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TileDB provides the Universal Data Engine that can be accessed in a variety of ways. Users sometimes wonder how to transfer data from existing databases. This short vignettes shows an example relying on the DBI package for R. It offers a powerful and convenient abstraction layer on top a number of database backends with connection packages that adhere to, and utilise, the DBI framework. Some examples are the packages (listed in alphabetical order) duckdb, RClickhouse, RGreenplum, RJDBC, RMariaDB, RMySQL, ROracle, RPostgres, RPostgreSQL, RPresto, RRedshiftSQL, RSQLite, and many more as seen via the CRAN page.

We provide a simple example using RPostgreSQL and an existing database of historical stockmarket price data.

Load Required Packages

The basic setup is straightforward. We load the required package RPostgreSQL which in turn imports DBI as well as tiledb. We use data.table for its print method, the tibble package offers an alternative):

Connect to Database

This step uses the DBI abstraction. A compliant backend driver can be loaded via dbDriver, and a connection can be established via dbConnect using appropriate arguments dbname, user, password, host, and port, as needed, with proper dispatching the implementation provided by the driver. The details depend on the chosen backend, this can be as simple as con <- dbConnect(RSQLite::SQLite(), ":memory:") in the case of RSQLite and an in-memory (and likely transient) database.

## a local SQL db we have here -- about 617k rows
dbSetup <- function() {
    drv <- dbDriver("PostgreSQL")
    con <- dbConnect(drv,
                     password="...omitted...", # Could use e.g. Sys.getenv("DB_PASSWD")

Fetch Data

In the next step we fetch the data—and for simplicity issue just one select statement returning a single data.frame (or here a data.table variant). In larger-than-memory settings the SQL query could easily bucket by symbols, or date range, or …

getDataFromSQL <- function() {
    con <- dbSetup()
    sql <- "select * from stockprices order by symbol, date;"
    res <- dbGetQuery(con, sql)
    setDT(res)                          # create data.table

Writing Data to TileDB

Having read the data into memory we can use the TileDB R function fromDataFrame. It has numerous option to configure, as well as sensible defaults (to for example enable ZSTD compression). Here we select the first two columns for symbol and data as dimensions. Symbols, being text, do not set a domain set. For the date we set two ‘safe’ outer values for the range.

storeDataTDB <- function(dat, uri) {
    fromDataFrame(dat, uri,

The mode="append" argument of fromDataFrame can be used to append to an existing array to support chunked operation.

Reading Data Back In

Reading data from TileDB is a very standard operation of opening the URI, possibly specifying the return type and possibly subsetting by dimension values, or attributes. Here, for simplicity, we just read everything.

getDataTDB <- function(uri) {
    set_allocation_size_preference(1e7) # larger than local default value
    arr <- tiledb_array(uri, return_as="data.frame")
    res <- arr[]

uri <- "/tmp/tiledb/beancounter"

res <- getDataFromSQL(con)
storeData(dat, uri)
chk <- getDataTDB(uri)

See Also

The vignette TileDB MariaDB Examples shows to use MariaDB via the MyTile integration of TileDB as a direct backend.

The TileDB R Tutorial at useR! 2021 contained a worked example of writing much larger data set in chunks. The process is very similar to the simple example we showed here – and in addition requires a suffient domain range for the dimension along with a (sequential or parallel) loop of reading chunks and writing them to TileDB.


This vignette provides a commented walk-through of a worked example of a SQL-to-TileDB data ingestion.