Skip to main content

How to Write a Scalar Function

What's Scalar Function

A scalar function returns a single value for each row instead of a result set. Scalar functions can be used in most places within a query or SET statement (except the FROM clause).

One to One Mapping execution

┌─────┐ ┌──────┐
│ a │ │ x │
├─────┤ ├──────┤
│ b │ │ y │
├─────┤ ScalarFunction ├──────┤
│ c │ │ z │
│ d │ Exec │ u │
├─────┤ ├──────┤
│ e │ │ v │
├─────┤ ├──────┤
│ f │ │ w │
└─────┘ └──────┘

What You Need to Know before Writing

Logical Datatypes and Physical Datatypes

We use logical datatypes in Databend and physical datatypes in the execution/compute engine.

Take Date as an example, Date is a logical datatype while its physical datatype is Int32, so its column is represented by Buffer<i32>.

Arrow's Memory Layout

Databend's memory layout is based on the Arrow system, you can find Arrow's memory layout [here] (

For example a primitive array of int32s:

[1, null, 2, 4, 8] Would look like this:

* Length: 5, Null count: 1
* Validity bitmap buffer:

|Byte 0 (validity bitmap) | Bytes 1-63 |
| 00011101 | 0 (padding) |

* Value Buffer:

|Bytes 0-3 | Bytes 4-7 | Bytes 8-11 | Bytes 12-15 | Bytes 16-19 | Bytes 20-63 |
| 1 | unspecified | 2 | 4 | 8 | unspecified |

In most cases, we can ignore null for simd operation, and add the null mask to the result after the operation. This is very common optimization and widely used in arrow's compute system.

Special Column

  • Constant column

    Sometimes column is constant in the block, such as: SELECT 3 from table, the column 3 is always 3, so we can use a constant column to represent it. This helps save memory space during computation.

  • Nullable column

    By default, columns are not nullable. To include null values in a column, you can use a nullable column.

Function Registration

The FunctionRegistry is used to register functions.

pub struct FunctionRegistry {
pub funcs: HashMap<&'static str, Vec<Arc<Function>>>,
pub factories: HashMap<
&'static str,
Vec<Box<dyn Fn(&[usize], &[DataType]) -> Option<Arc<Function>> + 'static>>,
pub aliases: HashMap<&'static str, &'static str>,

It contains three HashMaps: funcs, factories, and aliases.

Both funcs and factories store registered functions. funcs takes a fixed number of arguments (currently from 0 to 5), register_0_arg, register_1_arg, and so on. factories takes variable-length parameters (such as concat) and calls the functionregister_function_factory.

aliases uses key-value pairs to store aliases for functions. A function can have more than one alias (for example, minus has subtract and 'neg'). The key is the alias of a function, and the value is the name of the current function, and the register_aliases function will be called.

In addition, there are different levels of register api depending on the function required.

Auto VectorizationAccess Output Column BuilderAuto Null PassthroughAuto Combine NullAuto DowncastThrow Runtime ErrorVariadicTuple

Function Composition

Since the values of funcs are the body of the function, let's see how a Function is constructed in Databend.

pub struct Function {
pub signature: FunctionSignature,
pub calc_domain: Box<dyn Fn(&[Domain]) -> Option<Domain>>,
pub eval: Box<dyn Fn(&[ValueRef<AnyType>], FunctionContext) -> Result<Value<AnyType>, String>>,

Functions are represented by the Function struct, which includes a function signature, a calculation domain (cal_domain), and an evaluation function (eval).

The signature includes the function name, the parameters type, the return type and the function properties (which are not currently available and are reserved for use with functions). Note in particular that the function name needs to be lowercase when registering. Some tokens are transformed via src/query/ast/src/parser/

#[derive(Logos, Clone, Copy, Debug, PartialEq, Eq, Hash)]
pub enum TokenKind {

As an example, let's consider the addition function used in the query select 1+2. The + token is converted to Plus, and the function name needs to be lowercase. Therefore, the function name used for registration is plus.

with_number_mapped_type!(|NUM_TYPE| match left {
NumberDataType::NUM_TYPE => {
registry.register_1_arg::<NumberType<NUM_TYPE>, NumberType<NUM_TYPE>, _, _>(

|lhs| Some(lhs.clone()),
|a, _| a,

calc_domain is used to calculate the input value set for the output value. This is described by a mathematical formula such as y = f(x) where the domain is the set of values x that can be used as arguments to f to generate values y. This allows us to easily filter out values that are not in the domain when indexing data, greatly improving response efficiency.

eval can be understood as the concrete implementation of a function, which takes characters or numbers as input, parses them into expressions, and converts them into another set of values.


There are several categories of functions, including arithmetic, array, boolean, control, comparison, datetime, math, and string.

length function

The length function takes a String parameter and returns a Number. It is named as length, with no domain restrictions since each string should have a length. The last argument is a closure function that serves as the implementation of length.

registry.register_1_arg::<StringType, NumberType<u64>, _, _>(

|_| None,
|val, _| val.len() as u64,

In the implementation of register_1_arg, we see that the called function is register_passthrough_nullable_1_arg, whose name contains nullable. eval is called by vectorize_1_arg.

It's worth noting that the in src/query/expression/src should not be manually modified as it is generated by src/query/codegen/src/writes/

pub fn register_1_arg<I1: ArgType, O: ArgType, F, G>(
&mut self,
name: &'static str,
property: FunctionProperty,
calc_domain: F,
func: G,
) where
F: Fn(&I1::Domain) -> Option<O::Domain> + 'static + Clone + Copy,
G: Fn(I1::ScalarRef<'_>, FunctionContext) -> O::Scalar + 'static + Clone + Copy,
self.register_passthrough_nullable_1_arg::<I1, O, _, _>(

In practical scenarios, eval accepts not only strings or numbers, but also null or other various types. null is undoubtedly the most special one. The parameter we receive may also be a column or a value. For example, in the following SQL queries, length is called with a null value or a column:

select length(null);
| length(null) |
| NULL |
select length(id) from t;
| length(id) |
| 2 |
| 3 |

Therefore, if we don't need to handle null values in the function, we can simply use register_x_arg. Otherwise, we can refer to the implementation of try_to_timestamp.

For functions that require specialization in vectorize, register_passthrough_nullable_x_arg should be used to perform specific vectorization optimization.

For example, the implementation of the regexp function takes two String parameters and returns a Bool. In order to further optimize and reduce the repeated parsing of regular expressions, a HashMap structure is introduced to vectorized execution. Therefore, vectorize_regexp is separately implemented to handle this optimization.

registry.register_passthrough_nullable_2_arg::<StringType, StringType, BooleanType, _, _>(

|_, _| None,
vectorize_regexp(|str, pat, map, _| {
let pattern = if let Some(pattern) = map.get(pat) {
} else {
let re = regexp::build_regexp_from_pattern("regexp", pat, None)?;
map.insert(pat.to_vec(), re);


As a good developer, you always test your code, don't you? Please add unit tests and logic tests after you complete the new scalar functions.

Unit Test

The unit tests for scalar functions are located in scalars.

Logic Test

The logic tests for functions are located in 02_function.