Introduction to AzureTableStor

Hong Ooi

Azure table storage

Azure table storage is a service that stores structured NoSQL data in the cloud, providing a key/attribute store with a schemaless design. Because table storage is schemaless, it’s easy to adapt your data as the needs of your application evolve. Access to table storage data is fast and cost-effective for many types of applications, and is typically lower in cost than traditional SQL for similar volumes of data.

You can use table storage to store flexible datasets like user data for web applications, address books, device information, or other types of metadata your service requires. You can store any number of entities in a table, and a storage account may contain any number of tables, up to the capacity limit of the storage account.

AzureTableStor is an R interface to table storage, building on the functionality provided by the AzureStor package. The table storage service is available both as part of a storage account and via Azure Cosmos DB; AzureTableStor is able to work with either.


AzureTableStor provides a table_endpoint function that is the analogue of AzureStor’s blob_endpoint, file_endpoint and adls_endpoint functions. There are methods for retrieving, creating, listing and deleting tables within the endpoint.


# storage account endpoint
endp <- table_endpoint("", key="mykey")
# Cosmos DB w/table API endpoint
endp <- table_endpoint("", key="mykey")

create_storage_table(endp, "mytable")
tab <- storage_table(endp, "mytable")


In table storage jargon, an entity is a row in a table. The columns of the table are properties. Note that table storage does not enforce a schema; that is, individual entities in a table can have different properties. An entity is identified by its RowKey and PartitionKey properties, which must be unique for each entity.

AzureTableStor provides the following functions to work with data in a table:

For the functions that insert or update rows, you can specify the data either as an R list/data frame or as JSON text.

insert_table_entity(tab, list(

get_table_entity(tab, "row1", "partition1")

# specifying the entity as JSON text instead of a list
    "RowKey": "row1",
    "PartitionKey": "partition1",
    "firstname": "Satya",
    "lastname": "Nadella

# we can import to the same table as above: table storage doesn't enforce a schema
import_table_entities(tab, mtcars,

list_table_entities(tab, filter="firstname eq 'Satya'")
list_table_entities(tab, filter="RowKey eq 'Toyota Corolla'")

Batch transactions

Notice how, with the exception of import_table_entities, all of the above entity functions work on a single row of data. Table storage provides a batch execution facility, which lets you bundle up single-row operations into a single transaction that will be executed atomically. In the jargon, this is known as an entity group transaction. import_table_entities is an example of an entity group transaction: it bundles up multiple rows of data into batch jobs, which is much more efficient than sending each row individually to the server.

Entity group transactions are subject to some limitations imposed by the REST API: - All entities subject to operations as part of the transaction must have the same PartitionKey value. - An entity can appear only once in the transaction, and only one operation may be performed against it. - The transaction can include at most 100 entities, and its total payload may be no more than 4 MB in size (or 2MB for a Cosmos DB table endpoint).

The create_table_operation, create_batch_transaction and do_batch_transaction functions let you perform entity group transactions. Here is an example of a simple batch insert. The actual import_table_entities function is more complex as it can also handle multiple partition keys and more than 100 rows of data.

ir <- subset(iris, Species == "setosa")

# property names must be valid C# variable names
names(ir) <- sub("\\.", "_", names(ir))

# create the PartitionKey and RowKey properties
ir$PartitionKey <- ir$Species
ir$RowKey <- sprintf("%03d", seq_len(nrow(ir)))

# generate the array of insert operations: 1 per row
ops <- lapply(seq_len(nrow(ir)), function(i)
    create_table_operation(endp, "mytable", body=ir[i, ], http_verb="POST")))

# create a batch transaction and send it to the endpoint
bat <- create_batch_transaction(endp, ops)