Export data to an external table

You can export data by defining an external table and exporting data to it. The table properties are specified when creating the external table. The export command references the external table by name.

The command requires table admin or database admin permission.


.export [async] to table ExternalTableName
[with (PropertyName = PropertyValue,...)] <| Query


  • ExternalTableName: the name of the external table to export to.
  • Query: export query.


The following properties are supported as part of the export to external table command:

Property Type Description Default
sizeLimit long The size limit in bytes of a single storage artifact being written (prior to compression). A full row group of size parquetRowGroupSize will be written before checking whether this row group has reached the size limit and should start a new artifact. Allowed range is 100MB (default) to 1GB.
distributed bool Disable/enable distributed export. Setting to false is equivalent to single distribution hint. Default is true.
parquetRowGroupSize int Relevant only when data format is Parquet. Controls the row group size in the exported files. This value takes precedence over sizeLimit, meaning a full row group will be exported before checking whether this row group has reached the size limit and should start a new artifact. Default row group size is 100000 records.
concurrency Number Hints the system how many partitions to run in parallel. See note below. The default value is 16.
spread Number Hints the system how to distribute the partitions among cluster nodes. For example, if there are N partitions and the spread hint is set to P, then the N partitions will be processed by P different cluster nodes equally in parallel/sequentially depending on the concurrency hint. See note below. The default value is 1.
useNativeParquetWriter bool Use the new export implementaion when exporting to Parquet See note below. Default is false.


hint.spread and hint.concurrency are properties used to decrease/increase the concurrency of write operations. For more details, see partition operator. These properties are only relevant when exporting to an external table which is partitioned by a string partition. By default, the number of nodes exporting concurrently will be the minimum value between 64 and the number of cluster nodes.


Output parameter Type Description
ExternalTableName String The name of the external table.
Path String Output path.
NumRecords String Number of records exported to path.


  • The export query output schema must match the schema of the external table, including all columns defined by the partitions. For example, if the table is partitioned by DateTime, the query output schema must have a Timestamp column matching the TimestampColumnName. This column name is defined in the external table partitioning definition.

  • It isn't possible to override the external table properties using the export command. For example, you can't export data in Parquet format to an external table whose data format is CSV.

  • If the external table is partitioned, exported artifacts will be written to their respective directories according to the partition definitions as seen in the partitioned external table example.

    • If a partition value is null/empty or is an invalid directory value, per the definitions of the target storage, the partition value is replaced with a default value of __DEFAULT_PARTITION__.
  • For suggestions to overcome storage errors during export commands, see failures during export commands.

  • External table columns are mapped to suitable target format data types, according to data types mapping rules.

  • Parquet native export is a more performant, resource light export mechanism. Note that an exported 'datetime' column is currently unsupported by Synapse SQL 'COPY'.

Number of files

The number of files written per partition depends on the settings:

  • If the external table includes datetime partitions only, or no partitions at all, the number of files written (for each partition, if exists) should be similar to the number of nodes in the cluster (or more, if sizeLimit is reached). When the export operation is distributed, all nodes in the cluster export concurrently. To disable distribution, so that only a single node does the writes, set distributed to false. This process will create fewer files, but will reduce the export performance.

  • If the external table includes a partition by a string column, the number of exported files should be a single file per partition (or more, if sizeLimit is reached). All nodes still participate in the export (operation is distributed), but each partition is assigned to a specific node. Setting distributed to false, will cause only a single node to do the export, but behavior will remain the same (a single file written per partition).


Non-partitioned external table example

ExternalBlob is a non-partitioned external table.

.export to table ExternalBlob <| T
ExternalTableName Path NumRecords
ExternalBlob http://storage1.blob.core.chinacloudapi.cn/externaltable1cont1/1_58017c550b384c0db0fea61a8661333e.csv 10

Partitioned external table example

PartitionedExternalBlob is an external table, defined as follows:

.create external table PartitionedExternalBlob (Timestamp:datetime, CustomerName:string) 
partition by (CustomerName:string=CustomerName, Date:datetime=startofday(Timestamp))   
pathformat = ("CustomerName=" CustomerName "/" datetime_pattern("yyyy/MM/dd", Date))   
.export to table PartitionedExternalBlob <| T
ExternalTableName Path NumRecords
ExternalBlob http://storageaccount.blob.core.chinacloudapi.cn/container1/CustomerName=customer1/2019/01/01/fa36f35c-c064-414d-b8e2-e75cf157ec35_1_58017c550b384c0db0fea61a8661333e.csv 10
ExternalBlob http://storageaccount.blob.core.chinacloudapi.cn/container1/CustomerName=customer2/2019/01/01/fa36f35c-c064-414d-b8e2-e75cf157ec35_2_b785beec2c004d93b7cd531208424dc9.csv 10

If the command is executed asynchronously (by using the async keyword), the output is available using the show operation details command.