SQL Server 2005 – SQL Server Integration Services – Part 7

In this article, we are continuing the overview of various enumerator types
within the Foreach Loop Container of SQL Server 2005 Integration Services. So far
we have covered such enumerators as Foreach File (iterating over files selected
according to arbitrarily assigned criteria and residing in a folder of your
choice), Foreach ADO (enumerating records within an ADO recordset), and Foreach
SMO (intended for working with a wide range of SQL Server Management Objects).
The next one in our series is the Foreach Nodelist enumerator, which deals with
result sets generated by XML Path Language (XPath) expressions.

With the introduction of SQL Server 2005, XML (which stands for eXtensible
Markup Language – platform-independent data representation format, which has
been hailed as a panacea for resolving data interchange issues) has become an
integral part of the product. While important XML-related capabilities were
present in the previous version (for their review, you can refer to a series of
articles published on the DatabaseJournal
Web site
), a number of new features and enhancements in this area is
significant (such as, native XML data store and native XML queries, support for
Extensible Schema Definition, or extending bulk loading, replication, triggers,
and indexing functionality to cover XML-based data structures). These changes
include an enumerator implemented specifically for the purpose of processing
XML data.

In order to understand the way the Foreach NodeList enumerator functions,
you need to be familiar with the principles of XML data structure and its
manipulation. Such data typically takes the form of an XML document. The
document conforms to specific formatting rules and consists of two main parts –
a prolog and a body. Within the prolog, you can find an XML declaration, which
determines the version of XML standard that is followed, as well as encoding
method (such as default 8-bit UTF-8 or 16-bit Unicode, commonly used in
multi-language scenarios). <? and ?> mark the beginning and end of the
declaration. In the simplest case, the prolog could contain solely <? xml version="1.0" ?>
entry, however, frequently it also includes a Document Type Declaration,
specifying the root element (which appears in the body) and identifying a document
type definition (describing additional rules that the XML document needs to
comply with). For more information on this and other XML-related topics, you
can refer to XML
Beginner’s Guide
on the www.xml.org
Web site.

The body consists of a single root and any number of non-root nodes, which
most commonly belong to the attribute, element, or text category. Root, text,
and element nodes are marked with a start and an end tag, consisting of a
tag-identifying label enclosed between "less than" (<) and "greater than" (>) symbols. The closing tag of each
pair also includes a forward slash ("/")
preceding the tag identifier. Tags mark the beginning and end of the data
associated with the identifier (note that such data might contain other XML
elements, allowing for element nesting). An element node, unlike a text node,
can contain one or more attribute nodes, which are represented by their identifiers,
followed by the equal sign and associated value enclosed in the single or
double quotes. The space is used as a separator in case multiple attribute
nodes appear in the same element node.

It might be easier to follow the above definitions by referring to a
specific example. Here is a sample XML document representing part of the
inventory of a widget factory warehouse. Within it, there are several element
nodes (such as Product or Price), text nodes (such as Name or InStock), as well
as attribute nodes (such as ID within the Product node or Category within the
Price node). Note that you can change the structure of the document by turning
attributes into elements or vice versa (in either case, they represent
properties of a parent element):

<? xml version="1.0" ?>
   <Product ID="00001">
      <Name>"Very Small Widget"</Name>
      <Price Category="Wholesale">0.49</Price>
      <Price Category="Retail">0.99</Price>
   <Product ID="00002">
      <Name>"Not So Small Widget"</Name>
      <Price Category="Wholesale">0.99</Price>
      <Price Category="Retail">1.49</Price>

Now that you have a general idea about the structure of XML data, let’s
review the way we can reference its components. One of the methods providing
this functionality is XPath (an abbreviation derived from the term XML Path
Language). XPath views an XML document as a tree-like structure consisting of
multiple nodes (similar to the way file system is organized, with a root
folder, subfolders, and files being equivalent to the XML root element, its
sub-elements, and their attributes). By following specific syntax rules, you
can define a path between any two nodes of such tree, and, at the same time,
uniquely identify a target node or set of nodes. Path expressions can be
relative (outlining a sequence from one XML node to another – with the assumption
that the starting node is implicitly known) or absolute (always starting at the
root element, designated by a single forward slash, followed by a relative path
from the root to a target node). Either type is constructed by combining
individual location steps (separated by the forward slash), which, in turn,
consist of the following elements:

