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Introducing User-Defined Functions

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

At Timeplus, we leverage SQL to make powerful streaming analytics more accessible to a broad range of users. Without SQL, you have to learn and call low-level programming API, then compile/package/deploy them to get analytics results. This is a repetitive and tedious process, even for small changes.

But some developers have concerns that complex logic or systems integrations are hard to express using SQL. Today, we are happy to announce that Timeplus will now support User-Defined Functions (UDF). This enables users to leverage existing programming libraries, integrate with external systems, or just make SQL easier to maintain.

IP Lookup Example

Let’s start with an example. It’s a common use case for IT admin or business analysts to turn a client IP address into a city or country, then get the total number of visitors per city or country.

This might be roughly doable with pure SQL, with a lot of regular expressions or case/when branches. Even so, the city/country won’t be very accurate, since there could be some edge cases that won’t be well-covered in such a static analysis.

Luckily, there are many online services (e.g. to turn IP addresses into cities/countries, even with enriched details such as addresses or internet providers.

Here is an example of an UDF (ip_lookup) in Timeplus:

screenshot of running a streaming SQL with a user-defined function

In this example, the `ip_lookup` function is built as a “Remote UDF”, actually powered by a AWS Lambda function. I chose Node.js but you can also build it with other supported languages such as Python, Ruby, Go, Java, etc. We will go over the sample code in the next section. Once you have deployed the Lambda function, you can generate a publicly accessible URL, then register the function in Timeplus Web Console.

Simply choose a name for the function and specify the input/output data type. You can choose to enable extra authentication key/value in the HTTP header, securing the endpoint to avoid unauthorized access.

Here is the full source code for the Lambda function:

const https = require('https');

exports.handler = async (event) => {
    if (event.body === undefined) {
        return { statusCode: 200, body: 'no body in the request' }
    let body = JSON.parse(event.body)

    const promise = newPromise(function (resolve, reject) {
        https.get(`${body.ip[0]}?token=${process.env.TOKEN}`, (resp) => {
            let data = '';
            resp.on('data', (chunk) => {
                data += chunk;
            resp.on('end', () => {
                const response = {
                    statusCode: 200,
                    headers: { 'Content-Type': 'application/json' },
                    body: JSON.stringify({ result: [data] })
        }).on("error", (err) => {
            console.log("Error: " + err.message);
    return promise

The code is straightforward. A few notes:

  1. The input data is wrapped in a JSON document and key parameter `ip` is available in the array

  2. We simply call the REST API of with the API token from the Lambda environment variable

  3. The response from REST API will be put into a JSON document {“result”:[..]} and sent out as the Lambda output

  4. Since the Lambda function is running outside Timeplus servers, there are no restrictions for 3rd party libraries. In this example, we are using the built-in node.js “https” library. For more complex data processing, feel free to include more sophisticated libraries, such as machine learning.

According to the CloudWatch Logs for the Lambda function invocation, the average response time for the UDF is about 100 milliseconds.

You can also build the remote UDF with your own microservices or long-running application services to gain better control of the hardware resources, or gain even better performance or low latency.

“Remote UDF” is the recommended solution for our Timeplus customers to extend the capabilities of built-in functionality, without introducing potential security risks for our cloud services. For our large customers with strong on-prem deployment needs, we also built a “Local UDF” mode which allows Timeplus to call local programs to process data.


Best Practices for UDF

User-defined functions open the door for new possibilities to process and analyze the data with full programming capabilities within Timeplus. There are some additional factors to consider when building and using User-Defined Functions:

1. For Timeplus Cloud customers, it’s highly recommended to enable Authentication for the UDF. For example, when you register the function, you can set the key as ‘passcode’ and the value as a random word. Timeplus will set this in the HTTP header while making requests to the remote UDF endpoints. In your endpoint code, be sure to check whether the key/value pairs in the HTTP header matches the setting in Timeplus. If not, return an error code to deny the UDF request.

2. Calling a single UDF may only take 100ms or less, however, if you call a UDF for millions of rows, this could slow down the entire query. It’s recommended to aggregate the data first, then call the UDF with a lesser number of requests. e.g.

SELECT  ip_lookup(ip):city as city, sum(cnt) FROM (
  SELECT ip, count(*) as cnt FROM access_log GROUP BY ip) 

instead of

SELECT ip_lookup(ip):city, count(*) as cnt 
FROM access_log GROUP BY city

3. The current UDF system in Timeplus is not designed for aggregation. In some systems, this is called User-Defined Scalar-Valued Functions. User-Defined Aggregate Functions (UDAF) will be introduced shortly with a better foundation for you to build customized aggregate functions, or stateful processing. Stay tuned for more information.

4. To improve performance, Timeplus automatically sends batched requests to the UDF endpoints. For example, if there are 1000 requests to the UDF in a single SQL execution, the framework may send 10 requests with 100 each for the input. That’s why in the sample code, I will process the `ip` as an array and also return the value in the other array. Please make sure the returned value matches the inputs.

5. Properly adding logs to your UDF code can greatly help troubleshoot/tune the function code.

6. Only the Timeplus workspace administrators can register new User-Defined Functions, while all members in the workspace can use the UDFs.

7. Make sure the UDF name doesn’t conflict with the built-in functions or other UDFs in the same workspace.


What’s Next

The new UDF framework will enable our users to accomplish more by combining the powerful streaming analytics capabilities with custom code or 3rd party libraries and APIs. We are excited to learn how you use your new UDF superpowers.

We welcome you to join our Timeplus community or sign up for our private beta to learn more.


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