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UNIX/Linux commands from inside Oracle

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting


Question:  How can I execute a UNIX or Linux command from inside a PL/SQL stored procedure?


Answer:  Oracle has many features such as utl_file that write to the operating system environment, and you have choices.  Dr. Hall has several working examples of the invocation of operating system commands from inside PL/SQL in his book "PL/SQL Tuning". There are two common approaches to invoking UNIX/UNIX commands from inside PL/SQL:


  • UNIX Commands via external procedures (the extproc procedure)

  • Linux commands from Oracle with dbms_pipe


Invoking UNIX commands from Oracle via external procedures


Jeff Hunter has these instructions on executing OS commands using Oracle external procedures:




External procedure source code


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);

Listing 3 - Sample external procedure code

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

  gcc -G -c shell.c
  ld -r -o shell.o
  chmod 775
You can also use the makefile 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:


  • In 8.0.X,
      $ make -f extproc_nocallback \ OBJS=shell.o
  • In 8.1.X,
      $ make -f extproc_no_context \ OBJS=shell.o


Library Definition


  CREATE LIBRARY shell_lib is '/u01/app/oracle/c/';
Note: The directory in quotes is the current of location of the library that was created in the steps above.


PL/SQL Wrapper Procedure


Create PL/SQL Wrapper Procedures
     NAME "sh"
     LIBRARY shell_lib
     PARAMETERS (command string);

  CREATE OR REPLACE PROCEDURE mailx(send_to IN char, subject IN char, message IN char)
     NAME "mailx"
     LIBRARY shell_lib
     PARAMETERS (send_to string, subject string, message string);
Listing 4 - Sample PL/SQL Wrapper Procedure




  SQL> exec shell('ls');

  cli.trc           exe_prba.sql         shell.c.old
  core              listener.old      prueba.o          shell.o
  dec2bin.c         listener.ora
  dec2bin.c.old     nena.lst          prueba.sql        shell.sql
  dec2bin.o         p.sql             sal.1             shell.sql.old        pepito.lst        sal.2             sqlnet.log
  dec2bin.sql       prb               sal.3             tnsnames.ora
  dec2bin.sql.old   prb.c             salida.lst        tnsnames.ora.old
  envoltorio.sql    prueba.c          shell.c           uno.sql

  PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

  SQL> exec mailx('', 'EXTPROC Test', 'This is a test');

  PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

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.

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.






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