  • axis – one of several keywords, including the parent, child,
    self, and attribute, which describe the relationship between the current and
    next node in the path. According to syntactical rules, axis precede the name of
    an XML element that they refer to by the double semicolon. For example, in case
    of our sample XML document, child::Inventory references child nodes of the
    Inventory root node (similarly, child:Inventory/child:Product points to all
    child nodes of the Product node or child::Inventory/child::Product/attribute::ID
    identifies the ID attribute of the Product node). This notation can be abbreviated
    – in particular, since child is the default axis, it can be omitted (as long as
    you intend to use it), attribute:: can be replaced with @ symbol, and single
    and double periods are permitted instead of self::node() and parent::node(),

  • node test – determines the type of a node specified by the axis.
    Use of the child, parent, or self results in the selection of element children
    matching the criteria provided, while the attribute axis points by default to
    attribute nodes.

  • selection predicate (optional) – provides the ability to further
    narrow down the scope of target elements pointed to by XPath expressions. It
    takes the form of a condition that evaluates to a Boolean value (i.e. true or
    false), and the outcome of this evaluation is used to determine whether the
    node to which it is applied is included in the result set. For example, if we
    wanted to access only the first product in our sample Inventory, we could use
    the notation child::Inventory/child::Product [attribute::ID="00001"]
    (or Inventory/Product[@ID="00001"] in abbreviated format).

Equipped with this information, let’s find out how we can apply it to
configure a Foreach Loop container with NodeList Enumerator. Start by launching
SQL Server Business Intelligence Development Studio and creating a new
Integration Services Project. Drag a Foreach Loop Container icon from the
Toolbox onto the Control Flow area of the Designer interface. Choose Edit from
the container’s context sensitive menu to display the Foreach Loop Editor.
Click on the Collection entry in the left part of the Editor’s window. Select Foreach
NodeList Enumerator from the Enumerator listbox. Enumerator configuration
section below provides a number of options, which we will explore in more
details in the next article of this series. For now, we will use the most
straightforward ones, with both DocumentSourceType and OuterXPathStringSourceType
set to the value of Direct Input, and with our sample XML document as the DocumentSource
(without the prolog). Select NodeText as the XPath EnumerationType and assign child::Inventory
value to OuterXPathString. Switch to the Variable Mappings section of the Foreach
Loop Editor and create a new variable sResult of the Package scope and String
data type (the variable will automatically be assigned Index 0). Confirm your
choices and return to the Designer interface.

To display the results of the package execution, drag the Script Task from
the Toolbox and drop it inside the boundaries of the Foreach Loop Container.
Activate the Script Task Editor by selecting Edit from its context sensitive
menu, switch to the Script section, type in User::sResult in the ReadOnlyVariables
entry, and click on the Design Script command button. In the Microsoft Visual
Studio for Applications, modify the Public Sub Main() code as follows:

Public Sub Main()

‘ Add your code here

Dts.TaskResult = Dts.Results.Success
End Sub

Close the Visual Basic for Applications window, click on OK to return to the
Designer interface and execute the package. Since we selected the NodeText as
the XPath EnumerationType and assigned child::Inventory to the OuterXPathString,
the result displayed in a message box contains the combined value of all text
nodes within our Inventory. Note that we could obtain the same result using
/Inventory or simply / as the value of the OuterXPathString. If our intention
was to display the content of text nodes separately for each product, we could
accomplish this by setting OuterXPathString to child::Inventory/child::Product
(or simply Inventory/Product). Setting OuterXPath String to child::Inventory/child::Product/attribute::ID
would display the sequence of Product ID values for all of the Products in the
inventory (the same result could be obtained by setting OuterXPathString to
//@ID). As mentioned before, applying a selection predicate would allow you to
further limit the result set (e.g. the value of child::Inventory/child::Product
[attribute::ID="00001"] assigned to OuterXPathString yields the
product with ID of 00001).

There are additional configuration options available within the Collection
section of Foreach Loop Editor. We will review them (as well as continue the
coverage of remaining Foreach Enumerators) in the next article of our series.


See All Articles by Columnist
Marcin Policht

Marcin Policht
Marcin Policht
Being a long time reader, I'm proud to join the crowd of technology gurus gathered here. I have a fair share of Microsoft exams behind me, a couple of acronyms after my name - MCSE, MCSD, and MCT, decent familiarity with majority of MS BackOffice products (SMS, SQL, Exchange, IIS), programming and scripting languages (VB, C++, VBScript with wsh) and several years of practical experience with Windows environment administration and engineering. My focus these days is on SQL Server and Windows 2000, and I'll attempt to share the most interesting experiences with these products.

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