrapper Procedure

As the application user, log in to the database and create all PL/SQL specification procedures.

CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE shell(command IN char) AS EXTERNAL NAME "sh" LIBRARY shell_lib LANGUAGE C PARAMETERS (command string); / Procedure created. CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE mailx(send_to IN char, subject IN char, message IN char) AS EXTERNAL NAME "mailx" LIBRARY shell_lib LANGUAGE C PARAMETERS (send_to string, subject string, message string); / Procedure created.


The output produced by the executed command is not viewable in general since it is directed to the controlling terminal for the extproc process. The extproc process inherits its controlling terminal from the listener, which in turn inherits its terminal from the shell used to start the listener. If this shell is no longer visible, the output is never displayed.

To see the output returned from the system command, redirect the output to a file and then view/process the output file. This can be done simply on UNIX platforms by appending "> myoutput.txt" to the command being executed. Standard error can be redirected similarly.

By default, the executed commands only see the directory pointed by the TNS_ADMIN environment variable defined in the server, therefore, when specifying a file, be sure to include the path of its desired location.

SQL> exec mailx('jhunter@idevelopment.info', 'EXTPROC Test', 'This is a test'); PL/SQL procedure successfully completed. SQL> exec shell('ls /u01/app/oracle/admin/alexdb/udump > /export/home/oracle/myoutput.txt'); PL/SQL procedure successfully completed. SQL> !cat /export/home/oracle/myoutput.txt alexdb_ora_1019.trc alexdb_ora_10409.trc alexdb_ora_1047.trc alexdb_ora_1112.trc alexdb_ora_1155.trc alexdb_ora_1295.trc alexdb_ora_1371.trc alexdb_ora_1609.trc alexdb_ora_1651.trc alexdb_ora_2008.trc alexdb_ora_5541.trc alexdb_ora_5569.trc alexdb_ora_5602.trc alexdb_ora_5617.trc alexdb_ora_5643.trc alexdb_ora_5651.trc alexdb_ora_5657.trc alexdb_ora_5658.trc alexdb_ora_5686.trc alexdb_ora_5730.trc alexdb_ora_5786.trc alexdb_ora_5787.trc alexdb_ora_5815.trc alexdb_ora_814.trc alexdb_ora_826.trc alexdb_ora_842.trc alexdb_ora_881.trc alexdb_ora_892.trc alexdb_ora_966.trc alexdb_ora_977.trc

About the Author

Jeffrey Hunter is an Oracle Certified Professional, Java Development Certified Professional, Author, and an Oracle ACE. Jeff currently works as a Senior Database Administrator for The DBA Zone, Inc. located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His work includes advanced performance tuning, Java and PL/SQL programming, developing high availability solutions, capacity planning, database security, and physical / logical database design in a UNIX / Linux server environment. Jeff's other interests include mathematical encryption theory, tutoring advanced mathematics, programming language processors (compilers and interpreters) in Java and C, LDAP, writing web-based database administration tools, and of course Linux. He has been a Sr. Database Administrator and Software Engineer for over 20 years and maintains his own website site at: http://www.iDevelopment.info. Jeff graduated from Stanislaus State University in Turlock, California, with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Mathematics.

Copyright (c) 1998-2018 Jeffrey M. Hunter. All rights reserved.

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Last modified on
Sunday, 18-Mar-2012 22:29:12 EDT
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