similar SQL/XML queries do not work the same way across oracle versions

If you just upgraded your Oracle version and you see inconsistency in behavior of your old SQL/XML (SQLX) queries, you might want to check if the actual XML structure is still the same.

Specifically, there is a problem with XMLAgg alias. The fact is that if you run the same code on Oracle 9 or 10 (up to 10.2.0.3)   and later versions, the same query returns different results.   If you used aliasing to name an aggregated collection you will notice that the alias disappeared in later versions.

For example, if you run the following code on Oracle 9


with t as (SELECT 'Emp 1' name FROM dual
UNION ALL
SELECT 'Emp 2' name FROM dual
UNION ALL
SELECT 'Emp 3' name FROM dual)
SELECT xmlelement("EMPLOYEES_DATA",
(SELECT xmlagg(
XMLELEMENT("EMPLOYEE_NAME", t.name)
)
FROM t) as "EMPLOYEES").extract('/')
from dual

the result will be :


<EMPLOYEES_DATA>
<EMPLOYEES>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 1</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 2</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 3</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
</EMPLOYEES>
</EMPLOYEES_DATA>

However, if you run the same query on oracle 11, the result will be


<EMPLOYEES_DATA>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 1</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 2</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 3</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
</EMPLOYEES_DATA>

Notice that the   <EMPLOYEES> tag is missing. Oracle simply ignores the alias.

Clearly, similar queries do not work the same way across oracle versions.   The problem is that it is dropping the alias silently. The query is not failing it just produce a different xml.

Unfortunately, to overcome this, a change in the code is required. You can easily add an additional XMLELEMENT.


with t as    (SELECT 'Emp 1' name FROM dual
UNION ALL
SELECT 'Emp 2' name FROM dual
UNION ALL
SELECT 'Emp 3' name FROM dual)
SELECT xmlelement("EMPLOYEES_DATA",
xmlelement ("EMPLOYEES",
(SELECT xmlagg(
XMLELEMENT("EMPLOYEE_NAME", t.name)
)
FROM   t)) as "WILL_BE_IGNORED_ORACLE_11").extract('/')
from dual;

This will produce the pre upgrade results:


<EMPLOYEES_DATA>
<EMPLOYEES>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 1</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 2</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
<EMPLOYEE_NAME>Emp 3</EMPLOYEE_NAME>
</EMPLOYEES>
</EMPLOYEES_DATA>

Another way to use SYS_XMLAGG together with XMLFormat  but this will require code change anyway  so I believe that the best alternative will be to add an additional xmlelement.

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